Read Matthew 8
Focus on verse 11-12
If you have been following this blog with some regularity, it may surprise you that I am not interested in pursuing or propagating a religion. The assumption of many who call themselves “Christian” as well those who do not is that Christianity is a religion. While there is a sense in which that is true, I strongly suspect that it was never Jesus intent to begin a religion. Many of our history books list Jesus Christ as the founder of the Christian religion but I beg to differ based upon what He Himself said in our reading today. In fact, it would seem that a large part of Jesus mission was actually to set us free from the bondage of the religions we create.
In today’s reading Jesus encounters a Roman centurion who asks Jesus to heal one of his servants. When Jesus offers to come to his house the centurion replies with an answer that seems to surprise Jesus. The centurion says “Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (v. 9)
What surprises Jesus is the faith demonstrated by this “unclean pagan” as he would have been seen by most of the Jews who were following Jesus. Jesus then says to those following Him,
I tell you, many will come from the east and from the west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (v. 11-12)
This statement is one that has caused me to consider carefully how I think and live as a follower of Jesus. It is crystal clear within the context of this statement exactly who Jesus is hoping is listening to these words.
Christianity as religion tends to become a system of rules and regulations adapted from the Bible by which those who choose to become a follower of the religion agree to adopt. The same was true of the religion of Judaism, which the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus day followed and imposed upon the Jewish population. The same is true of every other religion, cult and sect known to humanity. In this regard it is perhaps true when people say that all religions lead to the same place. What is not true is that all religions lead to God. Only Jesus leads us to God. He was very clear about this when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, NO ONE comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6)
This is not to suggest that there are not people within this plethora of religions who actually are followers of Jesus and who will see the Father because they have a relationship with Jesus, it is rather to emphasize the point that it is not the “religion” that grants a person access to God, but Jesus who does. I would also add that there are many very good churches (groups of people who meet together) that sincerely believe and teach this truth. Unfortunately, there are also quite a number who have drifted away from this truth and as a result give those who belong to their religion a false sense of eternal security.
The bottom line is – there is only one way to God – Jesus Christ is that way. It may be intolerant as truth often tends to be, but I’d rather believe an intolerant truth than a tolerant lie. So, as always, the choice is ours…intolerant truth that leads to life…or tolerant lies that lead to death?