IN those days, when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, appealing to Him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and cure him.” Then the centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof, but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with 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 the servant does it.” When Jesus heard the centurion, He was amazed and said to those who followed Him, “Truly I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, while the sons and daughters of the Kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go, let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.
Some shocking things are happening in this reading. A Gentile, meaning a non-Jew, meaning someone who had no business asking Jesus for help, comes, address Jesus as Lord, and begs Him for help. That simply did not happen in that time. That's why Jesus "was amazed" at centurion's faith. "Not even in Israel," the Jewish nation, did Christ find such faith. This is an extremely strong and condemning statement. The Jews were supposed to be the carriers of the true faith, the nation that was to prepare the whole world for the coming Messiah. Yet, this Gentile expressed stronger faith than anyone in Israel.
Second, Jesus tells the crowd who followed Him, most of them were Jews, that people "will come from east and west will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven." You might think, so what, let them eat. Eating in the Kingdom of Heaven is a synonym to actually being there. The Jews expected a banquet of the righteous in God's Kingdom. It's going to be one big party, if you will :)
The Jews also expected, basically, only the Jews to be present at this banquet. But what Jesus is saying is that "outsiders," non-Jews, will come from east and west, meaning from all over the world, and take the places, which the Jews assumed were theirs. The Jews, mistakenly, believed that their ethnic allegiance to Abraham, was enough to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ tells them that only the allegiance to Him as the Lord (a confession centurion makes when he addresses Jesus as Lord), and faith in Him are what will save us.
Our ethnicity is nothing more than our background, where we were born, where we grew up, how we were raised. But our ethnicity is not a precursor to our faith or our salvation. Christianity is not ethnic, even though it is made up of people of ethnic background. There is no such thing as Russian Christianity, or Greek Christianity, or Serbian Christianity, or Syrian Christianity, or whatever else. There is Christianity and then there is idol worship. Those who put their ethnicity even on the same level as Christianity are, in effect, creating their own religion and worship idols (and all idol worship is demonic).
Therefore, express the faith of the centurion, the faith of complete humility and allegiance to the One True Master, "Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof."
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest