February 06, 2019

Surprise in the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 8:5-13

“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.”

—  Matthew 8:11

We have a tendency to divide the world we live in. We divide it by race, by beliefs, by gender, by sexual orientation, by political party—and the list goes on. Sometimes Christians can be tempted to divide people by who they think is “in” the kingdom of heaven and who is not. But this story shows that God’s ideas about who is included may not be what we expect.

Notice how Jesus responds to the faith of the centurion. He is amazed that this person shows more faith in him than any of his own people. “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,” says Jesus.

Jesus’ encounters with the people of Israel in matters of faith often included individuals like the Pharisees, who tended to be self-righteous (Mark 7:5) and tried to test him (Luke 10:25). Then there were the people of his hometown, who doubted he could be a prophet (Mark 6:1-6). There were also other skeptics who demanded a miracle to prove who he was (John 6:29-31). Even Jesus’ disciples had weak faith at times in the midst of storms or other difficult circumstances (see Mark 4:40-41; Luke 9:40-41).

Jesus encourages us to have faith in him regardless of the circumstances we are in. He also reminds us that anyone who has faith in him, even those we might not expect, belongs to his kingdom.

Jesus, give us faith like that of the centurion, who saw that you have great ­authority. Indeed, you rule over all things in heaven and on earth. In your name we pray. Amen.

About the author — Dale Melenberg

Dale Melenberg is a second-career pastor. He received a theology degree through Calvin Theological Seminary and a doctorate of ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is married to Gloria, and together they have raised three sons and are enjoying their four grandchildren. Growing up in an immigrant community shaped Dale’s view of family, church, and community in a profound way that continues to inform his life-view toward kingdom living with God, neighbors, and the creation.

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