daily biblical sermons

Jesus has come to open up the kingdom of God to people of all nations who put their trusting faith in him and repent of their sins
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, First Week of Advent, November 28, 2022
Isaiah 4:2-6, Psalm 121 (122), Matthew 8:5-11

Scripture quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“As he [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ 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. 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.’ 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. I tell you, many will come from East and West and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 8:5-11).



Today a Roman centurion comes to Jesus, telling him that his servant is gravely ill. Jesus says, “I will come and heal him” (Matthew 8:6). This is how Jesus still acts today. We simply need to come to him and tell him our troubles, and he will respond as he responded to this centurion.



Now it is true that many sick people pray to God for healing, but their sickness is not healed, for Jesus’ purpose for coming into the world was not primarily to heal physical sicknesses, but to save us from our sins. The reason that he healed many sick people was primarily to give visible verification of his claims to be the Son of God and Savior of the world, for reasonable people cannot be expected to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior of the world without some visible verifiable evidence.



It is not reasonable to believe everyone who makes fantastic claims about himself. So Jesus provided sufficient verifiable visible evidence of who he claimed to be so that any reasonable open-minded person of good will could conclude that he was indeed who he claimed to be, the Savior of the world. So we see that Jesus did not heal everyone in Palestine at that time, but only a sufficient number to make his point that he was the Savior of the world.



His real purpose for coming is to save us from our sins. Unlike physical healings, which only occasionally occur today, Jesus will always save us from our sins if we ask him with faith. He only healed a few people, because that was sufficient to make his point that he is who he claimed to be. But he heals every one of their spiritual ills caused by their sins if they ask him with faith and sincerely repent, intending to amend their life.



As Jesus did not have to be physically present to cure the centurion’s servant, so he does not have to be bodily present in the world today to save us from our sins.



We are now in the beautiful season of Advent, which speaks deeply to our heart, using moving images of Old Testament longing for the coming of the Messiah. We can reflect on these Old Testament prophecies and examples for a deeper appreciation and experience of God’s healing, saving love in our life today. What Israel longed for we now have – a living Savior. Our relationship with him is the same as the relationship of this Roman centurion to Jesus. As he begged Jesus to heal his servant, we come before him begging him to forgive our sins and make us a new creation, a new creature in his sight – new men, living a new life in Christ.



Worldly and unreflective people may think that this is a small matter and that what they really want is to strike it rich and live a wealthy, pleasurable, and honorable life in this world. But such people have a very limited understanding of themselves and of the deepest needs of their heart. Even if they should strike it rich tomorrow and inherit a vast estate, they will soon find a deep emptiness in their heart. They will discover that what they really need is someone who can cure their heart and make them new, taking away their guilt and shame, caused by their sins, and reconciling them with God in love.



This is mankind’s greatest need, and there is no human remedy for it. The only remedy is the one that God himself sent to the world, namely a Savior, whose name is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, whom Israel longed for throughout her history. He finally came in the fullness of time, was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and died on a cross in Jerusalem for our salvation. His name is known today throughout the world. He is the one – the only one – who can give us what we most deeply need, and he will always give it to us if we ask him with humble faith.



What this faith can do Jesus tells us today, when he praises the depth of faith of this centurion, saying, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). These many are Gentiles coming from all parts of the world, and they will sit with the founders of Judaism – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – in the kingdom of heaven.



This is why Jesus was sent into the world – not just to fulfill the hopes of the Jews, but the deepest hopes of all mankind so that anyone anywhere at any time who comes to him with humble, sincere faith and genuine repentance will be saved from his sins; and when the Lord returns in glory, he will recline at table with him in the kingdom of heaven with all the saints of the past, enjoying the heavenly banquet, which symbolizes the joy of eternal life with God. This final salvation of all who come to Jesus with faith is one of the primary focuses of Advent.



During Advent we recall Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem, announced to shepherds the fields by night and to Magi from the East by a star. We are filled with wonder at the birth of the Savior to bring peace on earth, as the angels sang at his birth, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).



We know that until the end of the world, there will be wars and rumors of wars, just as we see them today, but the kingdom of God that Jesus came to inaugurate is within us, in our hearts, as he said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 KJV). So during Advent we reflect on this heavenly kingdom that is within our hearts and seek to live ever more in this kingdom with God’s peace in our hearts through the forgiveness of our sins.



We also long during Advent for the final coming of Christ, when many “will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Then finally there will be peace on earth, a peace which we experience interiorly in our hearts as we long for its full exterior presence at the end of the world when Christ returns.


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