Sunday, February 20, 2022

Following Jesus





All photos are courtesy of Unsplash 

My Bible reading this morning was about the conversion of a Roman Centurion. He was a most unlikely candidate to become a follower of Jesus (the term Christian was not used at that time, but that was what he became).

Roman Centurions (I am generalising now) were usually battle hardened, professional, cynical, no nonsense type of people. Faith in the unseen or putting your trust in someone else was not how they normally operated unless, of course, it was obeying their commanding officer. They usually liked to be in control, pragmatic and deal in realities i.e. things that could be seen, touched and controlled. Maybe you are like that and quite cynical about spiritual matters.


Before I talk about Cornelius, that was his name, let me tell you about another Centurion. The Gospel writer, Matthew, tells us about him. Jesus had just arrived in Capernaum when a group of men from a synagogue approached him asking him to come to this unnamed Centurion’s house to heal his servant who was dying. There are a couple of things that are unusual about this story (read it in Luke 7:1-10 or Matthew 8:5-13). 


1st - in those days servants were ‘two a penny’ and so this man was well ahead of his time. He was a kind and considerate employer and obviously had a relationship with his staff. 


2nd - the man had faith. He believed in God and understood that not only were there levels of authority within the Roman military world but that this must be the case with God and his relationship with his creation (God, angels, humans etc). 


He had quite amazing insight. The Lord Jesus commended him for his faith and when the delegation returned to the home of the Centurion they found the servant was back to full health and strength. Was this a coincidence or a miracle? I believe it was the latter.


So here are two military men who became convinced about the person of Jesus Christ and made a choice to trust Him. You haven’t heard the second Centurion’s story yet so keep reading.


But, stop, think - rational, logical, intelligent people can become people of faith without committing intellectual suicide. 


But back to Cornelius the other centurion. The storyline is different but the principle is the same - a lesson in faith.


I am not going to tell you the whole story as you can read it for yourself in the Bible (Acts 10 & 11). What I want to do is highlight the key stages in this man’s journey of discovery.


  1. He was a man of moral principle, Acts 10:2,
  2. He had faith and it had impressed his family and employees so much that many of them shared it, Acts 10:2,
  3. His faith was not just theoretical; he was a kind, caring and sharing man - he helped the disadvantaged, Acts 10:2,
  4. He was a man who prayed, Acts 10:2

One day Cornelius had a very unusual encounter - he had a supernatural visit from an angel. The angel told him to send for Peter (the famous disciple of Jesus) and Peter would tell him what to do.


You would've thought that if the angel had told Cornelius what to do then maybe that would've made more of an impression on him than a fellow human being speaking to him. I think there is a simple point here which is that God only uses supernatural events when they are really necessary. The angel was sent to convince Cornelius to listen to the message that Peter would bring to him. However, Peter was to be the messenger who told Cornelius what he needed to know about Jesus and salvation.


Maybe you're not prepared to listen to the gospel and God will need to do something dramatic in your life to grab your attention. 


However, the message you need to hear is written down for you in the Bible and God will often use ordinary people to bring his message to you.


So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’, Romans 10:17.


I have copied and pasted what Peter said to Cornelius at the end of this post. I believe that this message is just as relevant for you today as it was all those years ago.


My prayer is that God will speak to you as He did to Cornelius and that you will respond in the same way.


Stephen


Acts 10:34-43


So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

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