This is the third part of our sermon series, “Who is this God person, anyway?” We’ve already talked about how God is eternal, how God is all-knowing, and how God is everywhere. Today we’re going to talk about another aspect of who God is. God is all-powerful.
That thought will not come as a shock to very many of us here. Most of us are probably aware that Christians consider God to be all-powerful. Here’s the thing, though. How many of us actually live our lives as if we believe that?
This morning we heard two stories from the gospel of Matthew. In one case, the person involved trusted the power of God. In the other case, the people involved did not. I think looking at these two stories together tells us a lot about how believing in the power of God can make a difference in our lives.
The first story deals with Jesus and a Roman centurion. Now, the word “centurion” comes from the same root as the word “century”, meaning a hundred. A centurion was a Roman army officer who was in charge of a hundred soldiers. This Roman army officer, this centurion, comes up to Jesus and tells him his servant is suffering terribly.
That was probably something that happened to Jesus all the time. Once word got around that Jesus had the power to heal people, I imagine people came from miles around to get him to heal either them or their relatives or friends. In fact, there are some stories like that you read about in the Bible. So, Jesus asks the centurion if he wants him to come and heal the servant. So far, this is probably a pretty typical day for Jesus once he started his ministry.
The centurion gives a surprising answer. He says no. He says no, you don’t need to come to my house to heal him. I believe in your power. I believe you have so much power if that if you just say the word from where we are, my servant will be healed.
Now that’s believing in Jesus’ power. In fact, even Jesus was impressed by how much the centurion believed in Jesus’ power. The thing is, though, that this belief in Jesus’ power showed itself in two ways. The second one, the one we tend to focus on, is that the centurion told Jesus he did not have to come to the centurion’s house.
Now that’s belief. In fact, it’s a lot of belief. There’s another way the centurion showed his belief in Jesus’ power, though, and it’s something we miss sometimes. Listen again to what the centurion said when he approached Jesus. He said, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Did you see where I’m going with this? Nowhere in that statement does the centurion specifically ask Jesus to heal his servant. All he does is tell Jesus about the problem. He believes in Jesus’ power so much that he figures that’s all he needs to do. He trusts that if just tells Jesus what the problem is, Jesus can and will do the right thing.
That’s awesome. That’s why Jesus said he had not found anyone in Israel who had as much faith as this Roman centurion. Jesus must have had people coming up to him all the time, asking him to do things, sometimes probably demanding that he do things. This centurion did not ask Jesus to do anything. He simply told Jesus the problem.
That’s belief in Jesus’ power. The centurion believed so much in Jesus’ power that he knew he could count on Jesus to do the right thing. The centurion did not tell Jesus what the centurion wanted. He did not go up to Jesus and try to tell him what to do. Instead, he trusted in Jesus’ power. He trusted that, if the all-powerful Son of God was aware of the situation, then he would know what to do. He also trusted Jesus’ power enough to be confident that, whatever Jesus did, it would be the right thing to do.
That right thing might or might not be what the centurion wanted. He said, “just say the word, and my servant will be healed”, but he did not try to force Jesus to say that word. He knew what Jesus could do, but he trusted Jesus’ power enough to be all right with whatever Jesus would do, whether Jesus said the word and healed his servant or not.
Now, let’s look at the second story. This story comes almost immediately after the one we just looked at. It’s in the same chapter of Matthew, only separated by ten verses.
Jesus and the disciples go out on a boat. Jesus falls asleep. A storm comes up. The disciples try to fight the storm themselves and they get nowhere. They wake Jesus up and say, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
That’s quite a contrast to what the centurion said. The disciples did not have any quiet confidence in Jesus. They were not content to just tell Jesus the problem and wait for him to do the right thing. The disciples were in a panic. They begged Jesus to save them.
Look at Jesus’ response. Jesus he asks the disciples, why do you have so little faith? Why are you so afraid? We’re told that the disciples asked, “What kind of man is this, who controls the wind and the waves?” In other words, they were asking, who is this God person anyway?
When we read that story, we tend to think Jesus was being critical of the disciples. We think he must’ve been mad at them or disappointed in them or something like that. That’s possible—the Bible does not really say—but that’s not how I read it. I don’t think Jesus was angry or upset with the disciples because of their reaction. I think he was saddened by it. I think he felt sorry for them for reacting the way they did.
He felt sorry for them because he could see that the disciples were so scared, and yet they had no reason to be. They had God the Son there with them. God the Son, who had all the power in the world and then some. They did not need to be afraid of what was going to happen to them. They did not need to worry about it. All they needed to do was trust God’s power. All they needed to do was what the centurion did. All they needed to do was make God the Son, Jesus, aware of the situation. Once they did that, they could relax. They could trust the power of God. They could trust that God the Son would know what to do, and that whatever he did, it would be the right thing to do.
I think there’s a reason these two stories come so close together in Matthew’s gospel. I think they’re meant to be set against each other. They represent a choice we have as Christians.
All of us have times when we have to deal with some serious stuff in our lives. In fact, I know there are some of you who are going through some serious stuff right now. If you’re not, you know some people who are. When that happens, we can get pretty scared. We feel like we’re all alone, and we don’t know what to do. When we feel scared and alone and don’t know what to do, it’s really tempting for us to do what the disciples did. It’s tempting for us to panic. It’s tempting for us to start pleading to Jesus “Save me! Please, wake up and save me!”
Jesus understands why we do that. Jesus won’t get mad at us for it. I just think it maybe makes Jesus a little sad. I think, when we’re in that situation, Jesus would like to say to us, “You don’t need to panic. You don’t need to be scared. I’m right here. I have enough power to handle your problems and then some. Just relax and let me handle it. Trust my power. I know what to do, and I’ll do the right thing.”
Jesus won’t get mad at us if we react like the disciples did. Jesus won’t refuse to help us if we do that. After all, Jesus did help the disciples. We’ll be better off, though, if we can do what the centurion did. We’ll be better off if we can stay calm and trust God and God’s power. We’ll be better off if we can trust God and God’s power enough to pray, to tell God about the situation as we see it, and then to turn the situation over to God. We’ll be better off if we can trust God and God’s power enough to believe that, once we’ve turned the situation over to God and God’s power, God will know what to do. We’ll be better of if we can trust God and God’s power enough to believe that, whatever God decides to do, it will be the right thing, even if it’s not what we were hoping God would do.
The disciples, even though they were right there with Jesus, God the Son, did not understand who this God person was. The centurion did. Not totally, not in every aspect, but enough. The centurion understood that God is all-powerful. He understood that God can take care of all of our needs. And, he understood that God can always be trusted to do the right thing.
Who is this God person? This God person is the one who is powerful enough to handle all our problems. All we need to do is pray and trust God’s power enough to believe that whatever God decides to do, it will be the right thing. God’s power is enough to take care of all of us.