Matthew 8:1-17 Part 4

Astonishment, or wonder, is a reaction to something noteworthy.  An acknowledgement that something noteworthy has happened.  It does not have to have an element of surprise.  In other words, the party who is expressing wonder is acknowledging that something important, or noteworthy has occurred; and the Greek word doesn’t necessitate that the one in wonder, or the one who is astonished, be unsuspecting of what is going to happen!  

The Lord Jesus Christ was the God-man on earth, and He had a body like you and me. And He was in every way like you and me.   And it shouldn’t be an unbelievable thing for us to see feelings and reactions from the Son of God!

But, as I said, it isn’t necessary from the text to infer that, just because Jesus was said to have wonder and astonishment, he was surprised or taken aback by what he heard coming out of the mouth of this centurion. Wonder, as I defined it, is acknowledgement that a noteworthy event has happened!

Perhaps the best we can do with it, and say about it, is that this apostle Matthew, witnessing things far beyond what the human mind can conceive, in and of itself, uses the language available to him to describe inexpressible and wondrous things.  And, at this very spot in the inspiration of the Words of God, he happens to be describing the reaction of the God-man to a particular event in history!

And I’ll come back to that in just a minute – it’s so important.  But let me just say one thing about the language of the Gospel here.  As you can tell, just by reading through a short passage of this – or any portion of the Gospel, in any of the four Gospels, the language is not embellished.  There seems to be no attempt at all to enrich, or beautify, or decorate the Gospel by literary techniques.  The events seem to be reported; and, in every case, the very best language is used for that reporting!

None of the Gospel writers – none of the four – tries to paint verbal pictures.  They each have a purpose for writing the Gospel, and that purpose and personal style come out, but there’s never a purposeful, flowery embellishment of anything.  And I think that that simplicity lends a sense of beauty – as well as a strong note of veracity – to the text of the Gospel!

But, back to what I was saying – Matthew, the man, is observing a foreign, Gentile, mercenary address the Lord of history with some very unusual verbiage – but some that was highly enlightened!  And Matthew is also observing “God-with-us” react to that man, and react to what he said!

And he uses the very best word he can find to relay to the rest of us what he observed.  And he observed the Lord of hosts being in wonder – not bewilderment, not surprise – he wasn’t startled – He wasn’t caught off guard!  But there was a reaction - a reaction which included emotion, yes, but mostly a reaction of recognition.  And Jesus acknowledges, by that reaction, that an event of great significance is taking place!  The grand, providential design of history has reached a momentous point in time with this event, and, when it arrives, there is wonderment about it all!

And this word “wonder”, or astonishment, is used only two times in the Gospel with reference to Jesus.  In other words there is only one additional occasion when a Gospel writer describes Jesus as being astonished in wonderment.

Was that another historical event of great significance?  You bet it was!  Gospel writer Mark records what happened when Jesus went to the synagogues in Nazareth to preach and teach.  And the Jews completely rejected Him in His Own home town.  Mark records, in the sixth chapter, the wonder of it all as Jesus acknowledges that occasion at the beginning of His ministry.  Mark says that He was astonished, in wonder, by the rejection.

So what we have, then, before us is a word which has been filled up by the Holy Spirit with eschatological significance.  It is used only twice in reference to Jesus, so both times are important; and one time it is used in the context of the rejection of Jesus – or disbelief in Him by the Jews.  And the second time it is used in the context of faith, or belief by the Gentiles!

The first time the Jews, His Own people – the people of His Own nation – rejected Him; and the second time it’s used was in the context of an unclean, Gentile, mercenary conqueror!

In the first case it was the separating out of the people who had been covenantally included for over two thousand years!  And in the second, it was the inclusion of peoples who had never known anything about a covenant!

Astonishment and wonder by Jesus at the total rejection of Him by the Jews at Nazareth was recognition and acknowledgment of a monumental event in history!  It was significant of national rejection!  It signified a clean separation between God and His covenant people of old.  For they not only had disregarded His Law-Word, but they had not known His Son when He came!  And His Words, written down all through history, had spoken of Him!  They had clearly prophesied Him!  And when He came, they knew Him not!

But the ones who had never heard of Him – received Him!  All of those barbarian tribes of people out there – the unclean, unlawful nations of the world – would receive Him.  And, as the apostle Paul said, Abraham would be the father of many nations!

The filthy Gentiles actually became the offspring of Abraham in Christ; and the Jews, except for a small remnant, lose their sonship!  They actually are stripped of their heritage and become as the Gentile barbarians were before!  Even worse!  They are cut off the vine and disinherited.

Paul spends three chapters of his letter to the Church at Rome to explain these things.  And in chapter nine of that letter he quotes from Hosea – which says this:

“I will call them my people which were not my people; and her beloved which was not beloved.  And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said unto them ‘you are not my people,’ there shall they be called the children of the Living God.”

There’s the prophecy of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Covenant, and that’s the issue which is at the core of the meeting between Jesus and the centurion!  The Word which Jesus spoke through Hosea the prophet seven hundred years before was now being actualized, in person, with a Gentile soldier, who became a representative of all Gentile nations all over the earth!  And since you and I are children of Abraham and sons of the living God – and we are Gentiles – then this Roman soldier was our representative in submission and obedience before Christ!

We might say another thing or two about that when we get to the text, but let me say something else about the big picture first.  In that chapter nine of Romans, which I quoted from as Paul was explaining the prophecy of Hosea, Isaiah the prophet was also quoted.  And Paul uses his prophecy to allay the fears of the Jews that the entire Jewish nation might be cut off forever!

Paul wants to be sure that everybody knows that that’s not the case.  Isaiah says, in chapter twenty-eight, that Israel would not be left as Sodom and Gomorrah, because God had left a remnant of belief among them.  Not only would he not completely destroy them physically (almost, but not completely), but He would not completely cut them off spiritually.  A few would be left.  A few would hold to the God of history and recognize His Son when He came.  (by grace, of course)

And, of course, Paul later on in chapter eleven of that same letter to Rome prophesies the re-introduction of the Jews back onto their same stalk – the stalk of the covenant – as prophetic eschatology reaches its zenith before the Son of Man returns!  World-wide submission to the King of Glory is prophesied by all of Scripture, and that includes Jews and Gentiles, and the covenant family of God will encompass large proportions of the earth’s population – from every nation and every tribe and every family.

So, as we come to this text, these are the monumental, earth-shaking events that are taking place.  We aren’t just looking at two guys who happen to meet in a little town – one a prophet who has sympathy and a gift of healing, and the other a simple Roman soldier with a sick child!

Although those facts are true, and the situation is a real one – (we don’t want to lessen the reality of the historical event) – the point is that it’s as if all of history is compressed.  And we’re microscopically – or maybe telescopically – looking at all of history at once as we examine this!

And even though the Truth has come, and He has set us free, and we can, as adopted sons of God, look forward into eternity, there is a very real sense in which time past and time future focuses in on this event – and other events of great significance – and captures the meaning of life!  It takes a snapshot of God’s Providential design for history!  And it says – “Wonder at it all; be astonished at what you see.”  It is the mysterion – the mystery of God revealed to men in Christ Jesus the Lord, God’s Anointed One; the Prophet, Priest and King.  Recognize it – acknowledge it.  Jesus did.  He recognized it and was astonished.  The Word of Javeh fulfilled in the Person of Christ as He includes the nations of the world in His Kingdom; signified by this one Gentile man!


“…Now, when He heard this, Jesus was astonished and said to those following, ‘Amen I say to you, from not even one have I found so much faith in Israel.  For I say to you that many from the East and West shall come and shall be caused to recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the Heavens; but the sons of the Kingdom shall be expelled into external darkness.  There shall be the weeping and the grating of the teeth….”


Last week we saw that this centurion, a commander of a hundred, an unclean Gentile, had approached Jesus and simply told Him that he had a paralytic child who was suffering terribly.  That’s all he said.  And Jesus responded by saying that He was coming to the house to heal him!

But the Centurion, knowing that he was a Gentile, and that Jesus was a Jew; and knowing from the Old Testament Scriptures that this was the Messiah sent from God, objected to Jesus coming to the house of a depraved and unclean person!  And, acknowledging Jesus’ total control over every aspect of His Creation, asks Him to simply heal his child long distance!  “Just say a word,” he says, “and my child shall be healed!”

And then he makes an analogy between his control over his servants and soldiers to Jesus’ control over everything under His command – which is all of the material and spiritual world!  And, as we said last time, the implications are that this man knew that Jesus was the One to Whom God the Father had given His creation in order for it to be ruled until all its fees had been vanquished, and until it had been cleansed of sin and its consequences!  This was the “Warrior King” promised of old Who had been given all authority in heaven and earth!

And every covenantal implication is in Jesus’ reply:  “Truly I say to you, from not even one in Israel have I found so much faith!”  Implications!  The Faith of Abraham had been stripped away from the Jews and it had been given to the Gentiles!

Except for a few who hadn’t prostituted themselves with idols, the Jews had apostasized through disobedience, and the prophetic word of every prophet sent from God was fulfilled when the Gentile mercenary faithed in the Person of Christ and in every word which proceeded from His mouth!  The Gentiles had been included in the covenantal promise of God!

But then Jesus goes even a step further to strip every vestige of hope from the Jews.  First, in verse eleven, he tells His followers that many people from all over the world would come.  And the implication from that, which no Jew would miss, is that that they would be coming up Mt. Zion! Gentiles!  The city?  The Temple mount?  The sacrifices?   Unclean people?   NO!                                                           .

Yes.  The NEW Mt Zion – the church.  The One Sacrifice.  But they would be coming – from everywhere!  Streaming in like rivers!  And, secondly, what would they be doing?  It’s in the passive voice here – they would be made to recline with…whom?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! – the fathers of the covenant people, promised by God to be the seed through whom Israel would flow!  Israel was established by God through the seed of Abraham first; then his son Isaac; and then his son Jacob!  Abraham was the father of God’s people!

 And, here, Jesus was telling his followers that all these streams of Gentile people would be made to recline with Abraham!  Not the Jews – Gentiles!  Taking the place of Jews!  That’s the third point – the sons of the kingdom people – the children of the Old Testament Covenant people were going to be cast out into external darkness, cut off the covenant vine, while these Gentile people reclined with Abraham!

 And fourthly, since the Jews are direct descendants of Abraham, these new strangers, these Gentiles, being put into the Jews place, would now be considered the descendants of Abraham!  And they were right!  Because that’s exactly what reclining with Abraham means!  Sitting at his table as his descendants and eating his sacramental meal!

 Abraham was the father of the Jews!  And if the Jews were cut off and cast into external darkness – that is, with no covenantal heritage at all – and the millions of Gentiles put into their place, then the Gentiles will become the direct descendants of Abraham – the sons of Abraham!  Right?  Right!!  In Christ Jesus, we Gentiles, receiving the grace of God, actually become the direct descendants of Abraham – in place of those who were once there!  We’re adopted, unnatural grafts into the vine, but, nevertheless, there!

And the fate of the Jews is darkness, according to Jesus here in verse twelve.  This is the exclusion of the whole people from the covenant – and from the light therein through Christ.  They are the external or outer darkness.

The phrase that Jesus uses here – weeping and grating of the teeth – is also used in every similar prophecy concerning the fate of the Jewish people:  here in Matthew eight; in Matthew thirteen, forty-two; in Matthew twenty-two, thirteen; in chapter twenty-four, verse fifty-one; and in chapter twenty-five, thirty.  It’s also recorded once by Luke in chapter thirteen.

And it is for us to see that there is nothing more in this phrase for us to know other than the terrible loss of the favor of God.  Both the weeping and the grating of the teeth indicate the remorse and forgotten-ness and exclusion and casting away being perpetrated by God upon this people – they were being forsaken and thrown into darkness.  And I don’t have to describe to you what the effect has been upon this people since the day of their forsaking.  It is a nightmare in the center of darkness (equal to the outer Gentile nations).

And all of this is in this meeting with the centurion.

Heed His Words, people.  Children – listen to the Warrior King.  He has the power to cast into external darkness, which is a created thing for those who will not believe and obey.  And if you will but hear His voice, and faith in Him, He will glorify His Father in the Heavens by giving you eternal life.  But if you will not hear Him, your end is outer darkness with weeping and grating of the teeth.  The Centurion knew Him and was adopted into the family.  Will you be?