The Word for Today: Luke 7:1-17
Mark this: Luke 7:9
"When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
"I've never met a _______ that I didn't like."
Each one of us could fill in the blank with something different.
Maybe it's a candy bar or a type of clothing or a certain car or a something electronic.
The Bible, we never encounter a centurion that we don't like.
Think about it. In a book full of all kinds of unsavory or at least flawed characters, there is nothing mentioned negatively concerning centurions. We have good patriarchs and bad ones, good and bad kings, good and bad priests, good and bad prophets, even good and bad apostles (well, just the one that went rotten.) But nary an unfavorable word concerning centurions.
Centurions were the backbone of the Roman military. They, by hard work and leadership, were placed in the officer rank over a group of around 100 soldiers. But they certainly were not of the higher general rank. They would lead and then fight beside their troops in battle.
In the Bible, it was a centurion that spared the imprisoned Apostle Paul's life (1). In the Bible, the very first Gentile conversion in the early church is a centurion named Cornelius (2). In the Bible, it is the not the priests or rulers, but instead a humble centurion who recognizing the crucified Jesus as "the Son of God (3)."
Today's passage (also found in Matthew 8) we see another centurion highlighted. It begins like so many of the healing accounts found in the Gospels. You know, a person or persons with an urgent physical need come to the "miracle maker" and Jesus provides healing and restoration.
In this account, the unnamed commander is greatly concerned for a servant of his, and he sends a delegation to make the need know to Jesus.
Jesus does agree and, indeed, heal the servant. But that is where the similarity with the other healing stories ends. We know from verses 4 & 5, this centurion was a real, stand-up guy. But what stands out even more is just how big and accurately he saw Jesus. He recognized that Jesus could help his sick servant, and he took action that brought that request to Jesus. But even beyond that, he also recognized that he was not deserving of even hosting the Son of God. He recognized that Christ's power was not limited to certain proximity. All his life he had been a part of the Roman authority structure, with Caesar at the top. Now he recognizes that one greater than any Caesar is here, whose very words bring life and hope and restoration.
The results are remarkable. Not only is his servant well, but we see a unique reaction and commendation from Jesus Himself. Jesus marveled, was amazed, astonished. The only other instance in all the gospels of this kind of reaction from the Lord comes from the blatant "lack of faith" of the people from his hometown (4). This story involving the centurion provides us with not only a great example of Jesus' miraculous ability, but also a great example of what it means to trust Jesus for salvation.
Like the centurion, we are not worthy or deserving to even welcome Christ anywhere near us.
Like the centurion, we depend solely upon His word.
Like the centurion, we recognize that Jesus alone has the real authority over life and death, Heaven and Hell.
So if you find yourself weak in the areas of faith and trust, don't try to artificially inflate yourself with bigger faith. Instead, follow the example of the centurion and come to understand a bigger Jesus- the only thing worth marveling over.
(1) Acts 27:43
(2) Acts 10
(3) Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47
(4) Mark 6:6