Gospel Reading: Matthew 8:5-11
5 As he entered Caper'naum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him 6 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress." 7 And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 But the centurion answered him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I am a man 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 slave, `Do this,' and he does it." 10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 4:2-6
2 In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy and a pavilion. 6 It will be for a shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Meditation: Are you ready to feast at the Lord's banquet table? God’s gracious invitation extends to all – Jew and Gentile alike – who will turn to him with faith and obedience. Jesus used many images or pictures to convey what the kingdom of God is like. One such image is a great banquest feast given at the King's table. Jesus promised that everyone who believed in him would come and feast at the heavenly banquet table of his Father. Jesus told this parable in response to the dramatic request made by a Roman centurion, a person despised by many because he was an outsider, not one of the "chosen ones" of Israel. In Jesus' time the Jews hated the Romans because they represented everything they stood against – including foreign domination and pagan beliefs and practices.
Why did Jesus not only warmly receive a Roman centurion but praise him as a model of faith and confidence in God? In the Roman world the position of centurion was very important. He was an officer in charge of a hundred soldiers. In a certain sense, he was the backbone of the Roman army, the cement which held the army together. Polybius, an ancient write, describes what a centurion should be: "They must not be so much venturesome seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable; they ought not to be over-anxious to rush into the fight, but when hard pressed, they must be ready to hold their ground, and die at their posts." The centurion who approached Jesus was not only courageous, but faith-filled as well. He risked the ridicule of his cronies as well as mockery from the Jews by seeking help from an itinerant preacher from Galilee. Nonetheless, the centurion approached Jesus with great confidence and humility. He was an extraordinary man because he loved his slave. In the Roman world slaves were treated like animals – something to be used for work and pleasure and for bartering and trade. This centurion was a man of great compassion and extraordinary faith. He wanted Jesus to heal his beloved slave. Jesus commends him for his faith and immediately grants him his request. Are you willing to suffer ridicule in the practice of your faith? And when you need help, do you approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith?
The prophet Isaiah foretold a time of restoration for the holy city Jerusalem and for its remnants (see Isaiah 4:2-6) and also a time of universal peace when all nations would come to Jerusalem to "the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob" and "beat their swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:2-4). Jesus fulfills this prophecy first by restoring both Jew and Gentile to fellowship with God through the victory he won for us on the cross. When he comes again he will fully establish his universal rule of peace and righteousness and unite all things in himself (Ephesians 1:10). His promise extends to all generations who believe in him that we, too, might feast at the heavenly banquet table with the patriarchs of the Old Covenant who believed but did not see the promised Messiah. Do you believe in God's promises and do you seek his kingdom first in your life? The season of Advent reminds us that the Lord wants us to actively seek him and the coming of his kingdom in our lives. The Lord will surely reward those who seek his will for their lives. We can approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith, like the centurion in today's gospel reading, knowing that he will show us his mercy and give us his help.
"Lord Jesus, you feed us daily with your life-giving word and you sustain us on our journey to our true homeland with you and the Father in heaven. May I never lose hope in your promises nor lag in zeal for your kingdom of righteousness and peace."
1 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together,
4 to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
5 There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they prosper who love you!
7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!"
8 For my brethren and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!"
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.