The Great Faith of a 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 whose daughter was afflicted by a demon. Her words to Jesus expressed persevering faith. The second person recorded in the Gospels is found in Luke 7, the story of a Roman centurion whose servant was sick:

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 the centurion 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 stop Him before Christ got 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 recognized that Jesus has authority on earth to heal sicknesses without coming under a Gentile’s roof. The centurion felt unworthy to have Jesus under his roof. He knew that it was forbidden for a 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. In his mind, his servant was worthy of being healed, but the centurion is considerate of Jesus and expresses faith in healing without Christ’s presence in his house. Faith expressed by action is God-pleasing. Let me give you an example:

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.

What Do You See–What is Your Vision?

1After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:1-6).

One of the most stunning sights that I can remember happened one night while I was working as a commercial fisherman on the East Coast of England on my father’s fishing boat. At the time, I was working the boat all alone during the night. Way past midnight, more than 8 miles from land, I set the boat to automatic pilot and turned off all the lights on deck. Then I went out on deck, laid down flat on my back on one of the unused nets and looked up at the stars. Have you ever been away from civilization where there are no lights and looked at the stars on a clear night? It is one of the most stunning sights of this world. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that night, and no artificial lights to hinder the view. I sensed that the Lord was telling me that there was more to my life than spending most of my waking hours working in solitude away from others on my father’s fishing boat. That moment is one that I will always remember, and the sight of that night sky will always stick with me. It was a moment when I became convinced that the future held something different for me, and that God would teach me a different kind of fishing.

Instead of using a net, I would learn to use the Word of God. Instead of catching fish, I would learn to fish for men; a call that Jesus had made to His early disciples. I felt that I just had to be faithful to learn from Him and do what was at my right hand to do in the meantime (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This was the vision that God gave Abram. He told him to go outside of his tent and look up at the stars. Count the stars, if indeed you can count them—so shall your offspring be. A vision that he could hold in his mind; a vision that would enable him to persevere in his faith through many challenges. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. At that point in the account of his life, his name was still Abram, which means exalted father, but God would give him a name change to reflect the vision that he held in his heart from that day. He would be called Abraham—Father of a multitude. What vision do you hold in your heart? Does this vision shape your daily actions? Are you working towards fulfilling it? If you have no vision as to your future, God wants to plant one in your heart. Life is not about living for this world, but for the next. May a vision of how God wants to use you begin to take hold of your life and propel you to be closer to God.

Keith Thomas