Sometimes it is really hard to come up with inspiration for writing an article. Two weeks ago, I was forewarned that Friday, March 3, would be the due date, and even then I couldn’t think of a juicy topic. This should never be! I am always in God’s Word, so surely something from there should strike me!
Well, there was something. This passage from Matthew chapter 8 was one I read together with some seven- and eight-year-olds in a Bible study. Some of the children’s simple turns of phrase helped drive home some of the main points of the passage.
I do appreciate my geography, despite failing at it. Capernaum is close to the Sea of Galilee. There we get an outsider, a centurion, coming to Jesus.
My immediate thought is how amazing it is that this man, presumably Gentile, has such faith, but the religious leaders don’t. It’s such an irony that those on the look out for the Messiah miss him, while those who are trained killers see him instead.
The children I read this with picked up that Jesus didn’t go to heal the centurion’s servant. Instead the centurion says he is not worthy. What a humble attitude! If only we all had this stance of recognizing ourselves as being under God’s authority.
The children were also able to paraphrase the phrase ‘In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Simply put, that place is hell. Some people will be cast into hell. This is a reality we live with.
Lastly, the centurion’s servant was healed at that very moment. What power! Jesus speaks and someone he hasn’t seen or touched is made well. I don’t take this to mean if we ask God for healing then Jesus will heal us instantly. He does, however, save us instantly from the threat of hell the moment we trust in him.
Reading out loud
Here is a handy tip for teaching reading to children. It’s a method called ‘repeated reading.’ The idea is you read a chunk of text (the Bible, a magazine or book etc.) out loud and then they read it back to you. You repeat this twice or three times. The child should get more fluent at reading the text and be able to pick out different things each time, so that by the end of reading the text they are able to answer questions on it better.
I do this with my children in the after school study, as some of them are not very confident at reading. Unfortunately, due to limited time (and attention span!), I only read it through once with them. In theory they should be able to read out loud words they’re unfamiliar with and also answer the study questions better afterwards.
Even if this is not the case, reading the Bible repeatedly can only be a good thing!
The thought of praying through this passage is an odd one. Surely this is a story? Well, in every good story there are principles to be drawn out of it. One of these principles is the faith of the centurion. Someone who shouldn’t have recognized Jesus came to him and asked for healing on behalf of his servant.
May we pray for such faith! May we trust Jesus when things are not the way we would like them to be.
This centurion commanded people under him saying ‘Do this,’ and ‘Go,’ and ‘Come.’ We need to be like the centurion’s officers, who listen to their commander. Our commander is Jesus, so when he tells us to, say, not commit adultery or to store up treasure in heaven, we need to listen to him. What else does having faith mean?
I watched the Bible Project’s summary of Matthew in preparation for writing this article. While it was helpful to get an overview, I wasn’t completely sold on all of the ideas, like the paralleling of the five books of the Torah with the five sections in Matthew. (I’m not saying it’s not true. What I am saying is I would need to do more research on that before I could confidently claim that.)
Something I did appreciate was learning that Matthew has structure. There are five teaching segments in each of the five sections of the book. I endeavor at some point soon to read through each of them, in order to remind myself of how Jesus wants me to live. Perhaps that is something you could think of doing as well?
Another thing that I love is seeing how overviews like this one remind us of our Lord who was crucified for our sake. He rose from the dead. He is alive now! Don’t you think we need constant reminding of these events too?
I hope this encourages you to read the Bible for yourself and with others. It doesn’t matter how old the others are, be they six or 60, you can still learn from them! God has given us other people for our good.
First published March 24, 2017
Rachel Bartlett lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband James and her puppy Pip. She helps out with Bible after school studies on Wednesday afternoons.
Rachel Bartlett's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Rachel-Bartlett.html