Healing and Faith

This message from Matthew 8:1–13 titled Healing and Faith from Trip Lee was given at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The three-day conference was titled Conversations with Jesus and urged participants to be faithful in their efforts at evangelism and gospel proclamation.


The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check audio/video before quoting.

How’s everybody doing? Alright, thank you so much for that brother. John Piper means a lot to me. I’ve been super encouraged by his ministry. So I’m encouraged by that. And you know, usually, when you say the words, no pressure, it means you just put pressure on somebody. But like he said, I have no hope to do any of those things apart from God’s work. So we need the Lord to work in us. I just want to ask for His help once more:

Father, thank you for your Word. And we pray you would help us to see it, to hear it humbly, and to respond with faith. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I want to read from Matthew 8. I want to read verses 1 to 13. When you got it, say, “I got it.” If you don’t have it yet say, “Hold up!” Matthew, 8:1–13.

God’s word says this:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

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. 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.”

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. 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.”

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.

It’s God’s word.

I’m talking about faith and healing here from Matthew 8:1–13. It doesn’t take much time living or walking around or observing our world to be reminded that we live in a broken world; a fallen world where things go wrong.

And most of us understand this. I do, however, know two people who don’t seem to understand that we live in a fallen and broken world. And those two people are my kids. I have a 6-year-old son, and a 4-year-old daughter, please pray for me. And one of the things that they can’t handle very well is any kind of disappointment.

They’re so used to things going their way that they really struggle when something doesn’t go their way. And they clearly feel like there’s a deep injustice that has been done to them. And one of the things they don’t understand is that, sometimes, there are things that go wrong that we can’t fix. So if my son wakes up in the morning and wants a Pop-Tart (and we don’t have any Pop-Tarts), it’s very hard for his little brain to understand: “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for you at this moment. I couldn’t make you a Pop-Tart if I wanted, because we don’t have the ingredients for this strange nutritionless snack that you want in the morning.”

I was just talking to my wife on the phone, and she was telling me my daughter is looking forward to a trip to go see her grandparents. And she doesn’t understand that two months is a little while away. So she keeps saying, “Hey, mom, are we going to see our grandparents tomorrow?”

And my wife keeps saying, “No, it’s still two months,” and my daughter is frustrated that my wife can’t speed up time to make it come quicker.And I have to explain to her, “Selah, mommy is not a witch. Whatever kind of black magic you’re hoping for, I don’t think she can do it. And even if she could, it’s outlawed by Scripture.”

They are so used to having all of their needs met. But as they grow up, they’ll have to, of course, grow accustomed to the fact that we live in a broken world where things go wrong. And sometimes with things that we cannot fix; some problems that don’t seem fixable. And of course, they’ll go through things that are a lot harder than time not going fast enough and not having the stuff that they want. Problems that it doesn’t seem that anybody can fix them like a handicap, or unemployment, or addiction, or a broken marriage, or even death.

One of the things that’s helping them begin to grasp this is my own health, I’ve had an illness for the past 12 years. And when they think of sickness, they think of, like, a cold that you can get over pretty quickly.

It’s starting to sink in for them that this is an illness that there’s no quick fix for. That this illness has been with me for a while, and it’ll continue to be. And it’s not for lack of trying to fix it. Which brings me to another thing—sometimes we’ll go to people to try to help us with some of these problems, these major problems that show up in a broken world, but maybe there’s just nothing they can do.

And usually, when people can’t fix your problems, it’s because they’re either unwilling to fix it or they’re unable to fix it. So it does no good to be willing to fix something if you’re not able to fix it. So I am willing to send all of your kids to college for four years. But I ain’t got it like that, I’m not able to do that.

I’m willing but I’m not able. It also doesn’t do you any good to be able if you’re not willing. Comcast is able to fix your cable and internet issues, but they’re not willing. I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to their customer service, they are not willing. And if you work for Comcast, I’m not sorry, do better. I need to stick to my manuscript.

So what happens is, in our text, today, we encounter two men who are very well acquainted with the brokenness of our world. And they have yet to encounter somebody who’s both willing and able to do something about their brokenness.

That is, of course, until they meet Jesus. And so the reason I think it helps us to study this text is, when we have this brokenness we need somebody who’s both willing and able to do something about it. We have to approach the right person, as they’ve done with the Lord Jesus. And we have to approach him rightly. And so my prayer is that one, we’ll both see Jesus as the one that we should bring our brokenness to. And, that we’ll see in the example of this leper and this centurion, the proper way, the proper posture. If we’re going to have this conversation with Jesus about our brokenness and request that he do something about it: we want to understand who he is, and we want to have the conversation in a way that honors him. The main thing I want you to walk away with today is that faith is bringing your brokenness to the one who’s both willing and able.

Talking about faith and healing: faith is bringing that brokenness to the one who’s both willing and able. So we’ll look at the two men, and as we look at them, I want you to pay attention to two things that just show up, crystal clear in the way that they approach Jesus: their humility and their faith. All right, so just look for those things. We’ll start with the faith of the leper.

The Faith of the Leper

To give you a little context, for the passage that we read. It comes right after the Sermon on the Mount. So we’re familiar with the Sermon on the Mount: it is the most famous sermon that Jesus preaches. And he (kind of) turns everything on its head and he talks about what true blessedness is, and he talks about loving enemies, and enduring persecution.

And he gives these kind of new kingdom ethics. And then right after that, coming back down the mountainside, the Lord Jesus then shows them what it looks like now that the kingdom has come near. Now that the King of all Kings has come to earth, and it seems like heaven is breaking its way into earth. He’s going to show them what happens there.

Matthew 8:1 This is what it says:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

So again let me set this scene: Jesus has come down the mountainside. He’s walking and he has this huge crowd following behind him. You’ve seen movies or commercials where somebody is walking just with a horde of people behind them. This is what’s happening with Jesus.

And then, this man with leprosy comes up to him. Now, try to picture the scene: we don’t know how the people who are with Jesus responded to this man with leprosy. They were probably confused, they were probably terrified. Some may have backed away in disgust.

Some may have asked Jesus, “Hey, I don’t think you understand he has leprosy. Watch out.” Some may have just been curious to see what Jesus would do because leprosy was a serious condition. So just a few things for us to understand about leprosy. That word leprosy was probably used to describe a bunch of different skin conditions. So, we shouldn’t think of it as synonymous with the leprosy that we’re familiar with.

But these were skin conditions; they were obvious to see. So everybody would have seen these discolored patches and his sickly appearance. And at its worst stages—they didn’t know how to cure these skin conditions. So the only thing that they could do was to quarantine people, to just kind of put them off by themselves.

They had to remain outside of where everybody else lived. They had to keep their distance from the people. It also meant they were ceremonially unclean. Leviticus 13 says “A person who has a case of serious skin disease, is to have his clothes torn, his hair hanging loose, he must cover his mouth and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He will remain unclean as long as he has the disease, he is unclean, he must live alone in a place outside the camp.”

And this man has this serious skin disease. So, he’s suffering. Right? He’s suffering from the physical condition, he is suffering from social isolation. He’s suffering from a spiritual isolation because he’s kept away from the spiritual aspects of this community. He’s in a bad situation, and we can’t know how long he had leprosy; how long he’d been suffering from the disease, but we know he needed to be rescued, and that he had yet to encounter somebody who could actually deliver him.

Physicians during this time didn’t know a whole lot. Actually, when Scripture talks about physicians, it’s negative because they would often take advantage of people. They didn’t know what they were doing. And Scripture wants us to not rely on them instead of God. But somehow this man heard of Jesus—after no one else being able to help him he’d heard of Jesus—he’d heard that there was somebody special, a great healer. And based on what he heard, he was confident that Jesus could deliver him. That he thought, “If I can present myself before Jesus, I think he can do something about it.” So he approaches him.

And just as an aside, this is how faith function:  that we hear something about who Jesus is, or we have some kind of encounter with Jesus. And what it produces in us is this confidence and this trust that Jesus is who he says he is, and can do what he said he would do. That when this man heard about this great healer, he didn’t respond with skepticism, he responded by saying, “I need to go to him.”

That’s faith. That is faith. The text says, he came up and knelt before him. That kneeling is a posture of humility. I told you watch for the humility. Kneeling is a posture of humility; kings don’t kneel before peasants; victors don’t kneel before the people that they just defeated. This man knew he wasn’t before just another person—he was in the presence of somebody with some kind of special divine power. And so he says this, “Lord if you’re willing, you can make me clean.” That’s an interesting way to say that, he says, “If you’re willing.”

Why would he question if Jesus was willing to do it? The word that is translated as willing can mean to desire, to plan, to wish. He’s saying, If this is what you want to do. If it’s in your will.” He could wonder if Jesus is willing because he’s unsure if Jesus will want anything to do with a sick, ostracized leper like himself (because everybody keeps him at arm’s reach). So it would make sense if the leper wondered if Jesus would want anything to do with him.

Another interesting thing about the wording, he says, “If you’re willing, you can cleanse me.” He doesn’t ask, “If you’re willing, can you?” This is more of a statement of faith than a request. Because he already believes, he says, “You can, I know that you can.” That is a trust and confidence that Jesus can do it.

And that’s what faith looks like. The question isn’t it can he, it’s will he? And this is always going to be the right way to posture ourselves. When we want to present our brokenness to Jesus, we want to come before Jesus. The question is never about God’s ability; it’s a question of whether or not it’s in his will.

That’s how we should bring our brokenness to a Savior as amazing as ours, with an open hand, saying, “I know you can, I’m asking if you will.”

Not only that, but real faith isn’t demanding. He doesn’t say, “You’re Jesus, you got to do this.” He doesn’t say, “You healed other people, now it’s my turn.” He says, “If you’re willing and I know you can.” Demanding things of God can seem like some kind of stronger, bolder faith, but that is fake, pseudo-faith. That’s not the kind of faith we see in Scripture, making God your servant, naming stuff and claiming stuff.  That is not in the Bible. We should say, “Lord, if you’re willing, I know you can.”

And here’s how Jesus responds. Verse 3 “Reaching out his hand Jesus touched him, saying, ‘I am willing, be made clean.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

So, first of all—Jesus responds by touching him. So we’ve talked about the way that leprosy would have isolated this man. Who knows how long it’s been since another human being has touched him?

Jesus, in his kindness, reaches out and touches him. He doesn’t avoid him; he gravitates toward him. We know Jesus doesn’t need to touch him in order to heal him. We see that in the next passage in the way that Jesus often heals. What we do see in Jesus is this very consistent love and care for the marginalized and the outcast.

If anybody had a right to think of themselves as superior to somebody else, it would be Jesus, and yet—even those who other people consider too lowly for them, not worthy to be in their presence, Jesus gravitates towards them. He graciously comes up close to those who have been cast off. That’s good news.

That’s good news in a world where we are quick to cut people off and cast them off. That’s good news in a world where we are constantly trying to draw dividing lines about who’s in the right camp, and who’s in the wrong camp. It’s good news that Jesus gravitates towards outcasts like you and me. It’s good news that the things about us—the worst things about us that will make other people just kind of recoil and back away in disgust—that those things are not a wedge between us and Jesus.

Jesus reaches out and he touches this man. When your hands are dirty, and you touch other stuff it gets other things dirty. You know, people are afraid of this leper they touch him, he might be contagious, they might get it. When your hands are dirty, and you use soap to clean them, what happens? The soap isn’t like other things that get dirty, the soap overpowers the dirt and the soap doesn’t change, the dirt does. The same thing with Jesus. Jesus is not worried, “Oh, if I touch this man, maybe that leprosy will come on to me.” Why? Because Jesus is Lord even of leprosy, and sickness, and disease, and demons. There’s nothing that’s going to overpower him. Jesus isn’t worried about him getting close to this man. Jesus is both willing and able. His Lordship is on display.

Verse 3: He says, “I am willing, be made clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” So he is willing, he doesn’t have to cleanse this man. He’s not under obligation by law. He’s not trading goods, trying to get something in return. He’s not worried about his disciples judging him. He does this because he’s willing. He does this because he’s compassionate. He does this to show who he is. He does it to reflect the unique role he has—what’s happening in redemptive history.

He just says, “Be made clean.” I read this passage to my daughter last night and she said, “How does Jesus just say things and they happen?” And I said, “Well, I think you’re on to the specialness of Jesus.” Imagine if we could get work done that way. If we could just be like, “Hey, work, be done. Emails, get read and replied to. Thank you.”

That would be nice. But Jesus speaks and it’s done. We see this at creation where God says, “Let there be light,” and there was. The way that we can try to get things done with our words is, if we speak to someone else and ask them to accomplish it.

The Lord Jesus doesn’t need that, he can just speak and it’s done. And he says that and the man is cleansed. And this isn’t unique just to this story. All throughout the gospels, sickness, and death, and demons flee at the words of Jesus. Jesus is clearly the Lord and the King of all. You have demons who are terrorizing people who, as soon as Jesus shows up, they cower in fear.

That at the word of Jesus, the diseases that have been terrorizing people,—they leave. That people who have been dead can be raised because Jesus is Lord. Jesus is really Lord.

We know that “Lord” isn’t a nickname for Jesus. Lord is a title. Lord means master; it means boss. He’s in charge over all things. And that’s why the humility that this man shows is necessary. We don’t run up on Jesus demanding that he heal us.

We say, “God, I know you can, if you’re willing.” So not only does it happen, it happens immediately. Right? It says he’s cleansed immediately. When we’re sick, we take medicine, and it takes a while to work. Right? Jesus can heal immediately.

Same thing happens at the end of the passage in verse 13, the centurion, it says, “and his servant was healed that very moment.” Things take a while when they’re difficult, when we have to chip away at something, Jesus doesn’t have to chip away at anything, because all of creation is under his command. Verse 4, “Jesus told him, see that you don’t tell anyone, but go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift that Moses commanded as a testimony to them.”

The kindness of Jesus is going to show up in his whole life, that the suffering will be over, and that social and spiritual isolation will be over too. This kind of holistic healing that we see from Jesus. And he tells him,“ go show yourself to the priest,” because the priests will say, ‘Yes, he has been cleansed, no longer unclean.’ It’ll be a testimony.

Now, I told y’all a little bit ago, that I have an illness that I’ve had for the past 12 years. The shorthand name is chronic fatigue syndrome, the official name is myalgic encephalomyelitis, but I wasn’t going to say that, because I don’t know if we speak in tongues at this conference. So, we’ll say chronic fatigue syndrome.

And I’ve had that for the past 12 years—and it’s been the hardest part of every part of my life. Even down to there being days this week, where I had to be in bed for most of the day. Slept a full night, then was also in bed for another 10 hours during the day. And that’s been a reality in my life and to read passages like these, if I’m honest, can be difficult for a sick person.

Because it just seems so easy. It seems like: just believe and you’re healed, not just this. What about the woman who’s been bleeding for 12 years, who just reaches out and touches the hem of his garment, and just like that she’s healed? How about Jairus’ daughter? I could go on and on. It seems like faith just takes care of it—and I know I’m not the only person who has an illness, or who has friends and family who have illnesses. The question, “Why isn’t God willing to heal me?” can be what’s confusing, especially when you have false teaching that will say, “Look, if you’re sick, it’s a lack of faith, faith always leads to healing.”

A few things that are helpful for me when I read passages like this is remembering that these aren’t always just one-to-one comparisons. What we’re reading is about special times in the history of what God is doing in the world. And, Jesus is making specific points about who he is. So, that he heals not only out of compassion and love, but also out of a desire to show who he is; to show that the kingdom is breaking through; to show the credibility of his ministry. Same things with the apostles healing: It’s to give validation to the message.

Also, healing is more comprehensive than we think about it sometimes. We shouldn’t think that, if Jesus doesn’t heal us from our physical ailments, that he’s not healed us at all. Because often you see people both healing and forgiving sins at the same time. So, we shouldn’t think that if God has only healed our relationship with Him, that He hasn’t healed us.

And we know that God, maybe, will heal us later. But the battle in the meantime: it is to not allow that lack of healing to break down and erode our faith. It’s a very vulnerable place to have something that you’re suffering through, that you’ve asked God to deliver you from, that he hasn’t delivered you from yet.

1 Thessalonians, when Paul sends Timothy back to check on their faith, he’s saying, “Look, I wanted to make sure y’all were good, both because of the tempter and trials.” Trials make us vulnerable for our faith to be eroded. And sometimes that can be immediate, because we believe God maybe isn’t as good as He said He was. We believe that God maybe doesn’t care about us anymore.

There’s also a slower, kind of, eroding of our faith. Or, maybe even without thinking about it, we just stop praying. I know I felt convicted about that recently that I haven’t been praying as much as I used to. And I think it’s because unbelief crept in my heart that made me think, “Maybe He really can’t, or just won’t.” Constantly asking myself, “What does this kind of faith look like for me?” Because our faith can feel more like an obstacle instead of a pathway. It can feel like it’s the thing that’s standing in the way of who God wants me to be, not the way that he’s working it in us.

But here’s an illustration to help us think about this: You ever watch a TV show and someone rich lives in some penthouse or loft, and they have a doorman. I’ve never seen one of these doormen in the wild because I don’t have enough rich friends. But, what happens is, they stand there and they decide who can come in. And if they do their job properly, they only let people in who you want to see. They’re not going to let anybody to come in and come to your door unless it’s somebody that’s supposed to be in there. And a good doorman keeps people out who aren’t supposed to be in. And in the same way, God does not allow anything into our lives that’s not for good.

Sometimes we can think that if there’s something that’s difficult for us, it has somehow snuck past God. That maybe God fell asleep on the job. That maybe God turned his back for a moment. But let me tell you the fact that God is both willing and able, tells me that if there’s something hard that’s present in my life, it’s not because He wants me to suffer, and it’s not because He’s unable to stop it. Then it must be that He has purpose in it; that anything that God lets in He lets in for a reason. And, let me tell you that can be hard to hold on to, in the midst of hard weeks. But, God is in control and he’s perfectly sovereign—even in tough things.

And what can happen is when we let our faith be eroded like that—what we’re in danger of is—we are turning God into our genie, where we are demanding that God heal us or else we’re done with him.

Notice Jesus tells the leper not to tell anybody. He says, “Look, don’t tell anybody just go straight to the priests.” And we think one of the reasons that he tells him not to tell people is because Jesus doesn’t want people to misunderstand who he is.

He doesn’t want people to just assume that he’s just some miracle-working faith healer, who’s doing signs and wonders all over the place. Jesus is much more than some faith healer or genie that would do some of the stuff we want him to do. He is Lord. He is the Son of God. He is the Son of Man. He is the King of Kings, the Everlasting One, he’s the Word in the flesh.

And the mistake that says “I won’t hold on to this faith in Jesus unless he does these things for me,” is the same mistake he’s trying to keep these others from. Jesus is not our faith healer, he is our Lord.

Last thing I’ll say before we talk about the centurion is this: When we ask God to heal us, if we’re in Jesus, the answer that he gives us is never, “No.” It’s, “Not yet.” Because what we know is that Jesus purchased perfect healing for us on the cross. What we know is we’ll be resurrected with new bodies. What we know is it’ll do away with all sin and death. What we know is it’ll wipe every tear from our eyes. The question is not if he’ll do it, it’s when he’ll do it.

So, if you’re here today, you’re saying I have been praying that God would heal, and he hasn’t yet. I want you to know that the worst case scenario is that He said, “Not yet.” And, if He’s decided for me to deal with this trial for the rest of my life on this earth, then He’s doing it for some wise purposes, for His glory, and for my good. But I know that I do have healing to look forward to—it was purchased by Jesus. That’s not why we come to Jesus. But man, he is gracious to have purchased and promised that to us. Amen. Amen.

We should, in faith, bring our brokenness to the one who’s willing and able.

Faith says, “I know you can, if only you will.” I want us to also now look at the faith of the centurion.

Faith of the Centurion

We looked at the faith of the leper, let’s look at the faith of the centurion. Verse 5. It says,

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 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.

So again, this story has a lot of similarities.

He comes up to Jesus. Jesus still has people with him, following him. This person is a centurion, or a Roman soldier: someone who maybe had command of 100 soldiers. Because he’s a Roman soldier, we also know he’s a Gentile: another person who would seem to be far from God. It seems like he had also heard things about Jesus and what Jesus could do, and it made him want to bring this issue to Jesus. Except this man isn’t coming on his own behalf, he’s coming on behalf of his servant.

But the posture that he has is very similar to the posture of the leper. We see that humility and that faith. He pleads with Jesus, and Jesus asks, you know, “Am I to come to heal him?” Which, pretty remarkable that Jesus is willing to just go to the home of a Gentile: in a culture where people believed that Gentiles are not in God’s plan. He said, “I’ll come to your house and heal him.” But the centurion says, “I’m unworthy for you to even be under my roof.” This is the proper response of somebody who’s seen God clearly: a sense of our own unworthiness. Not only a sense of the greatness of Jesus, but also the fact that we’re unworthy in comparison to him.

Isaiah 6:5: “Woe is me, I’m a man of unclean lips.” John the Baptist thinking about Jesus, “’I’m not even worthy to tie his sandals (Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:27).” People falling at their feet. “Woe is me.” This is the right response. And that’s the humility of the centurion.

When we come to Jesus, even with our brokenness, we should know Jesus has called us to come to him with our requests, but also hold our unworthiness in our other hand—understanding that anything that God gives us is not because we’re entitled to it, it’s because he’s gracious.

Sometimes we struggle with gratitude and contentment. And it’s because, in part, we forget that we’re unworthy. And so, when we don’t have something that we desperately want, instead of thinking, “Maybe God will be gracious and give me another thing I don’t deserve,” we think, “God is withholding from me something that is rightfully mine.” We can be tempted to think that the opposite of gratitude is silence.

You know, like, if someone gives something to my kids and I say “Hey”—I hit my son on the back of the head—”Hey, say thank you.” But that’s just generally what he says out of his mouth. Gratitude is more than just saying thank you out of your mouth. The opposite of gratitude isn’t silence, it’s entitlement.

And that entitlement is the enemy of any kind of contentment, feeling like you just deserve it. So we’ll struggle with gratitude and contentment, as long as we don’t understand that every single thing we have is a gift from Jesus. So, he comes not with entitlement, but with humility. Think Psalm 8. David, “Who is man that you’re even mindful of me.”

Matthew 13:8–9:

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. 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.”

So in his response, he says two things: First, “You don’t need to come to my house because I’m not even worthy for you to be up under my roof.” Second, “it’s also just unnecessary, Lord. You don’t even need to come to my house in order to do what you’re going to do.You just say the word and he’ll be healed.” Now this man understands something about the incredible power of Jesus. He is utterly confident in the healing power of Jesus. He understands the power of Jesus isn’t bound by location. It’s not like a remote control that has some kind of limited range. The power of Jesus can go as far as it needs to, and all he needs to do is say the words. He touched the leper. This Centurion understands, “You don’t even have to touch my servant, just say the word and he’ll be healed.” We’re used to things that have some kind of limited range.

I’m on tour right now, there’s a tour bus, there’s a TV on there with satellite TV, which sounds nice. That satellite never works though. We are all—this is such first world problems—but look, my tour bus doesn’t have good TV (I’m making a point though). What happens is half the time it doesn’t work because we will be out of range somehow, there’ll be some trees that block it. Radio frequencies aren’t getting through. Whatever stuff isn’t working properly.

This man understands that there’s not something that’s going to block the signal of Jesus’ power; there’s not some range that he’s limited to. Jesus doesn’t even have some jurisdiction that he’s limited to. Jesus is all powerful, and all of creation is at his command. So the man says, “Look,” this is how he reasons that he said, “Look, I got people under my command, I don’t even have to go everywhere I need to go to get things done. Right? I’ll tell someone, ‘Go do this,’ he does it, I tell another soldier, ‘Go do that.’ I tell my servant to come, and he comes.You don’t have to come to my house.”

He understands that Jesus also has incredible authority. But where this man sends people to do his bidding, all Jesus has to send is his word. The same word that he holds the universe together with. And Hebrews 1:3 says that God “holds the universe together by the word of his power.” And Jesus is amazed by this man’s faith.

And he responds to it, Matthew 8:10. “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.’”

Look, it has to take something truly special to amaze Jesus. He wasn’t like, “Man, I saw your outfit with them sandals, I was amazed.”  He doesn’t say, “Man, you’re so well spoken, I’m amazed,” he doesn’t say, “Man, you got 100 people under you, I’m amazed.” He says, “I am amazed at your faith.” Those are the kinds of things that draw the attention of the God of the universe. Not pride, but humility. Not self-dependence, but faith. Jesus responds to faith.

Not because we’re doing something we can’t do, or we’ve impressed him with amazing work. But because it’s an acknowledgment that we cannot do it on our own. And that’s exactly where Jesus wants us. Acknowledging we’re broken, and we desperately need him. And he’s amazed by his faith, that he knows that Jesus just needs to say the word.

We have such misguided views on faith, we treat faith like a wish sometimes. Like, “I didn’t study for my test, but I got faith I’m going to pass it.” That’s foolish. “Haven’t been going to work but I got faith the money will be in my account.” That’s not faith, that’s foolish.

The kind of faith that the Bible is talking about is very different than what we do. And we do that with God too, where sometimes we will just come up with something and say, “I have faith that God is going to do that.” We demand things of God and call it faith. Faith is not giving God an assignment and holding him to it. Faith is believing that God is who He said He is, and will do what He said He will do.

And if we are clear that that’s what faith is, then we will be clear what it means to try to persevere in that faith and hold on to that faith. Some of us are struggling with our faith in Jesus because he hasn’t done things that he never said he would do in the first place.

And so, if we assume that a passage like this is telling us that God will always heal us anytime we have faith, then we’re going to struggle. But again, faith is believing that God is who He said He is, and will do what He said He would do.

For this man, he heard something about Jesus being a healer, and he believed that. For us, the way that we feed our faith is going to the much wider testimonies of who Jesus is, and who God is. We feed our faith the same way you work on building up. Because someone may say, “Look, I’m struggling with my faith,”or, “I don’t know what I think about Jesus.” The way that we build up trust with somebody is by looking at their track record.

I trust my wife. We’ve been married almost 10 years, I know how she is; I’ve seen the way she cares for me and my family. I’ve seen many things like her integrity. I trust her. The way that we are able to see God’s track record is right here in this word. Where we see God, time and time again, be nothing but gracious and holy and good and faithful. This is where we feed our faith. This is where we’re reminded what Jesus is like. This is where we’re reminded what he’s done. This is where we’re reminded what his promises are. This is where we’re reminded that he’s never broken a promise. This is where we’re even reminded that he’s already told us how everything will end.

Spoiler alert: He wins.

This is where we feed our faith. So if, even after having put our faith in Jesus, if we think of our faith only as a one-time profession of faith, we’ll still be in danger. This is what happened with the Thessalonians: Paul sends Timothy back to check on their faith because their faith could be in danger. Our faith has to be persevered in.

And God will keep us, but he’ll keep us as we feed it in His Word—that’s how he’ll keep us. We treat our faith sometimes like we can just leave it in a corner somewhere, and it’ll be fine. My wife, she loves plants but she always murders them. She’s not good at keeping them alive. And so we had to come up with a rule in our house, no more real plants. It was hard fought, but I was victorious. So now they’re fake plants. The great thing about fake plants is you cannot pay any attention to them and they’re fine. You can forget they exist for a year, come back, looks exactly the same. And sometimes we treat our faith like that.

Like, “Hey, I made this one-time profession of faith in Jesus.” We forget about our faith, we put it up on the shelf, we do not do any of the watering, we don’t give it anything that it needs to thrive and to flourish, and we assume it’ll be fine. And when the tempter comes and when trials come, we’re confused when our faith seems weak. When God has told us how we’re to feed our faith. Keep looking at His track record, keep gathering with His people, keep looking at who He is.

Matthew 8:11–12, Jesus says this, he’s impressed with this Gentile’s faith.

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.

Jesus is saying this to the people of Israel—who’ve had all of this redemptive history, who had all this revelation from God, who God has been working with, in redemptive history, up to this point.

He hasn’t seen any of them have the faith that this Gentile has. And he’s saying, “If anyone assumes that your invitation to this banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is based on your ethnic identity, you are wrong.” He’s saying, “The invitation to this banquet is based on faith.”

Faith is how that invitation gets to you. And he’s saying, “People are going to come from east and west.” I just picture people from everywhere flocking to the Lord Jesus as he draws them to himself. And this faith will be the difference between reclining at the banquet in glory with the patriarchs—with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and between being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The good news is that the healing power of Jesus is not just limited to physical ailments. We see Jesus forgiving sins; we see Jesus delivering us from bondage to sin; we see Jesus opening people’s eyes and drawing people to himself. Even from the east and the west.

Look we are, in part today, an example of the fact that people from all over going to flock to Jesus. If your picture of eternal glory is a bunch of people who look just like you, you’re going to be disappointed when you get there. Because Jesus in his great power is opening people’s eyes from all over the place. And we were in real danger, all of us, of being cast out into the outer darkness because of our sin and God will judge us because of our sin.

The Scripture’s really clear that we’re saved not by works, but through faith. So, Jesus is saying it’s those with this faith, who will be saved from that outer darkness. Now I know, for sure, that so many of us wanting to have a relationship with God and wanting to be saved, wanting to have eternal life, have tried to go to so many other people and things—thinking that we could earn our way there. Somebody else could get us there. We grew up in the church, went to a lot of Bible studies, did a bunch of stuff, saying “I’m a good person.” Jesus is saying, “You get invited to the banquet by faith.” And you can go to whatever else you want to, and maybe somebody who was willing, but you will never find anybody other than Jesus who’s both willing and able to save your soul.

Romans 5:7–8 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Nobody else is willing to lay their life down for sinners who hated them. But Jesus did, he was willing.

The first three chapters of Hebrews talks about all these things in redemptive history and how Jesus is greater than them. How those sacrifices passed away, and that there’s one—only one—who could provide that once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus was able to save us from this eternal damnation. Only Jesus is willing and able to deal with our brokenness in a holistic way. We can go to doctors who can help us, just with our physical ailments. We can go to different kinds of the doctors who help us with some of our emotional health. Only Jesus, who created the whole soul, can heal the whole soul. Faith looks like us bringing our brokenness to the one who’s both willing, and able.

I’ll close by saying this. Matthew 8:13, he says, “‘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.” The fact that Jesus came healing is proof of who he is. And those last words that he says, “Let it be done for you”” that sounds a lot like rest.

He doesn’t say, “Go achieve it.” He says, “Let it be done for you.” He doesn’t say, “Go heal him.” He says, “Let it be done for you.” It’s good news that Jesus has done the work for us; that Jesus can do the healing for us; that Jesus has done the saving for us; that Jesus did the obedience for us; that Jesus did the purchasing for us, the resurrecting for us, the victory for us.

So for those of us who are struggling with what life looks like in this broken world (that’s full of problems that seem unfixable, and brokenness that seems like it can’t be mended). The good news for us is we’re no longer searching for the one who’s willing and able. We know who it is. And if there’s something in our lives that he hasn’t made whole yet, we’re not looking for someone else to do it: we’re waiting for the day that he will. And we can rest in that. We can hope in that, and we can look forward to the banquet. Amen. Amen. Let me pray.

Father, we thank you so much for Jesus. God, when we read these texts in the gospels: we’re blown away at the kindness of Jesus and the power of Jesus, the goodness of Jesus, that all we have is Jesus. Father remind us of his kindness, and his goodness, and his power, and his saving work. Help us to trust him more. God I pray for my friends who don’t know Jesus, you’d help them to see him in a way they’ve never seen him before, as Savior and Lord and King. And for those of us who know him, help us to see him more clearly. Help us to bring our brokenness before him, trusting him, and believing him. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.