The Man Who Amazed Jesus


A true story with a happy ending

What was there about the Roman army officer that impressed Jesus so much? Here’s what happened:

“. . . a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it.’

“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel’ . . . . And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:5-10, 13).

Amazing faith!

From his own military experience this centurion recognized that he and Jesus had something in common: both were under higher authority. The centurion could issue orders to his men because the authority of Rome itself was behind him.

Jesus could issue commands because of the authority of heaven behind Him.

Because Jesus was linked to God, who gave Him the power to heal, Jesus could help the centurion’s servant, and the centurion knew it.

Jesus marveled at this centurion’s ability to see the parallel chains of authority: from Caesar down to the centurion down to the men under him—parallel with God’s authorizing Jesus to heal diseases of all kinds.

In reality, Jesus represented a far greater Power than Rome.

And the centurion knew that too.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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When It Doesn’t Make Sense

Should we obey God? Before we answer too quickly: What if we bump up against a command in the Bible that makes no apparent sense to us, or perhaps rubs us the wrong way?

Let’s consider the following interchange between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Peter’s challenge

“And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.”

What Jesus asked Peter to do here was easy. It didn’t require much effort, and it made perfect sense.

But notice what happens next: “When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”

Initially he states the facts: worked hard, all night, caught nothing.

“. . . but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

After a night of hard work with only empty nets to show for it, fishing was probably the last thing Peter wanted to do at the moment. Who could blame him?

But good ole Peter! Overcoming his natural reluctance, he obeys—and is amply rewarded.

“. . . they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.” Peter and his partners “filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:1-11).

The nets that came up empty the night before are now torn by the weight of the catch!

In response to the facts Peter cited—worked hard, all night, caught nothing—Jesus provided a new set of facts—great quantity of fish, nets breaking, boats sinking.

Jesus positive facts far outweighed Peter’s negative facts.

Peter’s growth

This wouldn’t be the last time Peter would find what Jesus said extremely difficult to accept. As time went on, Peter realized increasingly that Jesus is never wrong.

To his credit, Peter moved past his initial objections: “. . . but I will do as You say . . . .”

If Peter had known all along what was about to happen, would he have objected? But since he didn’t know, he had to trust.

He was learning to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What was Peter’s reward that day? A big catch? Something far better: a strengthened faith and a clearer understanding of just how powerful Jesus is.

What if Peter had refused to obey?

And what if we?

Christ’s power + our obedience → great results.

Makes sense.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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In Exchange


One day I accidentally dropped a large paper clip into the crack between the seat cushion and the back of the couch in our den. In trying to retrieve it I pulled out a ballpoint pen, then another, and then another. I never did find my paper clip.

Not a bad trade-off—three pens for one paper clip! Maybe I should drop another paper clip down the crack.

Loss is bearable if we get something better in return. In everyday life we are perfectly willing to exchange our hard-earned dollars for something we really need or want, especially if it’s a real bargain.

Jesus’ offer

Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He had just said that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (verse 24; see Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).

We must give up ourselves (our own desires and comfortable, familiar ways of thinking and living) and instead let Christ determine our values and goals.

We let Him own us completely instead of our trying to direct our own little world.

In exchange, He promises us life that is life indeed (John 10:10). But if we’re not willing to let go of ourselves, then we’re the ultimate losers.

Our response?

If we should trust Jesus enough to do as He directs, will we be disappointed in the long run? Does Jesus offer what He can’t deliver? Can He be trusted?

The Rich Young Ruler was unwilling to make the trade—and he was sad (Matthew 19:16-22). Paul was willing—and he was glad (Philippians 3:4-14).

Are we willing to stake everything we’ve got on the conviction that His way is best for us—and that someday we will be glad we took Him up on it?

Ever so glad!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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“Are We There Yet?”

 boys in car-tagged

Almost there!

“How much farther?” the child asked. “Not far,” his dad answered as he drove.

The disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, “not far from the land” (John 21:8). But “not far” is used in a spiritual as well as in a spatial sense.

Once a scribe asked Jesus, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered that loving God with all your heart comes first, followed by loving others as yourself. The scribe heartily agreed, adding that love of God and others “is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

“When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34; see Matthew 22:34-40).

Unlike many of his fellow Pharisees, he had a clearer grasp of what mattered most (Luke 11:42). To stand with Jesus could cost him the favor of his peers (John 12:42-43; Matthew 23:13). Would this unusually perceptive Pharisee be willing to buck the establishment and enter the kingdom?

But still not there

James Burton Coffman has written, “‘Not far from the kingdom . . . .’ Alas, this is the epitaph for many. Men behold, in some glorious burst of apprehension, the majesty and truth of the Son of God; but the road of acceptance is rugged, being blocked at every milestone with difficulties and opposition” (Commentary on Mark, ACU Press, pp. 235-236).

If you are “not far,” then you are close. But “not far” is not in. One can be close, yet remain outside. One can believe but still lack the blessings that come with obedient faith (James 2:14-26; Romans 1:5; 16:25; John 3:3, 5; Mark 16:16).

Don’t let his happen to you! If your convictions really line up with the Scriptures, act on them—now!

Then instead of being “not far from the kingdom of God,” you’ll be all the way in!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Oh, to Believe It!

One of the hardest lessons each of us must learn is that it really is to our advantage to do God’s will instead of our own. Many never learn this lesson.

Using the free will God gave us, we can choose our own way in life. How easy it is to do what we want instead of what God wants!

To believe that it is truly to our advantage to do God’s will, we must believe that:

  1. God knows best. We do not. He is far wiser than we. Like a small child intent on disobedience, we fail to understand our Father’s purposes for both our immediate and ultimate welfare.
  2. God not only knows best, He asks of us only what is best for us. Doing His will may hurt (cause us pain), but doing His will can never hurt (harm) us.
  3. His way brings far greater benefits than any supposed gain we might receive from doing our own thing. “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  4. Sin means doing my will when it runs counter to His will. Obedience means voluntarily yielding my will to His.
  5. It is so easy to focus on the cost of obedience and overlook the rewards of obedience. And yet the rewards far outweigh anything we may give up in order to obey (Mark 10:28-30; Romans 8:18). God is the Great Compensator.
  6. Satan will make sin look so attractive, so glamorous, and so alluring, that I must keep reminding myself that it is all a sham, a pretense, a lie. Satan does not deliver the goods.
  7. Sin (doing my will instead of God’s) may bring me momentary pleasure (Hebrews 11:25), but sin will destroy me if I don’t repent (Romans 6:23).
  8. To repent may sound tremendously hard and unappealing, but in view of the blessings God pours out on the truly penitent, repentance must be one of the most sensible, positive things I can do for myself (Acts 3:19).

His way may not be easy, but His way is truly best.

Now if I can just keep believing that—and act accordingly.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Facing the Future: How?

As I approached the tracks on Park Street I heard a train. My first thought was, if only I had left the post office a little sooner I would have made it across before the train arrived. Shutting off the engine to save gas, I prepared for the wait.

I watched as the locomotive rolled by, followed by a tank car, followed by another tank car, followed by . . . . But that was it! The entire train consisted of only one engine and two cars. I was delayed less than a minute.

Outcome unknown

Sometimes things do turn out better than we had expected, don’t they? Murphy’s Law doesn’t always operate. Hooray!

Life is an adventure. We never know what’s around the next bend. Since we don’t know, can we afford to make big plans without taking the Lord into account? James tells us that people who plan big while assuming they can definitely do what they intended are actually arrogant (James 4:13-17).

On the other extreme, do we tend to worry about how we’re going to have enough to meet tomorrow’s needs? This indicates a lack of faith (Matthew 6:25-34).

If we belong to Christ and if we keep our priorities straight, He promises we will have our basic needs met (Matthew 6:33). What an anxiety reducer!

Avoidable pitfalls

Looking to God as we face the future saves us from two errors. On one hand we’ll avoid pride in our planning—failing to remember that we can accomplish what we’ve planned only if it is the Lord’s will.

On the other hand, we’ll not forget we have a loving Father who takes good care of His children—as we seek His kingdom first.

These two errors have one thing in common: they both fail to take God into account. When we remember Him we’ll be neither arrogant nor anxious.

With Him beside us we can face the future with both humility and confidence—whatever may come down the track.

RR crossing-tagged













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Our Common Ancestor


From time to time we hear that Noah’s ark has been sighted. While I seriously doubt it, I have no doubts about the historicity of the biblical account.

The biblical account of the Flood is accepted as historical by none other than Jesus Himself (Matthew 24:37-39). Three times Peter referred to the Flood as historical (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:3-7). Are we prepared to take the position that Jesus and Peter were mistaken?

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews cites Noah, along with other examples of faith such as Abraham, Moses, and David. The point is, you don’t mix legendary characters with historical and treat them all the same.

Noah is treated as historical in Isaiah 54:9 and Ezekiel 14:14, 20. Noah is included in the genealogies recorded in 1 Chronicles 1:4 and Luke 3:36.

Father of us all

When we research our family tree we’ll find some scoundrels among them. But God told Noah, “. . . you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Genesis 7:1).

We think things are bad now, and indeed they are, but the evil of Noah’s day surpasses ours (Genesis 6:5, 11-12). It was so bad that God saved only eight people from the Flood that destroyed all the rest.

Because of the exceeding wickedness of that age, Noah’s righteous character stands out as all the more exemplary.

What a task God gave Noah! He was to build a ship 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. Even without power tools he did it. Surely he must have grown weary at times. Although it doesn’t say so, likely his neighbors mocked his efforts.

What kept him going, year in and year out, until the ark was seaworthy? At least two factors: 1) his faith in God and 2) his love for his family. “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household . . .” (Hebrews 11:7).

History repeated

According to Peter, there is a dramatic parallel to Noah’s Flood, and that is the future destruction of all things by fire (2 Peter 3:3-14). In view of this eventuality do we have the spirit of our ancestor Noah?

Like Noah, we have been “warned by God about things not yet seen.” Will we respond in obedient faith, as Noah did (1 Peter 3:20-21), or will we be like his unworthy contemporaries?

The choice is ours.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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