I always appreciate it when the Holy Spirit gives me new insight into a familiar passage. God is willing to reveal to us fresh revelations from His Word about who He is and what He is doing!
I was scheduled to preach the familiar passage ‘Faith of the Centurion’ found in Luke 7:1-10. It is the story of a Roman centurion who asks Jesus for healing for his servant. As I began reading, meditating, and studying the passage, I realized how unusual many of the characteristics were in regards to this story. Let me show you what I mean…
- The centurion (A Roman officer in charge of 100 soldiers under him) cared about his slave (v.2)
- Since slaves were considered a piece of property in those days with no rights, this was highly unusual that a Roman officer would bother and care enough for his young servant when he could simply get another one.
- The centurion was fond of the Jewish people (v.3)
- The Roman Empire owns the nation of Israel. As conquerors, they can easily see themselves as superior and can misuse their power. Not this man! He sent some elders of the Jews to ask Jesus for healing.
- The Jews respected the centurion (v.4)
- If someone conquered your nation and took away many of your freedoms, how much appreciation would you have for those over you? The Roman military is typically seen as a symbol of their rule since they took over Israel in 63 BC. Yet in a bizarre twist, we see a group of select Jews respecting the centurion and willingly representing him and his request to Jesus.
centurion loved the Jewish nation and built their synagogue (v.5)
- Now this seems silly – a man from the conquering nation builds a noteworthy accomplishment for his subjects and he’s not even the main guy in charge! This was quite the opposite as leaders typically built monuments and buildings after themselves (Alexander the Great named 70 cities after himself and even one city after his horse).
I hope you’re convinced that this has to be one of the most unusual starts to a story before meeting Jesus! Many times, it is those unusual moments that reveal God is up to something in our ordinary world. Here, we see that Jesus willing goes with the Jewish representatives to see the centurion and then this happens:
So Jesus went with them. 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. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:6-7)
Who is this guy? I wish we had more background information on the centurion but I believe he was a God-fearing Gentile; hence the reason he understood the Jewish culture for not wanting Jesus to come under his roof (see Acts 10:27-28) and for seeking out Jesus in the first place.
What struck me here was that the centurion was willing to turn down the opportunity to SEE JESUS. Wouldn’t you want to see Jesus in His earthly ministry? Everyone was trying to see Him and at times, crowds would be so intense that he’d have to leave (Mark 5:24; Matthew 8:18). Yet this man, in his humility (which was also unusual for a military official to give such a high degree of respect to someone under him) trusted in Jesus enough that simply His words alone would heal his servant.
What was it about the centurion, that as we will see, will lead Jesus to amazement and stating one of the greatest compliments of all of time?
THE CENTURION’S DEMONSTRATION OF AUTHORITY
As I was getting ready to write this week’s blog, the Holy Spirit was persistent that I continue writing about authority. Last week, we looked at the theological background of our authority given to us by God through what Christ has done. We also looked at how we exercise our Christ-given authority through our words, just as Jesus did when He faced temptation and when He healed people (Click here for ‘Taking Authority‘).
The centurion gives us a glimpse of how understanding authority leads to great faith. We will glean insight from this passage and see how it applies to our lives. Let’s continue to look at how he responded…
“But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 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.” (Luke 7:8)
The centurion’s experience of human authority is how he understood spiritual authority. Have you ever known something to be so factual that you don’t need ‘faith’ for it anymore? From the chair I sit on to hold my weight to the rising of the sun, I can count on these things to take place as they should. These matters of ‘faith’ have become factual – I can trust them to do what I think they are supposed to do. The centurion’s faith was so remarkably strong, there was no sense of wavering or doubt as to what Jesus could do; the statement of ‘but say the word, and my servant will be healed’ came with tremendous confidence because of the authority in Jesus that he believed in.
I can honestly say that I do not need faith to believe that Jesus is real and is my Savior- IT’S A FACT. Throughout my seeking of Him in my faith journey, I’m beyond grateful that the Lord has given me numerous experiences that reveal He is God by overcoming certain trials, receiving prophetic words over my life that came true, and spiritual experiences and giftedness that point to Christ. Yet I do not have the confidence of faith that the centurion has! I have been a part of when the Spirit moves to see people get healed, words of knowledge be given, and transformation take place. I’ve also seen unanswered prayers end in frustration, people still waiting for their healing, and what seems like silence from God. I realize that I am an imperfect vessel and perhaps my faith is at times too. What I appreciate about the centurion is that he understood authority so well, that it only made complete sense for Him to trust the Messiah, the One who was there in the beginning (John 1:1-3).
Despite our failings in our faith and our tendency to base our previous experiences to the present, we can turn to Jesus and trust again. That’s exactly what the centurion demonstrated when he operated out of authority – complete trust. He was familiar with giving orders to those under him (v.8). As soldiers under his command, they were not privy to all the details of why the orders were given, that’s reserved for those above their pay grade. Yet despite not knowing all the details, they were required to obey their commanding officer. This is to be done without question. Without complaining. Without hesitation. Without doubting their commander.
How often when we give our requests to God, we doubt? We don’t see the answer in the time or manner that we desire and so we do not trust Him or obey Him completely? As our supreme commander, we have to trust in the ultimate authority that God knows what He’s doing. Even if…
- We don’t have the full picture in front of us
- We don’t see the answer that we want yet
- We don’t like the person above us or those around us
- It seems that the ‘plan’ is going in the complete opposite of what we want!
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” – Hebrews 11:1
The centurion could see things differently than what we would naturally see – A God who is able to do the impossible because He is not limited by our intellect or by the laws of nature, He’s a God of the possible (Matthew 19:26). Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on Earth” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, you can trust that God will bring what you’re going through to pass for He can use all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). You can believe that, “He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) as you seek and follow His will – for won’t those desires you have come from Him if you are seeking Him fully? You can hold on to the fact that your faith pleases God. If you believe He exists and you earnestly seek Him, He is going to reward you, in this life and the next (Hebrews 11:6).
That’s why Jesus’ response was so amazing (you’ll see what I mean!) Take a look:
‘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.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.’ (Luke 7:9-10)
The unusual characteristics of this story continue on, for Jesus was amazed!
It’s important to understand how rare it was for Jesus to react this way when it comes to faith. There are only 2 times when Jesus was amazed and this was one of them. The other is not quite what we expect:
Mark 6:4-6 – “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Amazing. Either Jesus was amazed by the lack of faith of his townsfolk or by the great faith of the centurion. This leaves us with a choice for today…
When Jesus comes back, how do you want Jesus to react when He sees you?
Do you want Jesus to be amazed by all the opportunities you took to trust in Him as the ultimate authority? By stepping outside of your comfort zone? By loving others when you know they are going to love you back? By praying and asking for miracles in faith?
Do you want Jesus to be amazed by the lack of faith that you had because the trust wasn’t there? This is a frightening thought! Perhaps there were times of doubt that crept in when you were about to make a bold statement of faith? How about moments where fear took over and you froze? It could be certain opportunities that the Holy Spirit nudged you and you ignored it saying, “Someone else could do it.” When it comes to not fully embracing faith when the opportunities arise, I think we’ve all been there.
Thankfully we have a God who is good and where we can always come back to Him, regardless of the times we didn’t get it right! Therefore, the opportunity awaits us as to which choice is ours each day – to be full of faith or lacking in faith. For this week, ask yourself, do your actions reflect that you trust God as the ultimate authority? Perhaps there are some areas of your life that you can do differently to demonstrate the great faith that you desire to have by trusting in Christ. Write down or share with someone you trust to help you in this area. For it is God’s will that you not only believe in Him but that you trust in what He can do. I am praying that He does not only what you ask for, but that you’ll have an increase of faith and an understanding of authority that the centurion had so Jesus can tell you and me that we have GREAT FAITH!