TREKKING WITH ABRAHAM
“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus Christ takes us where we have never been before. This remark here, from Matthew 8:11, is so original, so ground breaking, so stunning, that we somehow fail to grasp the new area He is taking us to with this remark. A feast? A feast with Abraham? A feast in the Kingdom of Heaven? Gentiles in the Kingdom, sat next to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Jesus is talking to a crowd, with his disciples next to him when He speaks these words. This is amazing. Follow how amazing it was.
The Centurion’s miracle in Matthew 8 is accepted by most to be the same centurion whose miracle is related in Luke 7. Luke’s account is slightly longer and there are slight differences. That is no problem to any reader. For the uninitiated what happened is that a Centurion who lived in Capernaum had a servant who was dear to him, terminally ill and near death. Hearing that Jesus was in town he sent some friends to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant. Jesus received the message and was on His way to the house when another group of Jewish people met Jesus on behalf of the Centurion and said,“You don’t need to come to my house Lord. Just say the Word. The Centurion knows what authority is about. He takes orders from authority above him in the Legion. He gives orders that also have to be obeyed. So Lord, just say the word and my servant will be healed.” (That’s my paraphrase.)
Jesus was amazed, literally. The Bible says so. He stopped and turned to the disciples, and the crowd around Him, and said, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Now that is yet another amazing statement. Possibly two thirds of the way through His ministry, having interacted on spiritual issues and faith issues, and He declares that this gentile Roman soldier had faith beyond any He had seen. The Son of God was astounded.
Notice that the Centurion had expressed his faith in a search for healing, not for heaven. He asked no questions, apart from asking Christ to come, and then he cancelled the question with a statement. This Centurion, a hardened soldier, obviously knew God, and the life of faith to say such an awesome thing. The mind of Christ suddenly leaped forward to thoughts of His reign on earth, and who would be there with Him, and who would not. Then He speaks again and says, “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
When most people start negotiating Eschatology (that is the study of what goes on in the last days, the end of this world order, and what happens with the second coming of Christ and thereafter), they start discussing worldwide political scenes, earthquakes, wars, famines, and the order of tribulation, rapture and the rise of Antichrist. Jesus however leaps into a most wonderful picture of a feast in the kingdom of heaven. I follow the pathway of all commentators that I know of, and state that I believe the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are synonymous.
By inference of His remarks, Jesus is saying that this Centurion is saved, and a “fully paid up member” of those who will live in their future life in the Kingdom of God. It is plainly implied, though not explicitly stated. My friends, “Dinner with Abraham” is on the schedule for those who are in the Kingdom. And by the sounds of it, extrapolating sensibly from the words of Jesus, amaze Him with your faith, and you get a VIP ticket to be near Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
If we needed any assurance, if we were unsure hitherto about what happens the other side of the grave, we have it clearly given to us by Christ Himself. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be there together. So they will be resurrected and alive. We have said much about this through the last year, but suffice it to say now; Abraham and those who had a like faith such as he, are conscious now with Christ on the other side, and will be raised again when mortality is swallowed up by immortality.
Note that there is a feast. People of the resurrection eat. I have been in discussions where some have insisted that this is profoundly and deeply symbolic, but I have to negate such a view. Jesus was not talking to mystics and spiritual people. Christ was not debating with College professors or doctors of philosophy and scripture. The common folk heard Him gladly, and it was they who were surrounding Him when He spoke. If He talked of folks coming from the west and the east to feast with father Abraham, I have to insist that language has lost its meaning if Christ meant something else.
The fact that Abraham will be there, sat down and eating, assumes that Christ is referring to the future resurrection. The fact that He refers to people coming from the east and west, suggests that the meeting will be universal, which means more who were gentiles in their natural lives than Jews.
Then Christ sadly adds, “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The reader is led to some self evident assumptions in the scenario that Jesus is picturing. Resurrection. Folks gathering from the world to eat with Abraham and Co. Inferring the gathering at Jerusalem. This gathering will be in, and part of, the kingdom of God. While those who were outwardly seeming to be the children of the kingdom, which could only refer to the Jewish people, would be cast out into what Christ refers to “outer darkness” – a world full of “weeping” as well as “gnashing of teeth.” The exhilaration of the faith of the Centurion carried Christ to thoughts of His reign on earth. I sincerely desire to excite my Saviour with a similar rampant faith like the Centurion. Dinner with Abraham? I want to be there.“And Jesus said, … Go your way; and as you have believed, so be it done to you. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” Abraham will be in heaven, people; and so will that Centurion be.
WHAT’S THE POINT? Trekking with Abraham in his 175 years, has led him to be in paradise ever since, but he will be raised from the dead and publicly seen in the resurrection of the righteous.