How would you feel if China called in its debts from the US, foreclosed on us and took over our country? What if China invaded, abolished our government and put Chinese troops in every community to keep order? If that happened, everywhere you went you would have to deal with soldiers from a foreign culture who would tightly regulate what you could do. Can you imagine how resentful you would be, what simmering anger would fill your heart? Put yourself in that frame of mind, and you have some idea of what it was like for the Israeli people, as they lived under the dominion of Rome in the first century. But they had one hope: God had promised to send a Messiah, a Savior. They assumed that when He came, He would overthrow Rome and re-establish their independence.
Imagine, in that situation, how it must have felt as people began to sense that Jesus might be the One. Many signs seemed to confirm that He was the Savior. Excitement was building and crowds were gathering around Him. But then He started smashing the preconceived notions of the religious leaders. He taught a radically different interpretation of God’s laws. He called simple people to follow Him and argued with the scholars and priests. He dared to touch a leper and healed him. But then Jesus agreed to heal the servant of a hated Roman centurion! Can you see how shocking this would have been? How could the Jewish Savior consent to help one of their enemy oppressors? Worse yet, Jesus praised this soldier’s faith, said it was better than the faith of any of the Israelites! When the soldier said,
“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8b)
“I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (Matthew 8:10b)
As the leaders’ indignation was building, Jesus offended them even more, by suggesting that this Roman centurion was closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than they were! He said:
“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. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)
God’s promise to Abraham was that “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3b). The religious leaders had forgotten God’s plan and assumed that God cared more about His Chosen People than He did about everyone else. What’s more, they had forgotten that this whole plan was set into motion by Abraham’s response of faith in God.
God’s Kingdom exists for anybody who will enter it by faith. Jesus came for you. It makes no difference what nation or culture you were born into. What matters is whether or not you trust Him. Like the Chinese… I mean, Roman soldier did.