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Sinners Need Miracles

Sinners Need Miracles

There is a story in Matthew 8 about a time that Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s slave boy. I have wrestled with this story a lot.
 
After Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman centurion approached Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus offered to go with him to heal the servant, but the officer replied, “I’m not worthy to have you in my home. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. I understand authority; I command soldiers, and they obey.” Jesus, astonished, praised the officer’s faith, saying, “I haven’t seen such faith in Israel. Gentiles will join the Kingdom, but some Israelites will face darkness.” To the officer, Jesus declared, “Go home, your belief healed your servant.” And at that moment, the young servant was healed.
 
A centurion is a military commander with one hundred soldiers serving under him. In Jesus’ time, they were Rome’s best warriors, Rome’s Goliaths, and they were the enemy occupying Israel.
 
In this story, the centurion used the Greek word “pais” to reference this sick boy. Pais translates to “my young servant.” Luke, in his version of the story, used the Greek word “doulos,” which means “slave.” This is significant because, in their culture, these two Greek words refer to two different kinds of slaves. Slavery in that time didn’t have racial overtones like it does today. It had economic overtones. It was all about fortune and indebtedness. The whole first century was built on slavery. It’s one of the great evils of history.
 
One of the things that I wrestle with in this story is the fact that Jesus did so little to fight slavery. Instead, He focused on the gospel. There’s a leadership lesson here for us. There are a lot of good things we could do, but we’re wise to stay focused on the best things. It’s the “ends” versus the “means.” Jesus is in the “ends” business, not the “means” business. He had a goal, and if He had spent His time trying to abolish slavery, He would have failed to reach His goal.
 
If we look further into the story of this sick slave boy, we find an ugly reality. As I mentioned, this boy is a “pais.” The word “pais” is where we get the word “pedophile.” It is clear that this centurion had an emotional connection to this boy, he had a lot of love and affection for him. During this period in history, homosexuality was common among powerful men, but it was mostly done with inferiors, slaves, weak people. It was rape. Homosexuality was also common in the Roman army, but it almost always occurred with a “pais.”
 
It’s hard to say, and we don’t know for sure, but there is a good chance that the reason this centurion had so much affection for this boy was that he was his “pais,” his slave lover. Yet, how does Jesus respond to the centurion’s request? “I will heal him.” He didn’t say, “I’ll heal him if you repent,” or “if you free your slaves.” He didn’t say I’ll come to your house “if you give up your gay lifestyle.” In fact, he said this sinful centurion had the most faith of anyone in Israel. The centurion’s faith in Jesus was so great that he knew Jesus could do more than what He led the people around Him to believe He could do. I want that kind of faith.
 
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!
Jesus was more concerned with the centurion’s faith than He was with the centurion’s sin. In Jesus’ eyes, we are all sinners. None of us deserve anything from God, yet in God’s grace, He gives what we don’t deserve. We are tempted to create hierarchies of sin because we recognize that some sins have worse consequences in this world, but Jesus recognizes that every sin that is not forgiven will cause the ultimate pain.
 
Contrary to the teachings of many prosperity gospel preachers, Jesus didn’t use prerequisites for healing. He healed out of kindness, out of love. Jesus chose to heal the boy, even if it meant he had to go back to a life of slavery. When Jesus saves us, he doesn’t rescue us from the pain of this world. Because we have lessons to learn, and God has glory to receive, God allows us to persevere through pain. If God sanctified us entirely, if He removed pain from our lives, the world would begin to glorify us. They would want to be like us, rather than like Christ. The pain of this world reminds us that our hope is not in this world. We need to be unhappy with the way things are here so that we desire Heaven.
 
We are all sinners in need of a savior. We are all sick people in need of a doctor.
 
Can we look at sinful people not as less than, but as sinners in need of Jesus just like us? When we see people who commit sins that we think are worse than ours, how do we react? Do we love them in their sin? Jesus did. 
 
We also see in this story the value of persistent prayer. We read about multiple interactions in the life of Christ that demonstrate God’s willingness to change His plan to grant the requests of people. Because I have received so many “nos” from God, I sometimes shy away from bringing more requests to Him, and I fail to ask persistently. Other times, I think I can’t ask God for things because there is a sin issue in my life. In the past, I have felt too guilty to bring my requests to God, but that isn’t how God works. He will give good gifts to His children even when they are rebellious. He gives good gifts because He is righteous, not because we are righteous. That is why we put our faith in Him, not in ourselves.
 
My prayer today is that our faith in God will grow bigger than our sinful temptations and habits.
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