Chapter 7 of Luke’s gospel begins with the faith of a Roman centurion. Jesus goes on to raise a widow’s son, then we have the story about how Jesus relates to John the Baptist. The chapter concludes with the story about a forgiven woman.
In this first story, Jesus heals the servant of a Roman Centurion. This is extraordinary as, a) the centurion was not Jewish, and b) the centurion was a leader in the army of the occupying force.
Read Luke 7:1-10
Jesus was on his way back to a place called Capernaum when some respected Jewish guys asked Jesus to go with them to a Roman Centurion’s house to heal his servant. A Roman Centurion was a senior soldier commanding up to a thousand men (not just a hundred as commonly thought). Jesus agreed to go with these Jewish elders, and they set off. But on the way they met even more servants sent from the Centurion, and this time they carried a strange message. The Centurion had done some reflecting, and the messengers told Jesus not to come in person after all, for two reasons. Firstly, the Centurion claimed he was not worthy of the presence of Jesus, and secondly, because he believed that Jesus didn’t actually need to come in person; Jesus could simply say the word where he was and the Centurion’s servant would be healed. Jesus was blown away by the Centurion’s faith and the servant was healed.
We know that Judea, the land of the Jews, was occupied by a brutal enemy – The Romans. But here, we get a very different picture. Clearly this wealthy Roman Centurion, a Gentile (non-Jewish) outsider, hadn’t just gained the respect of the local Jewish community, but had gained a faith in the God of Israel. And even more incredibly, he believed, without doubt, that Jesus was the expected Messiah.
In some ways, the Roman Centurion was bang on the money. He wasn’t deserving of the presence of Jesus. He was a trained killer. He was working for the enemy as part of the occupying force. He was rich from wealth obtained from a brutal occupation. And he wasn’t Jewish. And yet, Jesus said that in the whole Jewish nation he’d not encountered a faith as humble and as strong as this guy!
Jesus was concerned with character and he still is. The Centurion’s heart was full of humility and faith. Luke, in his gospel, by telling us this story, is asking us whether, today, we have that same humility and faith in Jesus Christ?
Today, in humility, ask God to give you the gift of faith – that you might be certain, in whatever difficulties you’re going through, that ultimately, God is in control.
Holy God, I know that I’m not worthy of your presence in my life, and yet you invite me to be part of your story. Give me the gift of faith in you, that I may trust in you in all circumstances; believing that you have all authority in heaven and on earth. You’re my Saviour, my Lord, my King and my friend, this day and forever. Amen.
What does Jesus’ reaction to the Centurion tell us about who’s welcomed into the kingdom of Jesus?
Is faith something we generate within ourselves or something that is given to us by God?