"When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to hm, appealing to him, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly." And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the words, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline 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. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matthew 8:5-13)
The Jews were the sons and the people from east and west were gentiles, goyim, non-Jews. The non-Jews weren't meant to have the blessings of the covenant. But Jesus was showing that being circumcised according to the law of Moses wasn't where the good stuff was. That was in faith, and specifically faith in Jesus. The centurion (a Roman soldier) had what many of the Jews of Jesus' day lacked: faith.
And it's remarkable that this episode is in the gospel of Matthew because it would have been a scandal to Jesus' own people. Easier to leave it out. But Matthew didn't because he knew that Jesus was doing something new. The kingdom was spreading beyond the bounds of Israel. The tent was getting wider. The doors were open wide. Faith was the new ticket for admission.
The bad news is that this means that many who presumed to be insiders would find themselves on the outside. That is sad. But we ourselves can learn from it, too. To those of you who were baptized into the church, raised in the church, who presume upon the grace of God—this is your chance to repent of your presumption and to know that you are just as underserving of the mercy of God as anyone else; and that God's mercy is just as free to you as it is to anyone else.
And it's a reminder that God's grace is meant to be spread among the nations, his message of salvation proclaimed to the outsiders far and near. And so we are called to pray for them and to share the good news that salvation comes by faith alone in the Son of God.
Who are you praying for today?