By David Faust
Words like great and awesome have become so overused these days that they mean next to nothing. In popular lingo, God is great—but so is a talented baseball player or a new cleaning product. Shouldn’t we reserve words like awe for the reverence we show our Creator, not the way we feel about a movie or a pizza?
In a culture that overuses superlatives, what does it mean to say something is amazing? The ancient Greeks had several terms for amazement or wonder. Ekstasis (literally “standing out,” from which we derive our word “ecstasy”) meant to be thrown into a condition of surprise or fear. This word appears in Acts 3:10 to describe the crowd’s amazement when a man crippled from birth began walking, jumping, and praising God. Another descriptor, thambos, pictures how Peter and his companions were “astonished” by a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:9). Another term, ekplesso, expresses how the disciples were dumbfounded by Jesus’ stunning insistence that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
If anyone ever deserves superlatives, Jesus does. His miraculous powers and memorable stories amazed the crowds. Multitudes marveled when he healed “every disease and sickness among the people” and brought relief to “those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed” (Matthew 4:23, 24). The listeners to his Sermon on the Mount “were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28, 29).
It’s no exaggeration to call Jesus amazing. But what amazes Jesus? Did the Lord himself ever feel the human emotions of wonder and astonishment? Could anything startle or astound the Son of God? The New Testament mentions two different times when Jesus marveled.
The Lord was amazed by great faith.
A Roman centurion—a military leader with a lot of rough edges and a background in pagan idolatry—recognized Jesus’ spiritual authority, so he sent emissaries to beg the Lord to come and heal his servant. With surprising humility, the powerful centurion said he felt unworthy to approach Jesus face-to-face. He believed that if Christ simply said the word, that would be enough, so it wasn’t necessary for the Lord to come to the centurion’s home. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him,” because he hadn’t found such great faith even among the Jewish people (Luke 7:9).
The Lord was amazed by lack of faith.
However, consider the opposite side of the coin. In Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, familiarity bred contempt. Friends and neighbors who had watched him grow up and knew his family doubted and disrespected him. His miraculous work there was limited. “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6).
Living by faith should be standard operating procedure for followers of Christ, but it’s easier said than done. Does faith define our priorities and direct our daily decisions? Does it determine how we manage money, approach relationships, solve problems, and respond to suffering? Does it guide the way we think about the future?
Are we amazing Jesus with the strength of our faith or by our lack thereof?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|March 28||M.||Isaiah 58:6-12||Rebuilding Health|
|March 29||T.||Malachi 3:16–4:2||Healing Wings|
|March 30||W.||Proverbs 12:1, 2; 13:16, 17; 16:22-24||Words of Healing|
|March 31||T.||Matthew 4:23-25; 5:3-11||Total Health|
|April 1||F.||Matthew 6:16-27||Emotional Health|
|April 2||S.||John 5:24-30||Eternal Health|
|April 3||S.||Luke 7:1-10||Renewed Health|