“As He entered Capernaum a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying ‘Lord my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.’ And He said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard him, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, ‘Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; be it done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment.” Matthew 8:5-13
A Roman soldier during the time of Christ served for a period of twenty years and during those years he was not allowed to have a family as his loyalties were fully dedicated to the Empire. As a result the closest to a real family that many of these soldiers had were their servants.
The soldiers stationed in Palestine hated the job because of the constant problems that the rebellious Jews were always stirring up. In turn the Jews hated the Roman soldiers as symbols of their own subjection to Imperial Roman authority. As a result it would be very unusual for a soldier of the Centurions status to request anything from a Jew unless he was desperate.
What I love about the story is the character of the centurion. He loved and cared for his servant enough to humble himself and ask for help. And what is even more interesting is that he knew where to seek that help. He comes to Jesus not as a proud military leader who has condescended to allow Jesus to help him, but instead with a broken heart for his servant and a willingness to trust and believe in the superior character and power of Jesus.
The centurion must have understood that Jews didn’t enter the homes of gentiles so he blurts out, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” But, I think there is more going on here than that. The centurion had faith that Jesus could carry out a long distant miracle (most Jews believed that was impossible) because just as he was under the authority of the Roman Empire, so Jesus was under the authority of God. To the centurion nothing is too difficult for the God of the Jews.
Jesus response, “ When Jesus heard him He marveled, and said to those who follow Him, ‘Truly I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith’ ” (v. 10). Only here and in Mark 6:6 when his hometown rejected Him does the Bible say Jesus, “marveled.”
Jesus’ disciples very seldom understood the ministry of Jesus and what faith really meant. The Jewish leaders rejected faith in Christ in order to hang onto their legalism and status and the ordinary people just wanted miracles and bread. But along comes this gentile soldier and enemy of Judaism and he understands “faith.”
We are never told where the centurion learned about Jesus, where he developed his faith or his spiritual condition. But we do know that when he was in real need he turned, by faith, to Jesus and put his trust in His power and compassion. He knew that Jesus didn’t need to come to his house but if He simply willed it his servant would be healed.
As Christians we struggle at times with putting our faith in Christ to see us through the storms. In contrast a man like the centurion brings a faith to Jesus that causes Him to “marvel.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a faith like that?
Faith is a growing process for us and must be cultivated through our growing relationship with God. Through Bible study, fellowship, and prayer we draw closer to God and build up our faith. Let me give you and example of what I mean. I write most of my blogs around five o’clock in the morning and this morning when I woke up and prepared to write the post I couldn’t think of what I wanted to write on. I’ve been reading through Matthew so I decided to read in my Bible instead of writing and the very first verses I read were the ones about the Centurion. The more I thought about the story the more my attention was drawn to Jesus “marveling” at the man’s faith. And, that got me thinking about faith and the next thing I know my faith in God is growing and I’m getting excited about what it means to trust in God. Our faith grows when we study and read the Bible. The Holy Spirit directs us and fills us with hope and assurance through the inspired pages of the Scriptures.
We all need more faith. “And behold a leper came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘ I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Matthew 8:2, 3
God longs to make us all clean of sin and its impact upon us. He bids us simply come to Him and ask and He will cleanse us of our broken relationships, guilt, discouragement and pain. We can put our faith in Him to carry us when we are unable to walk. We can put our faith in Him to hold us and comfort us when everyone else has walked away. He is our refuge in times of storm and He is our delight in the joy of life.
* Please remember to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates