The Lord Jesus has some tough words at the end of this gospel passage. He says “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
Who are the “sons of the kingdom” and why did the Lord have such harsh words for them? The “sons of the kingdom” refers to the Jewish people. Those who are literally related to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the patriarchs of the Hebrew people. The Lord is showing a glimpse of His disappointment with them here because He has just had an amazing encounter with a Roman centurion….a non-Jew. This man who may not know the first thing about the Jewish religion and was not raised “in the faith” seems to nevertheless show a greater understanding of the faith. How is that possible? Despite the fact that he had probably not read the Jewish Scriptures or gone to the synagogue or heard the teachings of the prophets he nevertheless understood something quite amazing. He understood the power of Jesus of Nazareth.
His servant was sick and so he went to Jesus and asked him for help (this is already a sign of great faith). Next Our Lord tells the man that He will come and heal him and listen to the way the centurion responds. He says “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” This was a stunning attitude coming from one who was not even a Jew! He showed humility, he understood his unworthiness to receive Christ into his home and he even showed that he truly believed that Jesus could heal the servant even without ever seeing or laying a hand on him. This man was faithful and pleased the Lord greatly.
We believe that this teaching of the Lord’s regarding the “sons of the kingdom” applies doubly to us as Orthodox Christians. We know or claim to know the true identity of Jesus. We sing to Him, pray to Him and worship Him. We hear the Scriptures and New Testament. We receive the sacraments as a means of grace. But do we have faith of the Roman? This is not a rhetorical question. We really have to know whether we have that faith. Do we really believe that we are unworthy of the grace of God? Do we really believe that the Lord has the power to cure and to heal just by saying a word?
It’s not that Jesus wants to punish us because of our lack of faith. Listen to His words to the centurion “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” That is a simple explanation of the life in Christ. There were places where Jesus could not heal because the people lacked faith. Did He punish them? Not at all! He allowed them to receive whatever they were faithful enough to receive.
He does the same with each and every one of us. That is why when someone says “prayer is hard….confessing is difficult…fasting is tough…” I always want to remind people that none of these things are actually that tough. When you say that prayer is hard, you are really saying that you do not believe that prayer is worth the effort. You are saying that God is nowhere to be found in prayer and so it is really just a waste of time. In other words: the Lord Jesus might very well say to you “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” But what have you actually believed? Not much. So what can you expect to happen? Perhaps not much. You may know God as a theory but there is nothing to back that theory up until we begin conducting our own experiments; tasting and seeing that God is really and truly, good.
This is a double edged sword though. The good news is that God will support and aid us according to our faith. There are no bounds to the amount of grace, healing and help that God offers us according to His will. He is not stingy with His grace. He will allow this grace to shower us. We are not limited by the love God has for us, but either by the shallowness or the depths of our love for Him.
“Go; Be it done for you as you have believed.” May we each hear these words as a positive sign of our growing love for God and His only begotten Son. Amen.