Faith is the essence of the Christian experience. Unfortunately, There is so much misinformation about faith one can easily get lost in a maze of misinformation. I know. I’ve been there. I found my way out of the maze when I closed my ears to a myriad of well-intentioned voices and started listening to God’s voice. No, I don’t hear voices speaking in the night or day for that matter. I am referring to the words recorded in the Bible that are attributed to God.
Jesus defined great faith that amazes him when a Centurion sought his help for an ailing slave. Before we talk about Centurion’s “God pleasing” faith, let’s identify the characters in this encounter. Jesus, of course, was the image of God in human flesh who said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the father.” Plebeians usually held the office of Centurion, a commander of one hundred men in the Roman army. Before the plebeian joined the army he may have shared a single room in a four story badly constructed wood apartment house with another family. The sewer system was a pot emptied out the window creating an unsanitary and putrid environment. Slaves serving a patrician family had better living conditions. The ailing slave, a child perhaps teenager who tended to the needs of the Centurion.
Jesus had just preached his most famous sermon and returned to Capernaum with large crowds in tow. On the way home, he amazed the crowds by healing a leper. At this time in his ministry, Jesus was famous with many demands on his time.
The Centurion, who lived in Capernaum, was no stranger to the Jews religion. He had financed the construction of a synagogue and the Jews, without doubt, had taught him is “Gentile place” in their religion. Jewish men began their day blessing “the eternal one, our God” for not making them a woman, gentile or a slave. Therefore, the Centurion did not consider himself worthy to bring a petition to Jesus. He sent the elders of the Jews to plead for the healing of his slave.
The elders considered the Centurion worthy of Jesus consideration because he “built them a synagogue.” According to Jewish beliefs (Acts 10:28), the elders had broken the law and defiled themselves when they had dealings with the Gentile. Insert sarcasm. Apparently, exceptions could be made when “religion” is advanced.
Jesus, the image of God, didn’t have a problem defiling himself in the home of a Gentile to relieve the suffering of a slave. Yep, Jesus got his hands dirty with the very lowest of his societies lowly. But Jesus never made it to the unclean home to pray for the suffering slave. On his way, the Centurion sent friends with a message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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” (Luke 7:6-8, NKJV).
Jesus was amazed at “such great faith.” Before announcing the slave would be healed, he warned the Jews that this kind of faith would result in many gentiles taking the place of Jews who had no faith in God. Who your human father is will not give you citizenship in God’s kingdom with all of its benefits. Only God pleasing faith will.
I’ve often pondered what was so amazing about the Centurion’s faith. Society had given him a putrid slum to live in. Religious people used him to advance their agenda yet had no place for him as an equal among them. Life had not been kind to the Centurion. The unfairness of life has driven multitudes away from God but it did not drive the Centurion away. He recognized the immense power and authority of God to command everything and he still believed God cared about a slave.
Do you have great faith? Do you count yourself unworthy yet still believe God cares that the slaves to sin we love are suffering? Now that would take “great faith” – God pleasing faith.