The Great Faith of the Centurion

Only two times in all four Gospels did Jesus ever compliment people on their faith, and both times it was Gentiles (Non-Jews) who received His praise. The first is found in Matthew 15:28, when a Canaanite woman came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was afflicted by a demon. Her words to Jesus expressed persevering faith. The second person recorded in the Gospels is found in the passage we are studying today, i.e. a gentile centurion.

1When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8“For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health (Luke 7:1-10).

This servant had endeared himself to his master so much that, when the centurion saw his servant slipping away into death, he became desperate enough to spend his relational capital with the Jewish elders by asking them if they would mediate with Jesus to heal his servant. When he heard that the Jewish elders had succeeded in their intercession with Jesus and that Christ was on His way to the house of the centurion, he sent another person to Jesus to stop Him before He gets to the house. His faith was expressed by his actions.

Faith Expressed by Action: We hear of Christ marveling or being amazed at the centurion’s faith in taking a risk by asking Jesus to just speak the Word of Healing. This man recognizes that Jesus has authority on earth to heal sicknesses without coming under a Gentile’s roof. The centurion felt unworthy to be in His presence, let alone have Jesus under his roof. He knew that it was forbidden for a strict Jew to enter the house of a Gentile and that to do so would make a Jew ceremonially unclean. Yes, it was risky for the centurion to stop Jesus on the way, but this tells us something of the faith that pleased the Lord. To the Jewish elders of the town, this man seems worthy to have Jesus heal his servant, but the centurion proclaims his unworthiness. In his mind, his servant is worthy of being healed, but the centurion feels his own unworthiness as a sinner in the presence of the Son of God. Often, though, God calls us to action to express our faith.

It hadn’t rained in a long time, and things were getting desperate. The ministers decided that they were going to call a prayer meeting. They said, “Look, we want the whole town to come to the prayer meeting and bring their religious symbols.” So the whole town showed up for the prayer meeting and people brought crosses, they brought their Bibles, the Catholics brought their rosaries, and they all cried out to God. They finished the prayer meeting. No rain was in sight. They all went home. The next day, though, in the town square where they had the meeting, there was a little boy. “Oh, God, we need rain.” God, show your power, and give us rain.” The day before, with all the preachers and all the religious symbols, calling on God, no rain. The little boy shows up the next day by himself in the town square, and as he was praying, rumbling occurred. As he was praying, the shower hit, and it was pouring with rain. What was it about this little boy? He said the same things that all the people said the day before, but the day the young boy came, when the clouds got dark, he lifted up his symbol that he brought: an umbrella. He expected it to rain. When the weather man tells you on the news that it will rain the next day, we believe his word and most of us take our umbrellas. Why is it, when it comes to God, who is never wrong, we hesitate to believe His Word and act on it.[1]

Keith Thomas

[1] Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book of Illustrations, Printed by Moody Publishers, 2009, Page 98.

Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).

In the previous chapter Jesus had stated that He was the great I AM (John 8:58), the name God had told Moses that He was to be called by (Exodus 3:14). To the Jewish people, to make such a declaration was unthinkable! How dare He say that He was God! They were so angry at His statements about Himself that they began stoning Him for blasphemy (John 8:59). He had also stated in the previous chapter, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). He said this about Himself while up in the Temple Courts (John 8:2), more than likely before the four big giant candelabra’s symbolizing God as the One who had been their light leading them in the darkness during the wilderness wanderings. Notice that He didn’t say I am a light, but I am the Light of the World. He claimed exclusively to be Israel’s Light. Now He is set to prove it as He is leaving the Temple precincts.

Put yourself in the shoes of the man born blind. He could hear the conversation between the Lord and His disciples, but couldn’t see what was going on. He more than likely heard Jesus collecting spittle in his mouth and spitting it on the ground. I would think that the Lord told him He was about to put something on his eyes. Did he know Jesus before the mud was put on his eyes? I think not. He explained later on, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see” (verse 11).

Sometimes the Lord tests our obedience to His voice. He will offend your mind to reveal your heart. How would you feel about someone rubbing mud in your eyes? Was he offended as he stumbled about with mud on his eyes trying to find his way to the Pool of Siloam? I’m sure there were a few on the way that probably offered to give him water to wash off his face while he was going. I’m sure there were a few who laughed at his obedience to Jesus. Was someone leading him on the way? We do not know, but no matter what was on the way or who was leading him, he was determined to do just as Jesus had said. He was well rewarded when he found his way down the steps to the pool of water. He washed and was instantly healed. How determined are you to hear His Word and do God’s will? What if he had washed his eyes before He had got to Siloam? I don’t think he would have been healed, and we wouldn’t be reading about his obedience to the Lord. Can I encourage you today not to compromise your faith in Christ? Hold on to Him in the midst of the darkness as we stumble towards Siloam. We might not see everything that we would like to see but obedience to Christ pays big dividends! The end of our faith is well worth listening to His Word.

This study was taken from the study of John 9:1-41, Jesus and the Man Born Blind. It’s found in the middle column under the heading of the Book of John.

Keith Thomas

Jesus and the Faith of a Royal Official

And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed (John 4:46-53).

The royal official who lived in Capernaum had full expectation that Jesus could make his son well because he had heard all the stories of the miraculous signs in Jerusalem. The Greek word translated “royal official” is basilikos, meaning “kings man.” This is a person of high rank, a man who is one of Herod’s trusted officials. His rank means nothing now though—he was a man in need of his son’s healing. As he saw his son’s health declining, desperation, hope and faith in God began to rise when he heard of the works of Jesus, the miracles that Christ had been doing.

The Royal Official Had Four Growth Spurts to His Faith

 1) He believed enough to travel 19 miles to see Jesus. There is something about this royal official that is wonderful to consider. We are told that he lived in Capernaum on the edge of the Sea of Galilee with his son. It was quite a gamble he was taking because he could have used his time to go see the doctor. Instead he placed his faith in Christ and decided that if he went himself, he would plead with Jesus to travel the nineteen miles to Capernaum to lay His hands on his son. The five-hour walk to Cana, I’m sure, was a time of brokenness and heartache at the thought of losing his son. Had he made the right choice? What if Jesus was too busy? Can He do the things that they say He can do? Do I have enough time to go this far and for Jesus to get back in time? One wonders if the boy was already in a coma when the father left. The royal official was sure his boy was dying.

2) He begs Jesus for His help. The words begged him to come, in verse 47, is in the imperfect tense, so it should be paraphrased that he kept on begging Him over and over again. This man would not let up; He put all of his hope in Jesus. He pled out of urgency and desperation. The very thought of losing his son was unbearable. This was a man who cared deeply, and he would do anything for his son to be better. Wouldn’t you? This man, dressed in his official garb, and quite desperate, drew even more of a crowd who wanted to see what was happening.

3) He believed Jesus’ word that his son would live. Jesus said to the man: “You may go; your son will live” (verse 53). If it had been me, I would have said, “What, no sign! No prayer! What is this? That’s not the way it’s supposed to happen! How can I know that what you say is true? Are you saying that I am just supposed to believe that the work of healing has been done without you coming and laying hands on him?” We are told that he didn’t get home until the next day. The miracle, he found out when he got home, happened at the seventh hour of the day before (verse 52), exactly at the time Jesus had said, “Your son will live” (verse 53).

4) He and his whole household believed. When he got home and saw his family, how much joy would have flooded his soul? No wonder his whole household believed when they found out that the very time Jesus told him to go home was the very time his son was healed. Isn’t the Lord amazing?

These thoughts were taken from the more complete study in the Book of John, found in the middle column by scrolling down the studies to the bottom. Click on study 9. John 4:46-54.

Keith Thomas

If You Are Willing, You Can Make Me Clean.

12While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).

There were two kinds of leprosy in Jesus’ day. One that was rather like a very bad skin disease, while the other was a disease that started from a small spot and ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.

The man in our passage was covered with leprosy (verse 12). The Book of Leviticus gave very specific instructions about various skin diseases, leprosy being one of them.  Lepers could not live inside the town, obviously that meant that they could not go to synagogue or the Temple. They were outcasts of society. The leper was to cry “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went: he was to dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). They had to carry a bell everywhere they went and if anyone should come within 50 yards of them they had to ring a warning to them. Leprosy was a contagious disease.

Dr A. B. Macdonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious skin diseases. Shunned and despised, frequently lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.” Often the leper came to hate himself. That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean and Jesus touched him. It doesn’t seem as if this man came with anyone else if he was part of a leper colony.  Somehow he heard of Jesus and sought Him out.

We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The leper had the faith to go in search of Jesus. He risked being stoned for being in the town. It was evident to all he was a leper because he “was covered with leprosy.”  There’s a courage born of desperation that brings him to Jesus proclaiming his words of faith, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There is no doubt in his heart that Jesus can do this.  If there is any doubt at all it seems to be about the willingness of a Rabbi to even associate with him. He knew Jesus to be a holy man and was afraid to cause him to be unclean by being near Him, but his was a courage born of desperation. To come into contact with a leper would demand that anyone wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. There was no hesitation in Jesus. He is willing to heal. We would all have wept if we had seen this untouchable being touched with the love of God.

Compassion is a quality sorely in need today. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to reach out beyond ourselves to those He loves and wants to touch. Jesus told him to go and show himself to the priest so that he would be inspected and having been found clean, would be able to be brought into the community of the faithful. Love the unlovely, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

Keith Thomas

The God Who Graciously Stoops

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

 The Great Creator God, who made all things, is a God of grace. It was His plan from the very beginning of the ages to bring forth a bride for His Son, the Lord Jesus. This bride is composed of people from all nations who are born-again of the Spirit, those who will bow the knee to receive God’s gift of complete pardon for rebellion and sin. When one considers our rebellious and sinful nature and our corrupt hearts before God, this is wonderful grace.

To understand the full meaning of grace, we need to turn to its usage in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word chen means “to bend or stoop.” It has the idea of “condescending favor,” the kind of favor that a King has for one of his people.

Queen Victoria of England, when she was a girl and had just become queen, was asked to sign a death warrant for a person who, by court martial, had been condemned to death. It is said that she said to the Duke who brought her the warrant, “Cannot you find any reason why this man should be pardoned?” The Duke said, “No, it was a very great offense; he ought to be punished.” “But was he a good soldier?” The Duke said he was a shamefully bad soldier, and had always been noted as a bad soldier. “Well, cannot you invent for me any reason?” “Well,” he said, “I have every reason to believe from testimony that he was a good man, although a bad soldier.” “That will do,” she said, and she wrote across the warrant, “pardoned”—not because the man deserved it—but because she wanted a reason for having mercy.[1]

God has stooped down to us in grace and mercy bestowing His wonderful favor upon us, writing across our warrant, “pardoned.” This He did not do grudgingly, but lavishly and joyfully. It was what He purposed in His heart to do! That which we couldn’t do, that which was impossible for us, He has accomplished in Christ. This is self-sacrificing love, agape love. Justice demanded that the soul that sins must die, but God in His love for us came in the person of His Son, Jesus, to take our place, to die our death instead of us, to taste death for every man. “Jesus…by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

Allow me to say something very important and let it sink into your soul: there is not one thing that you could do to make God love you more, and there is not one thing that you could do that could make Him love you less. Read that again and let it sink in. Paul, before he was converted, was a murderer. Worse than that, he murdered Christians and thought He was doing God a favor. Do you think that offended the Holy Spirit? I cannot think of anything worse. Yet, while he was self-righteous, and persecuting God’s saints, God the Father had mercy and extended grace to him while he was a murderer. He did not wait for Paul to clean himself up, or even have a change of heart. God gave him a new heart! Don’t think that there is anything too terrible for God to look at or to forgive. Don’t think for a moment that there is any sin that could possibly hold you back from experiencing the grace of God. Let His grace break through to you, wherever you are, being aware of His favor upon you right now!

Keith Thomas

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Human Depravity and Divine Mercy, http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs615.pdf