When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”
This story in Luke 7 contains several surprises. The first is that a centurion would seek Jesus’ help. A centurion was an officer in the Roman army who commanded about a hundred soldiers (a century of soldiers). Romans in general, and Roman military officials in particular, were not apt to reach out to a Jewish prophet, especially one whose message bordered on anti-Roman treason.
The second surprise is that the centurion used Jewish elders to intercede on his behalf. For the most part, Jews were not fond of the Romans, especially the Roman army. The fact that some Jewish leaders were willing to represent a Roman centurion suggests that something very strange is going on here.
The strangeness is increased when we learn that this centurion loved the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for them. This man was unique in his affection for the people over whom he exercised military and civic authority.
The next surprise comes when friends of the centurion approached Jesus and told him not to bother coming to the centurion’s home in order to heal his sick slave. It’s not that the centurion had given up on the notion of having Jesus heal the slave. Rather, the centurion believed that Jesus’ authority to heal did not require his physical presence. Even as the centurion had authority to order soldiers to do things when they were not in his presence, so Jesus had authority to heal.
The next surprise for us is Jesus’ response. Luke notes that “he was amazed [by the centurion]” (7:9). Sometimes we tend to think of Jesus as possessing all knowledge at all times, such that he would never be surprised by anything. In fact, however, Jesus marveled at the extraordinary faith of the centurion, both because he had not met anyone with such bold faith and because this amazingly faithful person was a Roman military officer. In response to this man’s faith, Jesus healed his slave.
As I reflect upon this story, I find myself eager for stronger faith in Jesus. I wish Jesus might look upon me one day and say, “Wow! I’m amazed by Mark’s faith.” (I don’t know if Jesus still gets amazed as he did when living on earth, but you get the point.) I want to trust the Lord more than I do, to call upon him for great things, to act as if he really does possess “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). I would like to go through this day with an awareness of Jesus’ power and presence, even though he is not physically here with me.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think the centurion had such faith? What helps you to trust Jesus more? What makes it hard for you to trust him? If you really believe that Jesus was present and powerful in your life today, what might you do differently?
PRAYER: O Lord, today my prayer is simple: I want faith like that of the centurion. I want amazing faith!
I want this faith, not just for my own benefit, though there is joy in trusting you, but also for the sake of your kingdom and glory. The more I trust you, the more I am a channel of your peace and power. The more I have confidence in you, the more I am willing and able to serve you in every facet of my life.
So, by your grace and by your Spirit, may I believe in you even more today than I did yesterday, and more tomorrow than today, and so on and so on. In your name I pray, Amen.