The Anticipation of Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13)

The confession of the centurion led Jesus to make a prophetic announcement concerning the final day. There are several details here that we should note for our encouragement. First, there is the confidence of Jesus in the success of the gospel. This one Gentile centurion was a sample of the many Gentiles who would believe in him from the east and the west.

Second, there is the reference that the Saviour makes to the covenant promises that had been made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The place where we find those promises is the Bible. God’s covenant promises are connected to certainties. It looks as if Jesus made connections between his current situation and relevant passages in the Bible, and he wants his disciples to do the same.

Third, there is the comfort of heaven. We see the concept of comfort in the reference to reclining. The experience of heaven is not like a military parade ground where everyone is on edge in case their nose gets itchy. Heaven, while obviously reverent, is a very relaxed experience for those who will be there.

The illustration of a table points to three features of heaven: host, company (guests) and provision. Although he does not mention it here, we know who the host is – Jesus himself. Surely we can sense his anticipation of this experience. The company are believers, those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. Sometimes we go to events and enjoy listening to the life stories of those present. How much more will we enjoy listening to those who met the Saviour through his grace. The provision comes from Jesus and is described elsewhere as eternal life, its quality as well as its quantity. Jesus anticipates providing the fullness of life to his people.

Fourth, Jesus also mentions an awful contrast – the contrast between heaven and hell. He mentions the sights and the sounds. As far as the sights are concerned, it is outer darkness. Outer darkness is the opposite of God because he is light. To be in darkness is to be lost because the person cannot see the path to walk on. A lost eternity is a terrible prospect. No escape from the judgement of God. Darkness is loneliness – we have all found ourselves in situations that were so dark that we could not see a person standing beside us. An eternity of isolation and dread, with no one to help them even for a moment.

Then there are the sounds. There will be weeping because of the despair, and there will be gnashing of teeth. This is an awful picture of the despair connected to being lost forever. Of course, Jesus is making a prediction here and he knows the future exactly. This is going to be the experience of the lost. One wonders what each person in the crowd made of his words. Hopefully, each of them responded correctly. Imagine what you would have done had you heard this detailed description of the endless experience of the lost. You do not need to imagine it because in reading the account you already became part of the crowd listening to Jesus.

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