Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Faith of the Centurion (Luke 7:1-10)

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.  There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

This chapter follows after Jesus has given us some rather difficult teachings.    We are told he has entered Capernaum.  We can assume that the masses of people are still following him and surrounding him.  We are immediately told about a servant.  Not just any servant, but a centurion's servant.  A centurion is a Roman soldier who is in charge of 100 men.  He is not a guy to be trifled with.  Roman soldiers are not known for their compassion.  Officers, even less so.  Look at the verse again.  This servant was valued highly.  In this time, a servant is just that: a servant.  There is no value for them beyond what they can do.  Even then, other servants can do the same as others.  There is nothing special about them.  Yet, this Roman centurion values his servant highly.  This is not your average centurion!

At any rate, this valued servant is deathly ill, so the centurion sends Jewish elders to Jesus to ask for his healing.  Okay, this should be setting off all kinds of alerts in your head.  Jewish elders do as this Roman asks.  Do you know that the Jews and Romans tried to have as little contact as possible?  The Jews hated the Romans.  Yet, he asks them to go and they go!  Surely there must be more to this guy than we know.  I mean, first of all, he's got some kind of amicable [friendly] relationship with the Jews, he has heard about Jesus, knows who Jesus is, and what he has done for others.

So, these elders go to Jesus and plead with him to heal the valued servant.  Here we learn more about the centurion.  He loves the nation of Israel.  He even built a synagogue for them.  Wow.  This is just remarkable!  This Roman guy gets it.  He loves the Jewish people and has honored their God.  Can you imagine the shock Jesus and his disciples must have felt?  Maybe that's why Jesus agreed to heal the servant.  So he went to the centurion's house.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

It was taboo for a Rabbi to enter the house of a gentile.  The centurion displays some pretty impressive knowledge of Jewish customs and traditions here.  He also displays great humility saying that he is not worthy to have Jesus in his home.  He even considers himself unworthy to come to him directly.  That's an incredible amount of respect!  Now, did you read what the centurion says about commanding soldiers?  Do you see what kind of faith this is?  He says if Jesus will just say the word, I know that my servant will be healed.  That's some pretty incredible faith.  If you look in the Bible, there aren't many places where Jesus was amazed.  He is so amazed he even comments that he has not seen faith like this, even in Israel.  A gentile has more faith and any Israelite Jesus has encountered.

I want faith like that.  I want faith like that.
I want a faith that amazes Jesus.
Father, increase my faith in you.
Give me the courage to rely on my faith in You.

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