“When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.’” – Matthew 8:10
We have a variety of words and phrases in American English to register amazement: “Awesome!” “Great stuff!” “Terrific!” “Crazy good! “Breathtaking!” “Incredible!” “That’s dank!” “Gorgeous!” “Spectacular!” “Unbelievable!” “Whaaaaat?!” “Mad skills!” “Sa-weet!” We use them to describe anything from tasty food to a remarkable sports play to a person we admire to a magnificent view. Sometimes, we trivialize such superlatives by applying them with equal fervor to everything from a skateboard trick to a global hero. But these words help us register our amazement when something makes an impression on us.
This week, I was struck by a phrase in the Gospels that set me to thinking about Jesus’ impact on people throughout His ministry. Typically, the Gospels tell stories of people who were amazed by what Jesus did and said. In Mark’s gospel alone, there are at least thirteen times in which the crowds or disciples are amazed, astonished, alarmed, or overwhelmed with wonder. Examples include being amazed at Jesus’ teaching, following a healing or exorcism, after the stilling of the sea of Galilee, during his trial, and following his resurrection.
But the phrase that struck me ran in the other direction. At least twice during his ministry, Jesus was “amazed” by an encounter he had. In both cases, his amazement related to the faith of others. In one case, Jesus marveled positively at the faith of a Roman centurion. In the other, Jesus was astounded at the lack of faith he found in his hometown of Nazareth.
Have you ever thought about what it would take to cause Jesus, the eternal Word of God who became flesh, to stop in his tracks and say, “Duuuude! That’s unbelievable!” The two cases of which we know teach us about the importance of trusting God. In the negative instance, that lack of faith among those with whom Jesus grew up impaired his ability to work miracles! (Mark 6:5) Jesus’ local neighbors took offense at him, saying, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Don’t we know his mother, Mary, and his brothers?” In other words, they didn’t expect too much from this local yokel. In the positive instance, Jesus commended the unexpected faith of a Roman outsider who displayed a remarkable trust in God’s healing power. This centurion showed an admirable humility, declaring that he wasn’t even worthy for Jesus to make a house call, suggesting instead that Jesus just “say the word” and his servant would be healed.
One theologian described faith as “a confidence on which one stakes one’s life.” My question for us this Father’s Day in a very tumultuous 2020 is, on what (or who) have we staked our lives? Would Jesus look at our faith and say, “That’s amazing!”