Friday

31 July 2015

“When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 54


Background

The writer now moves on from a collection of teachings and sayings to a collection of actions and healings. The Gospel writers were not, in the main, interested in relating the life of Jesus in the right order. They often grouped various events together in order to make clear what they believed mattered most about him.

Here the reader is offered some contrasting thoughts about how Jews and Gentiles were viewed. The Jews are seen as the people of God, who might be said to deserve God's grace and miracles, while Gentiles are always outsiders and sometimes second-class at best. So the elders list the virtues (verses 4-5) that mean this particular outsider is deserving even though 'not one of us'.

Maybe this account belongs here to underline what Jesus has been teaching about the relationship with God, and the obedience which springs from faith. The very different view of the centurion is profoundly emphasised by the detail of the report of what he said.

There are at least two fascinating and unusual aspects of this particular healing. The first is that Jesus is "amazed". It is much more usual for a gospel writer to attribute knowledge and understanding to Jesus, often beyond what might be expected. Does the amazement indicate that Jesus too expected less from the outsiders? Or might it be that the reader is invited to join Jesus in delighting at such faith?

The other is that there is no mention of Jesus speaking any word of healing, and no suggestion of the quite common phrase "your faith has saved/healed you" (eg Luke 7:50; Mark 10:52). There is not even the word of command that the centurion apparently asked for. Often at the end of a healing story, the reader will be told that the people were 'amazed', but here the writer offers a very different picture, which includes the outsider who really understands.


To Ponder

  • What parts of your own faith journey would you like to offer to 'amaze' God?
  • Consider reflecting for a while on God's possible response.


Bible notes author: Revd Alison Tomlin

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you