“The Goal of Knowing His Authority”
May 29, 2016: The Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time (Proper 4)
1Kings 8: 22-23, 41-43/Psalm 96/Galatians 1: 3 – 10/Luke 7: 1 – 10
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
God has entrusted us with the Holy Word. He has given us the Holy Word and when we hear from Him, when we come to Church and listen to the homily, we are not just listening to the preacher, but we are listening to God. It is the Word of God! The Scriptures are so rich and the message that is emphasized for us is: our faith in authority should be greater than our fear of the circumstances. Testings, tribulations and problems in life are thought to be strange and unusual, but Jesus said, “In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We pray not to have tribulations, and we ask the Lord for us to be taken out of this world. He did not say this to make us pessimistic and cynical, but we are not to be surprised of testing and problems that come our way. We are to be of good cheer.
Jesus said that He will overcome the world and there is no secret weapon for there is nothing that we cannot overcome. It doesn't matter how many Goliaths we face; we are going to overcome. We have to keep our eyes on His promises, and we will emerge victorious every time. There is nothing higher than our Lord. If He is Lord, He is authority over all.
There are two insights that I would share in the gospel in Luke 7. From verses 1-5, “Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” These verses give us our first thought: God is always greater than our problems. This should be an encouraging thought. It can be any problem that we face daily. We will experience persecution, but as Jesus said, “Don't worry, I have overcome the world.” Think of the things the God has given us in order for us to overcome.
In all these things, Jesus is saying to us that God was with us and He helps us to overcome. He had an awareness of the presence of God. God is saying to us, “Be not afraid because I am your God. It is enough that You got me because if I am your God, you have nothing to be afraid of.” We can face our circumstances without fear, but with hope and courage together with Him. He is our God!
Reading through verses 1-10, it says that there was a Roman centurion. He had an unusual request. He had a particulate servant who was sick and ready to die. During those particular times, they had diseases that may be considered as terminal. For the centurion, what is the point of asking for help for his servant? He might as well quit. His problem may be humongous or too big to handle, so what is the point of trusting God? What it the point of praying? He could have given up, but the centurion was different from the others. He did not have the attitude of thinking that his slave cannot work anymore and since he was dying, he can easily get another slave to replace him. The centurion could have heard of Jesus and he had a hunger for Him. He must have been hearing about Jesus and he had this problem of a dying servant, but he did not want him to die; so when he heard about Jesus, he asked for Jesus to come and heal his servant.
We have this story in the gospel about a woman with an issue of blood and she was bleeding for twelve years consulting one specialist to another. However, doing this, she became sicker and in the end, she was broke and was in a miserable situation. With this, we can afford not to dream and not have hope anymore. But what changed the attitude of the woman? It was because she heard about Jesus.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word of God in action. He is always talking about the heart of the Father. He did things according to the will of the Father. In His ministry, He wanted to be known to be His own man, but doing the will of the Father. What the Father wants is what He wants. What the Father desires is what He desires. What the Father wills is Jesus’ will. Jesus is the living Word of God in action. He is here!
St. Paul says that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God; it is not by hearing man and opposition. In God’s kingdom, we seek Him first; in man’s kingdom, it is ‘me’ first - what we are going to get for us. In God’s kingdom, He is the center of all and when we hear of God, it is when our faith is developed. When I got married, the provisions came after our marriage. People may have promised something to us, but people forget and they get tired of their promises. We operate by believing what people say and we don’t worry because we heard their promises, but they do fail us by not keeping their promises.
1Kings 8 says, 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts…For they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple.” There is no God like Him. We have the assurance once He has given His word. The centurion heard Jesus. Everything changed when he heard about Jesus. Once there was no hope, but faith came simply because of the entrance of the Word of God. The centurion said, “Can you ask Him to heal my servant?” He bothered to ask because he thought it was not an impossible situation.
We used to rent a theater in Kalibo for our worship. At one time, we were preparing to attend a seminar in Manila so we had to save for the expenses to be incurred by the participants. Three weeks before the actual seminar, there was an earthquake and one third of the building collapsed. In addition to this, the walls collapsed on our musical instruments and our sound system. With this situation, we had to ask ourselves whether we were going to push through with our participation in the seminar considering that we had a lot of things to restore and to take care of. However, we decided to trust God for the situation. We believed that God shall provide for our needs. We prayed and we prayed, and it is as if nothing was happening. We continued to pray as if He has already answered our prayers. We continued to praise God as if He has already supplied our needs.
We had only one week before the date of the seminar and a few days before that, a person came to my house and he told me that the Lord told him to give me one hundred fifty thousand pesos. At that time, this was a very huge amount of money, and this answered for all the expenses of the participants for the seminar. We also had extras and when we got back to Kalibo, we were able to buy our instruments, our new sound system and finished everything that we need to do. Still, we had a savings of about two thousand pesos.
I am telling this story because I want you to see that God did not to do it for me because I was a pastor. God did it for us because we dared to believe God’s Word. Are pastors that only one required to believe God’s Word? Are the priests or the deacons the only one required to believe God’s Word? Did God say, “I will only do this for priests and bishops, deacons, pastors or ministers? If you are layman, find your nearest pastor.” No! Jesus Christ said it this way, “If you can believe, all things are possible to them that believe.” You can choose to be a believer and say, “God, this is what You say. This is what You have spoken. This is what You have promised. I am going to take You for Your Word.”
The second thought for our gospel is: recognizing His authority is submitting to His word. Luke 7: 6-10 says, “Then Jesus went with them. And when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not even think myself worthy to come to You, but say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to one, go, and he goes; and to another, come, and he comes; and to my servant, do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at them, turned around and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.’ And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who was sick.”
What is the situation here? Probably, the centurion was in his house, and he sent a delegation to talk to Jesus Christ. Maybe from a distance, he found Jesus coming to his house together with the delegation that he sent. Apparently, this centurion was very careful concerning the culture and the customs of the Jews. He was probably aware that for a Jew to enter his house, it would make him unclean. He understands that if Jesus enters a Gentile house, it could make Him ceremonially unclean, and so the centurion sends a delegation to meet Jesus and gives his delegation a specific message, “Our friend sent us and he is grateful that You are coming all the way and You have every intention of entering our master’s house. He understands that this is not usual because You are a Jewish prophet. That is a Gentile house and You understand that it is going to make You unclean, and he said that it is no longer necessary for You to come to the house. He said, ‘Just say the word and my servant will be healed.’”
Thinking about this, let us say that you are in the place of the centurion. Let us say that it is your husband or your wife or one of your children that is terminally ill. You find Jesus coming along and you understand that for Him to enter your house, it is going to make Him unclean. If I were the one, I probably would have that attitude of letting Jesus come to my house. I would probably think this way, “I don’t care. He already knows that, but He decides to come in anyway. What I would like for Him to do is to walk to the bedside of my loved one. I have heard He lay hands on people and I want Him to lay both hands on my loved one. I want to see Him do this, and I want to hear Him say the words, and I want Him to pray. I want to witness Him praying just to give me every assurance that my loved one would get healed. I need to see not just to hear.”
Not this centurion. Jesus was told, “Lord, it is not necessary for my master to see You come in and lay hands on his servant. It is not necessary for him to see You get down on the floor and pray. He has heard many stories about You praying and how that You can bring down heaven with You just because You pray. All he requests from You is to say the word. You don’t need to come to his house. Our master is a man under authority, and he knows how authority works. When he tells his soldiers to go, they go. When he tells his soldiers to come, they come. From the stories that our master have heard about You, when You say for sickness to go, it goes. When You tell the devil to go, they go. When You say for healing to come, it comes. My master doesn’t understand everything, but he knows how authority works. The master had reflected on this and he has come to the conclusion that You work under divine authority. When he says things, they have to be carried out because he has authority. It is no longer necessary for You to come to the house; just say the word and my servant will be healed.”
What did Jesus Christ say? He did not say, “You mean to tell Me that I have walked all the way here and then, you are not going to make me get into the house?” In some translations, it says that Jesus was astonished. In others, it says that He was amazed. How often do you get to wile God saying, “God, I will show You something that You have not seen before.” Jesus said, “I have never seen such great faith in Israel!” He was saying, “You know, guys, I expect these things from you. The commandments were given to you. The prophets were assigned to you. The covenant was yours. You keep hearing about these – in your synagogues, in your temples, and now that I am actually here, you want to stone Me. Here is this one particular centurion who did not grow up in our synagogues, and he did not know about our culture and he did not live in it. He just learned it from the others and now he tells Me, ‘I do not need to come to his house and all I have to do is just say the word and that is enough for him. That is good enough as done! That is great faith! It is believing without signs despite the fact that you are not feeling anything.
In Mark 11:24, Jesus said, “What things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”
In 1999, I had an operation because of a burst appendix. I remember coming to Church when I was able to survive it. I entered with a cane because I did not have much feeling on my left leg. I was taking a heart medicine because my heart surgeon said that I had a “silent attack.” The doctor told me that I had to take that medicine for the rest of my life. Because I had surgery performed to remove the toxins inside my body, I was informed by the surgeon that because the operation came too late and the damage was done to my body, I was told that the wound that I had was not going to heal. The doctor told me it was good that I survived; however, it means that I had to wear a plastic bag every day under my clothing for the nasty things coming out of my body so as not to make a mess out of my pants.
I asked the doctor, “Until when, Doctor?” He told me that it will be for the rest of my life and I had to live with it. I said to God, “Lord, I know that they are just trying to be kind to me, but You are greater. You are the Great Physician. You are Jehovah Rapha; You are the Lord who heals us. I am asking You, Lord, for Your help and inspiration here because I am shaken a little bit.” I was reading through the Holy Scriptures, going through Psalm 73, and it said, “The Lord is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” This quickened to me and I said, “Lord, I am taking that as my heart medicine. Lord, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
I read Jeremiah 30:17 which says, “I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds.” I said, “Lord, I am claiming that also because they said that this wound is incurable.” I was told that this was not the meaning of this verse, that it was used symbolically for the healing of the nations. I said, “Well, God is the Healer; if He can heal a nation, I am sure this wound is nothing to Him. Lord, I am claiming that. You did it for a nation. I am not as big as a nation, but I am claiming this to heal this incurable wound.”
I also saw in Hebrews, “Strengthen the weak knees.” I had no feeling in my knee and so every day I said to my knee, “Knee, be strong. Weakness be gone! Healing return, in the Name of Jesus!” When I prayed that, nothing happened and there was nothing that I could feel because my knee was numb. I was supposed to go to a Convocation in 2000 and the doctor said I couldn’t do it and it was too much for me. I told him that the travel was six months away, and I told him I will go back to him anytime and if on the fifth month that nothing is really happening, I will follow his orders. He sent me to his friend heart doctor in Philippine Heart Center, and I was told that I was misdiagnosed. I had no heart problem. I took tests and went back to my doctor and compared the diagnosis of my heart. I did not have to take the heart medicine because God gave me a new heart.
I still had my wound, but I would pray, “Lord, thank you for healing my wound. Wound, close, in the Name of Jesus!” I reported then to my doctor and he told me that the wound was getting smaller and there was new flesh sprouting, until it finally closed. The wound that the doctor said I would have to bear for the rest of my life closed simply because I took God on His word. For my left knee, I can kick you if you kick me.
I am telling this story simply because you can take the principles of the Holy Scriptures, apply it in your life and know that it works! God did it for me not because I am a Bishop, but he did it for me because I was one of the many who dared to believe Him. If you would dare to believe Him, nothing is impossible. Jesus said, “That is great faith!” This is what great faith is all about – it is: “say the word only faith.” It is not “I believe if You give me a sign. “Lord, I believe if I feel any kind of improvement. Lord, I believe if I see something happening.”
Faith in God is greater than your experience. Faith in God is greater than what you see. Faith in God is greater than your feelings. Are there times when you pray and you don’t feel God is with you? Are there times that you ask, “God, where are You?” It feels like the heavens are brass. Are there times that you pray that you don’t get the goosebumps that you are expecting? You have to believe that He is hearing you not because you are feeling something. You’ve got to believe that He is hearing you because He said, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things.” Believe based on what He has spoken to you! Believe based on what He has promised you!
Great faith is based on God’s Lordship. If you believe He is Lord, you will believe His Word. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, but you don’t do the things that I say?” If we believe that He is Lord, then we believe that His Word is greater than our opinions. His Word is greater than our ideas. His Word must be greater than our personal preferences. Hebrews 11:6 says it this way, “He who comes to God must believe that He is.” Someone says that this means that He exists. Yes, this is true but it doesn’t only mean that you believe that He exists, but you must believe that He is God.
I can argue with any man, but I choose not to argue with God. There is no winning against God, and I am not desiring that. If God says one thing and my opinion is different, I choose to change my opinion rather than say, “God, that is not so popular today. Change that. I will get some signatures.” The fallen angels have been trying to get God to change what He has said, and they have not been successful.
We need to understand great faith. Take God and His Word. Understand that He is Lord and He is God who keeps covenant forever. Because He speaks, what He has spoken does not have to be repeated, to be revised, or to be improved. All that is needed is, “Lord, just say the Word, and this is enough for me.”
I am saying to you that God says that He will make all grace abound towards you, that you, having all sufficiency in all things, will have abundance for every good work!