Dear Children of God, faith has a way of appearing where it is least expected. Faith appears in foreigners coming from afar, guided by a star. Christ’s birth went largely unnoticed by His own people, yet that didn’t stop outsiders from believing in the Christ-child and coming to worship Him.
Faith appears in a Canaanite woman, another foreigner, yet not just another foreigner. Canaanites were especially despised, for they were a mixed race, who defiled the Jewish religion. Yet faith often appears where it is least expected. Jesus said to her: “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.” Even Jesus had to marvel at such great faith, that just wouldn’t give up on Jesus’ mercy.
Faith appears also in a woman known for her sins, who dared to approach Christ, knowing she wasn’t worthy. She washes Jesus’ feet, with her hair and tears, just wanting to be forgiven. Faith appears in a thief, hanging on a cross. Down to the very last moments of his life, he repents and believes. He asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Faith appears in a woman who believes that if she just touches, just touches, the hem, the border, of Christ’s garment, she will be healed. Faith appears in the friends of a paralyzed man, who stop at nothing to get their friend to Jesus. They lower him from the rooftop because there was no other way possible.
And here today, faith appears in a Centurion, yet another foreigner, a Roman officer, who believes in the healing power of Christ. He too, knows he is not worthy, yet he also knows that Jesus is full of compassion and mercy.
All these people came to Christ for help, with true faith in the heart. Yet, some of them, including the Centurion, were not even citizens in the chosen nation of Israel.
Faith has a way of appearing where it is least expected. In fact Jesus Himself takes note of this in the Centurion. “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” And He remarks that “many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” He’s referring to believers who are not part of the earthly nation of Israel, yet, more importantly, they are part of the spiritual nation of Israel, the invisible Church of all true believers in Christ.
Dear children of God - that’s you and me. We are the outsiders. We are the strangers, being unable to trace our family tree back to Israel. Yet, by God’s grace, we’ve been grafted in. Not descending from Abraham the natural way, yet, we are born again by God’s Word and Spirit in Baptism. And so God has adopted us by Grace. Being washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, by Grace, through faith, we have become spiritual children of Abraham, and children of God. We are part of God’s holy people, for we have received the holy life of Christ. Redeemed, restored, forgiven (As the hymn goes), we’ve had our robes washed clean by the blood of Christ.
What can be of more value? What matters more? Christ’s forgiving grace toward us sinners brings meaning where nothing else can. He brings help and healing, where nothing else can.
Many spend an entire lifetime searching for the meaning of life, the meaning of their existence, never being able to find an answer to the why of their suffering. Why do we humans have to suffer anyway? Surely with all our advancements in technology, science, medicine, there has got to be a way we can end all disease, and all suffering.
And so, many, like the Scientologists, foolishly set out to accomplish exactly that. They seriously believe they can completely eradicate all suffering from our world.
Yet those who know Jesus Christ know that is not the way. In fact, all those who really want to know the meaning of life, and the real purpose behind every pain, must seek Jesus Christ alone. He is the only one who can truly answer the why of suffering. And He is the only one who can bring help, and healing, and bring rest to our eternal soul. For He is the only one who saved us from the eternal suffering that our sins deserved.
Jesus brings meaning to every tear ever shed, every heart ever broken, every wound ever inflicted. For Jesus is the only one who bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows, as both man and God.
Jesus Christ has the answer. He says clearly, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Trying to manipulate things in our world to try to eradicate suffering, would be like trying to heal a broken arm, with a band-aid. It just doesn’t work. Trying to understand suffering without the only one who experienced it all, even death for us, and who rose again for us, is like trying to learn a new language without access to any of the new words we’re supposed to learn.
Yet, we all have those days where we still struggle to understand, “why God? Why?” We’ve all faced those situations that seem to have absolutely no solution.
Yet, what a perfect situation for faith to be born, and to grow, and to be strengthened: where there seems to be no answer.
We like to have everything figured out. We like things to go a certain way: our way. We like to be in control. But when we experience a complete lack of control, and lack of strength, we realize how totally and completely dependent we are on God.
Why does God allow suffering? Yet, many fail to ask why God allowed His only-begotten Son to suffer. Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He went to the cross to deliver us from eternal suffering. Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus brings new meaning to all other suffering in the world. We must carry our crosses, yet, Christ already carried the heavier cross of our sins. He already made us completely acceptable to the Father. We can be confident that our suffering is not punishment from God, since His Son already went through that for us on the cross. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”, yet, He promises to see us through it all. He will never give us more than we can handle, and will always make all things work together for good to those who love Him.
True faith believes that God has the power and ability to help no matter what our situation may be, and that He will help. Although the time and manner of His aid is hidden from us, we can be confident that He will provide exactly what is best for us. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
When storms come blowing, and when doubts come knocking, there is abundant strength for us in the promises of God. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."