Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick (Luke 7: 1-10).
In our study of the above passage, we learnt about the centurion’s kindness and humility. Today, we consider another aspect of his character and conduct:
- His faith
The centurion’s faith is beautifully illustrated in his simple request to the Lord: “but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed” (v. 7b). Knowing the Lord as One who had miraculous power over diseases, he felt it unnecessary for Jesus to come personally to heal his servant. Being a man of authority himself, the Roman centurion knew that those under him would carry out his every instruction without question: “For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (v. 8). Likewise, just a word of command from Jesus – even from a distance – would suffice to restore his dying servant to full health. So great was his faith in the power of Christ!
“He regards our Lord as one possessing authority over diseases, as complete as his own authority over his soldiers, or a Roman Emperor’s authority over himself. He believes that a word of command from Jesus is sufficient to send sickness away. He asks to see no sign or wonder. He declares his confidence that Jesus is an almighty Master and King, and that diseases, like obedient servants, will at once depart at His orders” (J C Ryle).
This kind of implicit faith was indeed rare during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Many of those who followed Jesus did so for personal gain – the sick, the blind and the lame to be healed; and the hungry to be fed: “… those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did,” tried to “take Him by force, to make Him a king” (Jn. 6: 14-15). Examining the context of these verses, we realise that this specific group of people had benefited from Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes. Not surprisingly, these “followers” who sought the Lord for their own selfish ends, left Him when His teachings offended them. We are told that many “went back, and walked no more with Him” (Jn. 6: 66).
Even the scribes and Pharisees doubted Jesus’ divinity. Although they had heard His teachings, and seen Him working signs and wonders, they were still skeptical. Instead of believing in Him, these religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority and demanded signs to back up His claim of divinity: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee” (Matt. 12: 28; cf. Matt. 16: 1; Mk. 8: 11; Lk. 11: 16). Their hearts hardened in unbelief and pride, their “proposal was made as a sort of challenge, with evil and unfriendly designs” (Abbott New Testament Commentary). What a stark contrast to the simple, believing faith of this Gentile soldier! Evidently, he had heard of Jesus and His power to work signs and wonders and believed in His divinity and ability to heal his dying servant.
The centurion’s faith won the commendation of the Lord Who “marvelled at him” before the crowd: “I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (v. 9). His faith is even more remarkable when compared to that of the Jews who were God’s chosen people and who had been given more light and means of grace (Rom. 9: 4-5).
“It speaks shame to Israel, to whom pertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, and all the assistances and encouragements of faith. Note, when the Son of man comes, he finds little faith, and, therefore, he finds so little fruit. Note, the attainments of some, who have had but little helps for their souls, will aggravate the sin and ruin of many, that have had great plenty of the means of grace, and have not made a good improvement of them. Christ said this to those that followed him, if by any means he might provoke them to a holy emulation, as Paul speaks (Rom 11: 14). They were Abraham’s seed; in jealousy for that honour, let them not suffer themselves to be outstripped by a Gentile, especially in that grace for which Abraham was eminent” (Matthew Henry).
Jesus honoured the centurion’s faith and healed his servant: “And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matt. 8: 13 cf. Lk. 7: 10).
Brethren, the Lord has blessed us with bountiful spiritual blessings and means of grace. How have we responded to the many opportunities to know and serve Him, to grow in His grace and knowledge? Do we exercise unwavering faith in the Lord? Do we trust Him wholly to guide us in our daily lives? Have we submitted ourselves humbly to His will? May the Lord find in us “great faith” like that of the Roman centurion.