The Man God Marveled At

 

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Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we see massive crowds of people continually astonished and amazed by the words and actions of Jesus. Then, in chapter 7 of Luke, we see the reverse happen – Jesus himself is amazed by the words and actions of someone. Only 2 places combined in all of the Gospels do we see Jesus “marveling” at anyone. One of those times is when Jesus marvels the unbelief and faithlessness of Israel as a whole. The other time is right here in Luke 7, when Jesus marvels at this one man, a Roman centurion. Considering the rarity of such an occasion, we should take a close look at this man and what led to Jesus’ amazement of him.

First, we should look at the whole story:

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

– Luke 7:1-10

So what was it about this man’s actions and words that caused the King of kings and Lord of lords, who performed miracle after miracle and spoke with unparalleled wisdom, to marvel at him? I have three suggestions.

1. Jesus marveled at his compassion.

Roman soldiers were hardly known for their compassion. They were more frequently known for their brutality, violence, and harshness. They also rarely got along with the people of Israel and in most cases, the animosity was mutual. But this centurion was unique – he cared enough for a lowly servant to seek out the help of a Jewish rabbi. The man “highly valued” this servant so much so that he asked the Jewish leaders for help asking Jesus for help. Most Roman centurions would not have asked anyone for help. But this man had deep compassion for even the lowliest of his household. As a man of unparalleled compassion, I believe Jesus admired this man’s compassion for his servant.

2. Jesus marveled at his humility.

The centurion asked the Jewish leaders to speak to Jesus on his behalf, but why? Why didn’t he go himself? Even when Jesus gets close to his home, the man still sends delegates out to deliver a message to Jesus. But why? Luke records that the message the centurion sent to Jesus was, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you.”

Though the Jewish leaders begged Jesus to come with the reasoning, “He is worthy to have you do this for him”, the centurion recognized his unworthiness. He humbly confessed to Jesus that he realized that he wasn’t even worthy to stand in the same room is Jesus. He rightly grasped how great and mighty and holy Jesus was and understood that he was not worthy to stand in Jesus’ presence. It wasn’t because he was a patriot or a generous donor that Jesus marveled, it was because of his humility – his understanding of Jesus’ greatness and holiness and his own lowliness and unworthiness.

3. Jesus marveled at his faith in the authority of God’s word.

The centurion said, “For I too a man set under authority…” and explains how, as a Roman military leader that possessed authority, his mere words were enough to get soldiers and servants to do as he asked. As a man of authority, the centurion recognized Jesus’ unique authority as well. Though he was a Roman official and possessed political authority over Jesus, he rightly understood that Jesus possessed a similar, but much higher authoritative power than he. “But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” He knew that Jesus wielded unparalleled authority – that just as he commanded his soldiers and servants and they obeyed – in the same way, Jesus commanded demons and illnesses and they obeyed.

The centurion had complete faith that Jesus mere words were enough to heal his servant. Healings at the time were rare enough, but a long distance healing that didn’t require physical touch of any kind was truly rare. And yet, this man believed that all Jesus had to do was speak the words and his servant would be healed.

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It was these three things, the centurion’s compassion, his humility, and his faith in the authority and power of God’s word that caused Jesus to marvel at him so much so that he turned to the crowd of people following him and said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” In other words, Jesus basically said, “Wow, I’ve been traveling all across this nation of people who have received my word and have been called by God into relationship with him and yet this man, a Roman official, is the one that astounds me. I have not seen faith like that in all of Israel.”

So what does it take for the King of kings to be amazed by someone? Compassion – a deep and unfiltered love for all, especially the lowliest of people. Humility – a right understanding of one’s own unworthiness to stand in presence of Jesus. And faith in the power and authority of God’s word – The belief that even though we are unworthy, that Jesus is compassionate enough and mighty enough to command obedience from diseases, demons, and even death.

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Struggling With God’s Wrath

God’s wrath is something that most believers (and non-believers) wrestle with intensely for years and rarely seem to find any consolation or relief from the struggle. It is something that is found all of Scripture (both the OT and the NT) and Jesus talks about it more than he talks about almost anything else. Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers also spend a great deal of time on it. It’s an unavoidable Biblical truth. So what are we to make of it?

Before we get too far into it, God’s wrath is a huge topic. There are so many doctrines, so many aspects, and so many truths about God’s wrath that it takes a lifetime to wrap our minds and hearts around. But what most of us need is simply a big picture explanation of the truth about God’s wrath. I never had it explained to me well, in a way that I understood, until college. I hope this will help you as you continue to struggle with God’s wrath.

Most people are bothered by God’s wrath because when they say they want a loving God, what they really mean is that they want a nice God. But love and nice are not synonyms. They overlap, they are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Most people don’t want a loving God, they want a nice God who never gets angry, never punishes, and is never against anything.

But if God did not get angry at sin or hate evil – he would not be a fully good or fully loving God. The problem comes from realizing that we are sinful and evil. And if God judges sin and evil, and we are sinful and evil, God must judge us. That is what no one wants to think about. But we must. And here’s why.

The wrath of God is an abused and unfairly treated topic. Preachers either emphasize it way too much or avoid it at all costs. Neither is healthy. In order to rightly understand the love and forgiveness of God and the goodness of the gospel message, we must rightly understand his wrath. The less serious we make God’s wrath, the less important we make God’s love and the gospel message. The greater God’s anger at sin, the greater his forgiveness of it as displayed on the cross.

Here are some basic, but absolutely essential Scriptural truths that I hope will help you in your struggle with God’s wrath.

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1.  God is too holy not to have wrath. 

God is holy. God is pure. God is perfect. God is above all sin, evil, and darkness.

John says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness. If then we are in Him, we cannot possess darkness. There is no place for sin in the presence of God – this truth is evident throughout the entire Bible. God is so holy and so clean and so pure and so perfect that he cannot tolerate the presence of sin. God is too holy to allow the evil and impurity of sin to run rampant in humanity.

Because God is holy and pure and he cannot allow sin to go unopposed, and because the object of God’s wrath is sin and disobedience and rebellion against relationship with him and against his will, we have a problem. Romans 3:10-19 tells us that we are the embodiment of sin and rebellion and disobedience. None of us is righteous or holy enough to be saved on our own, no not even one. Therefore, because we embody sin and rebellion, we ought to be the object of God’s wrath.

God is simply too holy not to have wrath against sin and therefore against us because of our sin.

2. God is too just not to have wrath

In order to properly examine God’s wrath – we must think of him first as Judge. He is not a vigilante justice seeker that brings impromptu judgment on those nearby. He is a good and righteous judge – one who carefully, thoughtfully, and patiently gathers evidence, brings charges, and declares one as guilty. Often in the Old Testament, God brings charges against the people and the evidence includes years, decades, even centuries of wrongdoing.

In Numbers 14:18 we see that God our Judge is slow to anger but that he still gets angry, as all good judges do, at the thought of injustice or evil going unpunished. In Numbers 18, God has mercy on Israel by not killing them all, but also punishes them by not allowing them to enter the promised land. I’ve heard some people say, “Well why can’t God just forgive everyone and forget about it?” Because then he wouldn’t be just. He wouldn’t be a good judge. Good judges don’t just sweep evil under the rug and say, “You know what, it’s not a big deal, just don’t do it again. You’re free to go.”

A judge who brushes sin aside without there being any punishment for the sin is not really just, not really fair, and not really good. We would all lodge a complaint against a judge that just let a murderer walk out of the goodness of his heart. And yet, that’s what many people claim they want from God. But if he did that, he would not be good or righteous. A good and righteous judge does not sweep evil under the rug.

God is simply too just not to judge sin – too just not to have wrath.

3. God is too loving not to have wrath

You cannot have deep and genuine love without wrath. How is this possible you might ask? Well I will show firsthand you if you take a swing at my fiancé. Or if you come near anyone that I love dearly with the intent to harm. Is it because I’m an angry person who likes fighting? No, its because I’m a loving person will stop at nothing to protect my loved ones from evil. God’s wrath is just that – protecting people he loves from evil.

A good and loving God cannot be indifferent to sin and evil and disobedience. He is simply too loving to not be wrathful. He loves humanity too much to leave us stuck in our sin. He loves us too much to let us destroy ourselves completely. It is like when you have a friend who has some self-destructive tendencies, habits, or behaviors. If you really love them, you will do something about it. If you really love them, you will act to stop them from destroying themselves. God’s wrath acts in the same way.

Almost every time in Scripture that God’s wrath is mentioned, his love is mentioned either just before or just after. Likewise, almost every time that God’s immense love is mentioned, his wrath is not far off. This is because they go hand in hand – they go together, they cannot be separated from each other. Love and wrath are so intricately woven together because wrath against anything that threatens the object of that love is a display of love.

God’s love is greater because of his wrath and his wrath is greater because of his love.

In fact…God’s wrath makes him more loving

God’s wrath is an outpouring of his love – his love for goodness, his love for holiness, his love for righteousness, and his love for his people.

In Amos 4:6-13 we see this truth clearer than most places in Scripture. God tells Israel that in his wrath (and his love) he allowed famine, drought, disease, war, and even judgment to come upon them with the hope that the people would return to him – return to right and loving relationship with him. But they didn’t.

God’s wrath is a plea to get people to turn to him! That because of God’s great and unfathomable love – all of his judgment is at least in part an attempt to bring people back to him while simultaneously opposing evil. His wrath is therefore both just and loving.

4. God is so loving that He drank our cup of wrath.

Read Romans 5:6-11Romans 8:1-4, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 (which are just a few of the many beautiful verses that describe this act of love.

If we are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. We are no longer under God’s wrath, but under his mercy because Jesus bore the wrath that we all deserved to bear. As a result, we are set free from his wrath.

In the greatest act of love in history, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath on the cross for us. He provided a way out for us. On the cross, God embodied love so purely because it displayed his unwillingness to tolerate our sin and rebellion but also his unwillingness to let us stay there. Only through the cross can we see God’s justice and mercy on full display simultaneously.

God is holy and just but he is also loving and faithful and will let nothing stand between him and his beloved – so he died, he took the punishment upon himself so that he could be both 100% completely just and holy AND 100% loving and merciful.

God doesn’t want people to face his wrath any more than we want to face it. In fact, he probably wants us to face his wrath far less than we do because he understands its seriousness far better. In fact, he wanted to spare us from his wrath so much so that he provided a way out. He drank the cup himself. He died for us.

5. Wrath still awaits those separated from Jesus.

While Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover the sins of all, salvation and the ability to be in relationship with God are gifts – but they must be accepted, they must be received with humility and repentance. The gospel demands a response.

For those who have answered God’s call and confessed, repented, and believed in Jesus – there is no wrath ahead – Jesus bore it all. But for those who still continue in their sin and are living life apart from Jesus, out of relationship with God – wrath still awaits.

But this is what makes the gospel message actual good news. There is a way out. Yes, we all deserve God’s wrath, judgment, and hell because every single of one of us is sinful on our own. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God, nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven. But in his great love, Jesus bore God’s wrath on the cross for us so that we could be free. He has provided a way out.

God is calling; beckoning humanity to himself. He wants all to come to knowledge of who he is and what he has done for us. Answer his call. Turn to Jesus and you will be saved from the wrath of God.

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But our God is simply too holy, too just, and too loving not to be angry at sin and not to act in opposition to it.

What else would you add to this dialogue? How have you struggled with God’s wrath? How have you come to a peace about it all? Please share your thoughts!