Read Matthew 8:5-12 (ESV)
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
How did the centurion demonstrate both a bold faith and a humble heart?
The Roman army is often regarded as one of the best armies of all time. One of the reasons for their success was their organizational structure. Roman soldiers were divided into “legions” or groups of about 4,000-6,000 soldiers. The leader of each legion was called a “legionnaire.” The legions were then broken up into smaller groups of roughly 100 men called “centuries” and the officers in charge of these groups were called “centurions.” But even the centurions were ranked by seniority.
Because centurions were a part of hierarchy, they had to answer to the officers who ranked above them. But they were also responsible for all of the men below them. To maintain order, centurions carried a rod and could beat those who opposed them. Thus, centurions were in a position of authority but they were also under authority.
We meet a Roman centurion in today’s verses and see that he has a unique respect and understanding of Jesus’ authority. His servant was paralyzed and suffering so he sought Jesus out and asked Him to heal his servant. But when Jesus agreed to come, the centurion humbly replied that he was not worthy to have Jesus in his home. He was a Gentile, so it’s possible that he knew that Jesus, a Jew, would be considered unclean if He came into a Gentile’s home. He may not have wanted to inconvenience Jesus with all that it would require to become purified after the encounter.
But it also seems that the centurion had a genuine understanding of who he was in regards to who Jesus is. He seems to understand that Jesus served under the authority of God the Father and yet had the complete authority granted to him to be able to heal those who were suffering. The centurion understood that Jesus only needed to say the word and his servant would be healed. He knew Jesus could just command sickness to leave and sickness would have to obey.
His understanding and confidence in Jesus’ power and authority is in stark contrast to the Jewish elites at that time. The religious leaders should have seen all that Jesus was doing and recognized Him as the Messiah. But instead, they questioned His authority at every turn. That’s why Jesus said many Gentiles would be saved but many Israelites would not.
In Matthew 21:23, the chief priests challenged Jesus saying, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” The Jews knew the Old Testament Scripture! They knew the prophecies! But instead of embracing His authority as the Messiah, they tried to exercise their own perceived authority over Him!
Friends, faith in Jesus requires a humility that understands who Jesus is and who we are in relationship to Him. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” is repeated at least three times in Scripture—Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5. We have to understand that He outranks us! But, we also understand His power. We know that all He has to do is say the word and it will be so. Like the centurion, we can be humbly confident in Jesus Christ.
Jesus, I know that all power in heaven and on earth has been granted to You (Matthew 28:18). I know that I am not worthy of You. But because of who You are, what You’ve done, and what You have the power to do, I can confidently place my faith and trust in You alone. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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