And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." Jesus *said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 8:5-13 NASB)
Jesus takes this opportunity to make clear that He is indeed a light to the gentiles, but He goes even a step further to give warning that the ‘sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness...’ We can only imagine the tension this must have caused. For the Jews to hear from the prophets of old that the Messiah would be a light to the gentiles would have not have been difficult. In fact it would be a joyous thing to consider that God would do a work among all peoples. However, when the Jews were under the oppression of the Roman Empire and Jesus holds a representative from that empire in high regard it becomes much more personal for the people around Him, and far more difficult to swallow. While Jesus was doing exactly what the Old Testament scriptures promised He would do, the emotional impact of this to the Jew would have case hardened their heart against Christ. If Jesus would have said "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” In any other context, it may have been very palatable for the Jew. However when Jesus places their enemies on the pedestal and essentially proclaims that some of the Romans themselves will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the tension must have begun to rise. Recognize that I am reading into this a bit, there is no direct reference to mounting tension here, but as this progresses through the next few chapters we will see it clearly.
Again the Jews would have known that the Messiah was going to be a light to the gentiles, and that nations which they did not know would flock to Him, and that would have been something they embraced. It is very easy to love from a distance, and to enjoy the idea of many people groups coming together under the Messiah. It is no different than loving people in Africa and China and wanting them to hear the Gospel. However when you meet the people directly, and realize they are just a depraved as you were prior to conversion, and you have to deal with their vice, hatred, covetousness, and idolatry they are not nearly as easy to love as they were when they were a mere evangelism target. It is easy to see how many Jews would become progressively more against Christ as they saw Him being a light to the people they despised.
In this text you can see the breaking off and grafting in that is explained in Romans 11:17-25. It is easy to see the hardening effect that Christ’s ministry would have on the Hebrew people, and moreover you can see, as in the case of this centurion how the gentiles would be grateful just to be grafted in and be nourished from the Holy Root. More on that someday when this blog addresses Romans... like 20 years from now at the rate we are going!