In Matthew 8 we have an astonishing account of true faith. I have heard many theological definitions of faith given over the years but none comes close to this story. (Have you ever noticed that Jesus did not give definitions of faith but stories that reveal what true faith looks like in a person’s actions?) This is such an account.
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
So many people think true faith is believing something and that’s that. But there is so much more. True faith is rooted in the incarnation. It means believing that God himself came to this planet and revealed to us the very nature and heart of God. God lived in human history and God, in the human person of Jesus of Nazareth, lived and died. God expressed himself in Jesus. Jesus is the right name for a truly human person. Once you’ve come to the place where you truly believe that Jesus is God – God revealed as much as is possible in human flesh – you then know that you don’t have all the answers but you have a remarkable amount of light to live by. Your conception of God is revolutionized and this changes your life from one stage of faith to another. Why? You see him as the God who so loved the world that he became Man for us and our salvation.
Jesus, who was God in human flesh, then defines your attitude toward humankind. For Jesus, who was God of God, was unashamedly man, the Son of Man. Jesus shows us that the love of God can never be separated from the love of human beings. In fact, in the parable of the Last Judgment we find the Son of Man insisting that the way we treated people will be the way we treated Him. If this doesn’t amaze you then you’ve read too much theology for your own good. Even the people in the story are amazed, even horrified, by the pronouncement.
But it all stands to reason. If God became man then the value of man increased exponentially. By coming to this planet God lifted homo sapiens to the highest and most exalted place. He gave us a future beyond anything we can imagine. The heart of true Christian faith lies right here: if your neighbor is your enemy then you must love him precisely because God’s coming into this world makes it possible for him to become your brother, a “son of God” along with you. Once you believe that Jesus was God who came into this world then you find yourself becoming sure that this world really does matter. It is not garbage being made ready for a dump! It is, as J. B. Phillips so powerfully called it, “the visited planet.”
Tomorrow: True Faith, Part Two