THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our series on the Life of Christ, we finished examining the powerful Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5 – 7. Of course many of the same teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount are also found in the Sermon on the plain in Luke’s account. As I do my best to keep things in chronologically order, we will begin to look at some more miracles that Jesus did.
The next event we are going to examine can be found in Matthew 8:5-13 and in Luke 7:1-10, which gives us a more detailed account of what actually happened. Those who are constantly looking for contradictions would probably use these two accounts to make their argument because at first glance it may seem like there is a contradiction between these two accounts. To show you what I am talking about, I want you to pay close attention as I read Matthew’s account and then Luke’s account.
Matthew 8:5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." 7 And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour.
Luke 7:1 Now when He
concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered
Both accounts teach us that Jesus went Capernaum, which is where He lived during most of His ministry. When He would go out on preaching tours, He would return to Capernaum, which is located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. If you were paying attention, Matthew’s account says this: a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, and Luke’s account says this:
So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.
So, which is it? Did the centurion go or did he send someone? As I said, those who look for ways to discredit the Bible would try and ride this alleged contradiction as far as they can, but it is not a contradiction at all. It is simply an event told from two different perspectives. Luke’s account gives us the detailed explanation. While Matthew’s account sounds like the centurion spoke directly to Jesus, he did not. He spoke to Jesus through representatives.
Let me give you a couple of examples. If the president of
the United States sends an ambassador to speak for him, it is just as if the
president himself was there speaking the words. When a king of a country fights
a war against another and they are victorious, it is often said that the king
has won the battle or that the king has killed thousands. Though he did not win
the battle himself or may not have killed anyone with own hands it is still
said that he did these things because it was done by those whom he is over.
We can use Jesus as an example. Notice what we read about Him in:
John 3:22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified -- behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!"
If we only had these verses, we would conclude that Jesus was baptizing people, but notice what:
John 4:1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
Jesus did not actually baptize anyone Himself. His disciples were the ones whot were doing the baptizing, yet it could be said that Jesus was baptizing more people than John because His disciples belonged to Him.
This same idea is being used by Matthew when he simply says the centurion did this or that, but Luke tells us that all this was done by others who were speaking for the centurion. So, there is no contradiction in these accounts.
A centurion was a Roman soldier who was put over 100 men. Though it was rare for a Roman leader to be a believer in God, this man was. He reminds me of the Cornelius who was also a centurion who feared God. Personally, I can see this man being a great leader because of his faith and his great compassion.
According to Matthew, he had a servant who had become paralyzed. Instead, of just casting the man out and replacing him with healthy servant, he sought to have this man healed because he was dear to him.
We learn that he had heard about Jesus and what He could do. Based on what the Bible says, this centurion had no doubts in what he heard, and he sent the Jews to go plead for him. The fact that these Jews were willing to go on behalf of this man shows just how big of an impression he had made on these local Jews. After all, he made it possible for them to be able to build a synagogue. Obviously, this man was well off and he wasn’t afraid to use his money for good.
Of course, Jesus was moved by their plea, and He went with them to go heal the servant as we can see in Matthew’s account:
Matthew 8:7 And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."
As Jesus was making his way to the centurion’s house, apparently someone ran ahead and told him that Jesus was on his way because he now sends his friends to Him as we read again in:
And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 "Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 "For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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."
This man could not be any more humble. Though he was an important man that commanded others, he did not feel worthy to come to Jesus himself or to have him come to his home. His faith was so strong in Jesus even though he never has seen the man or witnessed one of His miracles with his own eyes. He believed that just as he could command one of his men to go do something and it will be done that Jesus can command that this disease will leave his servant without Him even having to be in the same room as as servant to make it happen.
9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and
turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you, I
have not found such great faith, not even in
This was a big statement from Jesus because He is saying
that this Gentile had shown more faith in Him than anyone He had come across in
As Christians, we need to be humble like this centurion and have faith in Jesus even though we have not seen him, or seen His miracles with our own eyes. As Jesus told doubting Tomas:
John 20:29 … "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Since this centurion had this great faith, it prompted Jesus to reveal that the Gentiles were going to be part of God’s kingdom as well as we read in:
Matthew 8:11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
As you look the life of Christ, you find these little nuggets of truth that show that the Gentiles would part of the kingdom of God. Of course, this simple truth is also revealed in prophetic statement made throughout the Old Testament as well.
Both accounts end with this servant being healed by Jesus though He never stepped foot into the room where the servant was, and He did not meet this Centurion face to face. We could certainly learn a lot from this humble Centurion. We would all do well to have the kind of trust and faith that he had in Jesus. After all, he never saw Jesus with own eyes, and he only heard about what He did. The same thing is true for us though we have more information about Jesus than he did. Just because we have never seen a miracle done by Jesus or seen Him face to face, we can know what read about Him in our Bibles is trustworthy, so we have no reason to doubt.
The centurion was a powerful and apparently rich man, but he did not allow that to go to his head by thinking he was better than others. He had great compassion for those under him, and he had a humble spirit. We should certainly be the same way. No matter how much wealth or fame we might have in this life, we should never consider ourselves being better than those around us. As Paul said:
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
We must not allow ourselves to ever become haughty, because everything we have achieved in this life can be taken away in the blink of an eye. So, it is about having your priorities straight and realizing who you are and how big our God is. Again, Paul says:
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Without humility, we will not be able to taste the grace of God. As Peter said:
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
Our next miracle is only found in Luke’s account and it begins in:
Luke 7:11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd.
The city of Nain was some 20 miles from Capernaum. According Mr. Coffman:
There are many ancient remains of Nain, proving that the place was once of considerable size." It is located "on the northwestern edge of `Little Hermon,' where the ground falls into the plain of Esdraelon." Just east of the city are the remains of rock sepulchres; and the extensive ruins disprove the notion that the place was merely "a humble village of mud-built houses near Nazareth." Luke was altogether correct in calling the place a "city." Today the village is a rather insignificant place called Nein.
While 20 miles or so is not that big of a deal for us today, that would have been an all day journey for Jesus and His disciples. You might notice that the NKJV says the day after, but other versions say soon after. This is one of those areas that scholars differ on but it is of no real consequence if it were the next day or soon after, which by my estimation could include the day after. As I already pointed out, Jesus and His disciples had to travel some 20 miles to get there and, it is certainly possible that it may have been two days later, but the time passed is not that important, but what happens next is:
Luke 7:12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.
People have different ways of dealing with death and what they do with the body. One thing that is consistent is that once we die, life is over. There is no coming back from death except in a few rare instances, as recorded in the Bible. Those examples are the exception and not the rule.
I want you to notice an excerpt from the book Sketches of Jewish social life that will help us to understand how they dealt with the dead back then:
As the funeral procession passed, everyone was expected, if possible, to join the convoy. The Rabbis applied to the observance of this direction the following verses:
Proverbs 14:32 The wicked is banished in his wickedness, But the righteous has a refuge in his death.
Proverbs 19:17 He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.
And to its neglect:
Proverbs 17:5 He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
Burial followed generally as soon as possible after death (Matt. 9:23; Acts 5:6, 10; 8:2), no doubt partly on sanitary grounds. For special reasons, however (Acts 9:37,39), or in the case of parents, there might be a delay of even days (page 154.)
The book goes on to say:
From the account of the funeral procession at Nain … many interesting details can be learned. First, burying places were always outside of cities (Matt. 8:28; 27:7, 52, 53; Jon 11:30,31). Neither watercourses nor public roads were allowed to pass through them, nor sheep to graze there…It was the practice to visit the graves (John 11:31) partly to mourn and partly to pray. It was unlawful to eat or drink, to read, or even to walk irreverently among them.
Secondly, we know that, as at Nain, the body was generally carried open on a bier, or else in an open coffin, the bearers frequently changing to give an opportunity to many to take part in a work deemed so meritorious.
Lastly, the order in which the procession seems to have wound out of Nain exactly accords with what we know of the custom of the time and place. It was outside the city gate that the Lord with His disciples met the sad array (Sketches of Jewish Social life p. 155- 156).
We must also consider that they would also hire professional mourners to come along with the body to the burial place. All this background information gives a bigger picture of what is going on here as Jesus and the disciples see this procession. As we read, this was this woman’s only son. Next our text says:
Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.
Jesus did many miracles that were beyond anything man could do, but to bring someone back to life from the dead is one of those miracles that stands out from the rest. Just for a minute put yourself in the place of this widow. She has lost her only son. She has no hope of hearing his voice again or seeing him alive in his physical body. This procession to the grave is just the custom of the day and marks the official end of this man’s life because once he is buried, it signifies the end of it all.
As most mothers, this woman was torn up on the inside and she was weeping for her son. Not only did she lose a son, she will struggle to live after this, unless they were well off. Now imagine a man coming up to you telling you not to weep. If I was in her place I would think this was a strange thing for someone to say even if I had heard about some of the great things Jesus had done and realized this was Him because as far as the Bible is concerned, Jesus had not raised anyone from the dead up to this point.
Imagine being one of those caring this coffin or brier as Jesus went up and touched it. They all stood still as Jesus proceeded to to tell the young man to arise. Can you imagine would be thinking while you're standing there holding up this dead body? I cannot say for sure, but I bet some of them were thinking Jesus was crazy, but without any apparent delay, the young man sits up and begins to speak. I do not know if I could have kept holding the coffin or not, but I do know that I would be in complete shock at what I was seeing and hearing.
Now, think about the mother who was seeing this and then was able to put her arms around her son who was dead. There is no adequate way to express what this mother was feeling at the moment, but we know that she would have been full of joy and awe all at the same time. This was a wonderful show of compassion on Jesus part.
As a side note, I want to stress the point that no one had to believe that Jesus could do this. It was not based on the faith of anyone. The dead son had no faith he was dead. The mother nor anyone else there had any idea what Jesus was going to do, so this serves as a great example against those who claim to be miracle workers, yet when they cannot perform one they claim they cannot do it because the person’s lack of faith. Of course, this is just one example of Jesus’ miracles that required no faith on the part of the one receiving the miracle.
The Bible teaches us that the miracles had a specific purpose, which was to prove things. Jesus’ miracles proved He was the Son of God, and the miracles done by the apostles and the others was done to prove they were speaking the Word of God. According to 1 Cor. 13, once all the revelations had been proclaimed, which we have in our Bibles then the miracles would cease.
Next we read:
Luke 7:16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen up among us"; and, "God has visited His people." 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.
This word fear has several meanings from being scared, in awe, or showing reverence and I am sure some of all these were happening because such an awesome miracle just happened before their eyes. A dead man was now alive. They had no problem understanding that the only way this could have happened was by the power of God. As you would expect, news of this great miracle Jesus did that day spread throughout Judea and the surrounding region. Who wouldn’t talk about such an event?
Next we read:
Luke 7:18 Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. 19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" 20 When the men had come to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' " 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."
We need to remember that John is in prison at this time. Many have speculated about why John is asking if Jesus is the Christ, when he knew He was earlier. Some have suggested that maybe he started doubting or maybe his mind was starting to go because of being in prison. Others have suggested that John did not doubt, but had his disciples ask so that their doubts would be taken away. The fact of the matter is that we do not know for sure why John had his disciples ask this, but we do know that Jesus confirms that He is the Christ by working even miracles, which proved that He was the Messiah. Again, we see miracles being used to prove the Deity of Jesus and to show that what He was speaking was the truth.
In verse 23, Jesus gives a warning, but it says it in a positive way. Those who are not offended by Jesus and who He is will be blessed, but those who are offended, will not be blessed. This same message is true today. We cannot be secret Christians who simply believe in Jesus, but then are ashamed to be known as His followers. As Jesus said in:
Matthew 10:32 " Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
So, we should never be ashamed of Jesus or proclaiming that He is our Lord and Savior.
In this lesson, we have seen the power of Jesus along with His compassionate nature. I hope none of us ever become ashamed of being a servant of God because He is an awesome God and salvation only comes through Him.