One of my favorite interactions from the Gospels takes place in both Luke’s account (Chapter 7), and Matthew’s (Chapter 8). In it, Jesus finds a particular man so remarkable that He says to those around Him, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith”. I don’t know about you, but when Jesus makes a statement like that about someone, it makes me want to emulate that same behavior, so let’s take a closer look at this passage about a Roman Centurion and the “great faith” that he exhibited…
1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 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.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. – Luke 7:1-10
Jesus’ reaction to the Centurion’s statement is remarkable. So what is it about this interaction that leads Jesus to say He has not found anyone else with such great faith? In order to understand this better, it helps to know some context about the Roman military…
If a Roman soldier disobeyed an order from his direct superior – no matter his rank – he was not charged with defying his superior, but rather, with defying Caesar himself. By referencing his own status as an officer of the Roman military, what this Centurion is really acknowledging about Jesus is this: “In the same way that I wield the very power and authority of Caesar to those placed under me, you wield the very power and authority of God Himself. And since nothing in creation is outside of God’s authority, you even have power over disease and death. Not only that, but time and space aren’t constraints to you, so you don’t even need to come to my servant, but merely say the word from wherever you are and I know that he will be healed”.
Jesus commends him as having great faith, not because of what he believed Jesus could do, but because his faith in what Jesus could do was based on his recognition of who Jesus is.
Charles Spurgeon had this to say about the faith of the Centurion:
“Beloved, see whether this truth bears us as on eagle’s wings. Caesar has but to say, “Absolve te,” and his guilty subject is acquitted, Caesar has but to speak, and a province is conquered, an army routed. Stormy seas are navigated at Caesar’s bidding, mountains are tunneled, the whole world shall be girded with military roads, Caesar is absolute, and his will is law. So on earth, but so much more in heaven. Let the imperial Caesar of heaven but say, “I forgive,” and the devils of hell cannot accuse you. Let Him say, “I will help you,” and who shall oppose? If Emmanuel be for you, who shall be against you? Let Him speak, and the bonds of sinful habit must fall off, and the darkness in which your soul has long been immured must give place to the instantaneous light. He reigns as King, Lord over all, let His name be blessed forever, let each one of us, by our faith, give Him the honor that is due unto His name. All hail! great Emperor, once slain, but now forever Lord of heaven and earth!” – Charles H. Spurgeon 3/15/1868