When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, appealing to Him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also 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 the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, He was amazed and said to those who followed Him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, while the heirs of the Kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour. (Matthew 8:5-13, NRSV)
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“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
These ten words are the focus of today’s devotion. For the first time, we find Jesus accomplishing a great work in accordance to the faith of another. This is huge.
Because of the Centurion’s faith, Jesus chose to act. Because of the Centurion’s faith, Jesus chose to intercede. And because of the Centurion’s faith, Jesus chose to move.
The faith of one man brought about the reality changing work of our Savior. But I need us to focus on how oxymoronic this sounds.
This Centurion’s faith led Jesus to act? This man outside of the Jewish religion persuaded Jesus to intercede? This Roman soldier – known for his brutality, pagan worship, and cultural prejudice – got our Jesus to move?
Well…sort of. The inner workings of faith is a little more abstract than the concrete facts of the story. And what we learn from Jesus is that this man’s faith was greater than anyone else Jesus had met in Israel.
Pause – it was greater? Greater than the Jewish leaders’ faith? Greater than the disciples’ faith? Greater than John the Baptist’s faith? Greater than His own mother’s faith? It seems to be so.
But what I want you to note is how unthinkable this statement was.
How could a Gentile – a pagan – have the greatest faith? To the average Jew, there was very little love, let alone respect, toward a Roman Centurion. They were unjust, unrighteous, and unruly. They did not deserve the faith of the forefathers – of the Great Patriarchs of Israel. This faith was theirs, not his. This way was theirs, not his. This God was theirs, not his. And this blessing was theirs, not his.
Yet in a single conversation, Jesus drops the ball on one of the most glorious, yet utterly heart-wrenching realities of His ministry: The Kingdom of God is not based on lineage, it is based on faith. In other words, there will be faithful Gentiles in heaven and faithless Jews in hell.
And this “pagan’s” faith opened the doors for Jesus’ ministry in his life. No, he did not lead, persuade, or control Jesus – he simply believed. And throughout scripture (and Church History) we find faith and belief being the very avenues to which God performs His Kingdom work.
With that said, what are the marks of a “great faith” that Jesus recognizes in this man. Let’s wrestle with two.
1. Humility towards God and others.
Despite his stature and authority, this Centurion displays such a level of humility. First, towards his servant – who from the specific word used was most likely a young, ethnic boy.
Because of what we know from history, this servant boy may have been the only “family” that this Soldier had, for soldiers were not permitted to have legal families during their two years of military service.
So here is a man who humbles himself in desperation, despite his ranking, his prestige, or his title for someone of different ethnicity. And he does so to a Rabbi, a Jewish Rabbi, someone the Soldiers would have mocked, ridiculed, and slandered.
Yet in his second display of humility, he submits his request with a posture of compete surrender and unworthiness.
He is a strong man, submitting himself under a Rabbi - only through faith can this be possible.
2. Recognition of Divine Kingship.
And in the Centurion’s humble posture, he discloses something amazing: his complete recognition of Jesus’ authority. As a man of power, he understood that servants do what their masters say.
But in this dialogue you begin to discover that he is fully aware of the spiritual realm and to Whom it belongs. He understands that with one word, His servant’s sickness would obey Jesus.
In his heart, he knew that Jesus could. He believed that all things were found under the will of this Rabbi. And he understood of the depths of power that were flowing through Him.
And this level of recognition, when mixed with authentic humility, produced an overflowing amount of faith within. Standing before him was God – and he knew it.
But as I look at my own heart, I wonder where I compare (in a healthy way, that is). Do I live with this level of care? Do I go out of my way for people who are weaker than I? Different than I? And do I humbly submit my requests to God - not out of entitlement, but out of surrender?
And what about my recognition? Do I approach life, conversations, temptations, and obstacles knowing that with one word, Jesus could change reality? Do I act upon the belief that the Lord inside of me literally commands the heavens and earth; the physical and spiritual? Do I believe that God can _____________?
If so, I bet I would begin to discover God’s transformative hand all around me – not because I am doing something more, but because I am believing that He can do more. May this truth define our hearts today.
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Greg, Declare Glory