After Jesus had finished saying all these things in the hearing of the people, he went to Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom he valued highly, was sick and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and save his servant’s life. So they went to Jesus and begged him repeatedly, “He deserves to have this done for him, because he loves our people and built our synagogue for us.”
So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus, “Sir, stop troubling yourself. For I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That’s why I didn’t presume to come to you. But just say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority and have soldiers under me. I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes, to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my servant ‘Do this’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found this kind of faith!” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant in perfect health.Luke 7:1-10
When Jesus heard this He was amazed. The word for amazed is [thaumazo] meaning marvel, wonder, be amazed, surprised. There was something about his statement that amazed Jesus. So much so that he turned to look at the crowd following and made sure they got the point. Jesus didn’t want the crowd to miss the impact of what this Gentile had to say. Such great faith – so great, so large, so strong! A Gentile Roman officer showing faith greater than any Jew. “Not even in Israel” – doesn’t mean there was no great faith in Israel. Jesus found great faith in Israel too, just not as much as this Gentile was evidencing. So why was his faith so great?
He totally trusted Jesus to be able to do anything. He had absolute confidence that Jesus just had to speak the word and his servant will be healed. As we concluded yesterday it was not because He would send the disciples to do the healing. He believed that Jesus could accomplish the healing with just a word. In fact he didn’t want to Jesus to come to his house because he felt unworthy for that to happen and as we saw yesterday, because it would make Jesus ceremonially unclean if He entered his house. Just think for a minute what happened in other parts of Scripture. Naaman is an interesting story, full of lessons for us.
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.2 Kings 5:9-12
What an interesting reaction! But isn’t that like most of us? Doesn’t Naaman exemplify us all? I thought he would come and meet me. Not just send a messenger and tell me to go wash in the Jordan. Doesn’t he know I am the commander of the armies of the King of Aram? Most of us are so full of our own importance because we are tainted with the human disease – I’ism – sin. If we go up to the front of the church to be prayed for, we want the pastor to pray for us, not just some home group leader. Or maybe the visiting speaker. We don’t like it when they talk about the body ministering to the body meaning the pastor doesn’t have to pray for everyone. Elders and home group leaders and others can do it. That doesn’t sit well does it? We want the head honcho to lay hands on us and pray for us. But don’t you see it is Jesus who ultimately heals you? You can see from Naaman’s reaction that it made him mad when Elisha didn’t come out to meet him but sent and servant and the servant to told him to go and wash in the Jordan. We want something special. We all like to be touched and have hands laid on us, unless we have had a bad experience in having hands laid on us. We want the personal touch. The face to face encounter with the “big man”.
The woman with the issue of blood wanted to touch the hem of His garment. (Luke 8:44) If we can just get to close to the power: the pastor, the anointing, the ritual. Something that is out of the ordinary. In Peter and Paul’s ministry it was the handkerchief (Acts 19:12) or the shadow (Acts 5:15) but something tangible had to touch the people. It is like that the world over. There has to be some tangible expression for our faith to latch on to. But in this case the Centurion sees His word as the instrument of healing, not a touch. The Centurion is convinced this One can heal just by speaking the words. He truly believes what the Hebrew Scriptures have to say. And he appears to be familiar with Judaism, the Torah and the Prophets to know what the Scriptures say. He is willing to believe what the book says. Now that is remarkable because it is not the normal reaction of the Jews to Jesus healing and power. They seem to prefer tangible expressions with their faith. He has a firm handle on Who this One is. He was willing to believe Jesus could heal without being present.
There is no indication in the end as to what Jesus did. The assumption is that he did indeed speak the word of healing and that he didn’t go to the house. Indeed just the spoken Word was sufficient. After all He spoke this universe into being and assigned the stars their place just by the Word of His mouth. That is incredible for any of us to believe, but especially so for a Gentile Roman soldier. This man got it. He seems to know what faith was all about. He believed Him totally to be able to do anything. Normal conventions don’t apply; this is Jesus we are talking about.
There is one more element to comment on before I wrap it up and comment on Luke’s purpose. Take a careful look at verse 7:6: “Sir, Stop troubling yourself . . . ” The word used here is Kurios. Do you remember it? We talked about it in Bible Gem 847. Is it coincidence that this man uses the word [Kurios] to address Jesus. I don’t think so. I think that is exactly the reason why Luke has brought this story up and put it immediately after the close of the sermon on the plateau. This Roman soldier calls Jesus LORD. Oh I know the text as translated in this Bible version doesn’t have LORD but instead has the equivalent of Lord (Sir) but I am convinced that is what he means. Theoretically a Roman soldier shouldn’t know enough about Judaism to use the term LORD. But this is a Roman soldier who is sympathetic to the Jews and has helped them lots. Why is it so impossible to believe that he would know about the use of YHWH? If he knew that then it fits right in with his appreciation of exactly who Jesus is and how it is that he doesn’t even need to be present. That He can heal with a word.
That to me makes sense of this whole passage and explains why Luke would dispense with the story of the healing of the leper and juxtapose this story with the end of the sermon. After finishing talking about using LORD, LORD in empty meaningless ways here is a story about a man who uses the term but seems to understand exactly who it is he is dealing with. Apart from that he has a true appreciation of His power and abilities. It is perfect foil for what has just happened at the end of sermon and what Jesus told the people. It makes perfect sense for him to turn around and say to the people following take note of this man. I haven’t seen faith like this in all of Israel. He calls me LORD and treats me as LORD. This fact adds meaning as to why Luke would start this section looking to the sermon Jesus has just preached and highlighting the man’s faith. This Centurion is a remarkable man in numbers of ways. He certainly doesn’t need to play the games others play of who is going to pray for his servant and how they are going to do it. He is living as though he believes that Jesus is LORD and can do anything – even heal with just a word from a distance. Do you? He is a challenge to Israel’s faith and to mine. What about you?
When you release your faith in uncommon ways, you’ll see God do uncommon things.Joel Osteen
You can’t learn to trust God by hearing how your friend trusts Him. Take the step of faith and trust for yourself; You’ll grow.Ian Vail
Thanking God after he answers a prayer is gratitude. Thanking him in advance is faith.Rick Warren
Faith is putting all your eggs in God’s basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch.R.C. Carroll
All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.Jussar Badudu