27th June 2015
“I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!”
At the time of Jesus, Israel was under the control of the Roman Empire. Many Jews expected that, when the Messiah came, He would be a Warrior King (like Dave) who would set them free from their Roman oppressors.
Romans were the enemy.
So when a Roman centurion approaches Jesus, and pleads with Him, saying “My servant is paralysed, in terrible agony,” Jesus’ disciples were probably hoping Jesus would flip him off and say something like “Serves you right, Roman swine!”
But instead, Jesus offers to swing by the centurion’s house and heal the dude!
The centurion objects.
“Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof,” he concedes. “But only say the word, and my servant will be cured.”
As you can imagine, Jesus is rarely surprised in the stories recorded in the Bible. In fact, Jesus is “amazed” exactly twice. In Mark 5, He is amazed at the lack of belief in his hometown in Israel. Isn't this God’s People? But here, when this Roman—this enemy and oppressor—shows such an incredible faith, this is what happens:
“Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, ‘I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!’”
(And when the centurion gets home, his servant is indeed in good health.)
The fact that Jesus turned and said this directly to His followers always gives me a wry smile. I can just imagine the twelve disciples squirming as their Teacher and Lord essentially tells them “Hey, you could learn a thing or two about faith from this Roman soldier.”
11th April 2015
Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 7:5; Matthew 15:5; Matthew 15:7; Matthew 22:18; Matthew 23:13; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 23:15; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 23:29; Matthew 24:51; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; Luke 12:56; Luke 13:15
This is one of Jesus' favourite insults. He often uses it to describe the religious leaders of the day. The word that we usually translate as “hypocrites” is the Greek word hypokritai, which, incidentally, is also the word that was used to refer to actors in the Greek theatre. Not only does this tell us something about what Jesus meant by the slur—these people were pretending to be something they weren't—but it also suggests that Jesus probably, at some stage, went to the theatre.*
While this abrasive term is scattered throughout the gospels, it's mainly concentrated in two clusters:
In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus repeatedly warns people not to be like the hypocrites. Don't pray like the hypocrites, don't fast like the hypocrites, don't give to the poor like the hypocrites… The general gist is not to do good things for the sake of being applauded.
But later, in Matthew 23, Jesus really lets loose. The religious leaders, “the scribes and Pharisees”, have been asking Jesus all kinds of curly questions, trying (unsuccessfully) to trap Him in His words. Eventually, Jesus tires of this and—in front of the whole crowd—embarks on one of the most scathing tirades in the history of vituperation. Seriously, go read it. For the next couple of pages, Jesus begins most of his censures with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Some of the other ways that Jesus describes the religious leaders in His speech (and some of these may get their own post later on) include “blind fools”, “blind guides”, “whitewashed tombs”, “snakes”, “fit for hell”, and “brood of vipers”. Of course, it's soon after this incident that the recipients of all this praise start plotting to have Jesus arrested…