19 January 2014
When I revisit the story of the faith of the centurion in Matthew 8 I am fascinated by the Lord’s praise of the centurion. Jesus exclaimed to the officer that he was a man of great faith and it was unparalleled in the whole of Israel. The centurion was not a son of Israel and therefore not necessarily acquainted with the teaching or prophecy about Jesus. Yet the centurion, being a Roman army officer in command of about 100 men and according to general research, receiving about 20 times the pay of a normal soldier, humbled himself in public before Jesus, calling Him Lord! Possibly knowing Jesus was more than a healer and a teacher but something far greater – maybe even God. With such high ranking and respect from others and to come in person to seek Jesus rather than send his own soldiers to meet Jesus demonstrated the centurion’s sincerity and genuine care for his servant. I’m no biblical scholar, but to me, in those times and even today, it would be rare for an employer or boss to be so personally involved in the well being and welfare of his or her servants or employees. I marvel not just at the centurion’s faith but also his character. I researched that centurions were in fact ordinary soldiers who rose up the ranks and we’re promoted for their courage, loyalty and abilities in battle. So this centurion was presumably not just a highly paid, high ranking officer but also one who demonstrated integrity, loyalty and care for his people under him. Yet, the centurion declined that Jesus would come to see his servant because the centurion did not count himself worthy of Jesus’s time. What a humble man.
Another marvelling thing about this centurion was how he had such confidence and assurance that Jesus’s word was sufficient. No need to come in person thank you, just say the word, and it will be done! Wow! To come all the way and to ask in front of everyone, then to decline the most incredible visitor to your home ever!? Incredible! The centurion wasn’t being rude, he was just being an incredible witness to the crowds that flocked and crammed around Jesus in his day. The centurion witnessed incredible understanding of God’s glory, holiness and authority to a crowd who shrouded Jesus with mixed motives and understanding.
Today I see people flock to various places and to various people to receive healing. I see people rushing to the pulpits of Christian ministers for healing. Yet this story of the centurion challenges me to re-think where my biblical understanding of this comes from. I am challenged to re-consider, maybe, we need to go back to this story and seek out the God who gently chides us – “oh you of little faith” and acknowledge He is The Lord over the winds and storm, the diseases and our lives.
Lord, I like I you, also marvel at the faith the centurion demonstrated and also marvel at the humility, character and integrity of the centurion. May my faith and character also be as solid as this centurion, that just like this centurion, even though I am not a child of Israel, it is by my faith that I will receive the right to dine with you, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. It is as how I believe that I will receive your blessings and healing in my life. Thank you Lord!