I hope you enjoyed my first story “It’s a Miracle” about a paralytic who met Jesus! Here’s one about a manly military man. You’re gonna love him. Here’s what Jesus thought of him…
You Amaze Me!
I’m sure you had to pretty amazing to become a Roman centurion 2000 years ago. You were responsible for 100 men – 80 soldiers and 20 servants. They mess up…that’s your head. You tell each one where to jump, when to jump, and how high to jump. If they jump without your permission, that’s THEIR head. There is a pecking order to any military, especially the Roman military. No joking around.
So what did it take to become a centurion? History books tell us:
“The centurion in the infantry is chosen for his size, strength and dexterity in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield; in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He is to be vigilant, temperate, active and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright.”
Never thought about having bright arms before! I imagine our centurion friend barking out, “Rub those arms, soldiers! Make ‘em shine!” Makes me laugh.
To some, it would have been quite a perk to be a Roman soldier, centurion or not… if you’re into power, that is. You could make a citizen carry your stuff. Many felt they could do whatever they wanted, to whoever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Roman soldiers were despised by the Jews, mostly for abusing their power. The Jews were a conquered people. Most did not have their Roman citizenship and had few rights.
In this story, a Roman centurion asked his Jewish acquaintances to request help from Jesus. Remember, a Roman centurion was not a Jew. No matter what status he held in the Roman army, he had no status before Jesus. And from the story, the centurion recognized that. That was why he sent these men to Jesus, instead of coming himself. As powerful as he was in the Roman army, he couldn’t force Jesus to heal his servant. His only position was to plead. To beg. Kinda humbling for a man in a position such as his. Jesus has no “recognized” earthly position. No title, in the world’s eyes. But this centurion knew his place. And he knew Jesus’ place of authority over him.
The story doesn’t tell how the centurion knew about Jesus and His power to heal. We do know the centurion was in Jesus’ hometown of Capernaum, which was where Jesus healed Sam in Chapter 1, and also healed the woman with the issue of blood, and raised Jairus’ daughter back to life. Word surely spread like wildfire.
And this man was a proselyte, a non-Jewish believer, because the Jewish men who came to Jesus said, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” He worshipped and prayed to the true God the best he understood, instead of worshipping and praying to the Roman gods. Looks like his prayers for God’s blessings were answered in many ways.
The more I read, the more I like this man. He didn’t ask on his own behalf, or even on behalf of one of his family members. He humbled himself before Jesus on behalf of one of his servants. Many of the Roman soldiers were brutal, but not this man. Surely he had heard Jesus teaching. Surely he was drawn to Jesus’ style of leadership. He could tell that Jesus had authority. Jesus didn’t wield His authority by force, but with strength through kindness. Maybe he heard Jesus say “He who wants to be great among you, must be the servant of all.” Surely seeing the way Jesus cared about people, had an impact on him.
The message he asked the Jewish men to deliver to Jesus was this: “Sir, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain, and is about to die.” It doesn’t say that the centurion’s message included asking Jesus to heal him. And the message certainly did not ask Jesus to come to his home. The Jewish men probably asked Jesus to heal the servant, and to come with them. But I think the centurion recognized that giving Jesus the information was sufficient. He respected Jesus enough to know that Jesus could certainly decide for Himself what action to take. Sounds like a military guy. I like this guy.
Jesus was quick to respond. He told the men, “I will come and heal him.” As Jesus was on His way, the centurion heard that Jesus was coming to his home, and sent more friends to Jesus with this message, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.”
The centurion was completely unprepared to speak to Jesus or for Jesus to come to his home! He recognized that Jesus far out-ranked him. Jesus out-ranked Caesar, for Goodness sake! If he had talked with Jesus, he might have said, “I am unworthy. You are the one heaven and earth adores! How could you enter the house of a sinner? You are holy! You belong in a temple. You are the King of all kings. You deserve a palace. You are the owner of all of Creation. I have nothing worthy to offer you. You are pure. I’m not even a Jew. I’m a heathen. I wouldn’t know what I could serve you and I am too unclean to give you a drink. I am at a total loss as to how to have you as my guest.”
“And I am certainly not worthy for You to take time out of Your busy schedule to come to my house. I would never ask such a thing. I can’t even bear the thought of it. I owe you my very existence. You don’t owe me a thing. Even though I have no standing to make this request, I sent my friends to you because you are my servant’s only hope to be healed. I could tell from hearing your kind words, that You are willing to help anyone who needs You.”
We feel that way, don’t we? And rightly so. He is the King of all creation! The Bible says that in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form! But the wonderful amazing truth is that Jesus came all the way from His heavenly home into this sinful world already… a very long way indeed. He constantly overlooks all our sinfulness and shortcomings. He was happy to pay the price for our sins on the cross. And He is happy to come to our homes to stay with us. When He does, He turns our homes into heaven on earth. When we come to Him empty-handed, He fills our every need.
Listen to the centurion’s words of faith that he sent to Jesus. “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” This man knew how authority worked. He knew that Jesus was under the authority of His Father, and Jesus had authority over all of creation. He knew that if Jesus said the word… it would be done. Just like when the centurion would issue a command. It was done. No questions. No doubts. Done.
My husband is like this centurion. He recognizes the Lord’s authority. He trusts the Lord’s goodness and His plan. That helps me. In the past, I would worry, and wonder, and waste a lot of time and energy. But I have learned from seeing my husband’s simple childlike faith. I settle down. It’s in the Lord’s capable and loving hands. Peace.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” That’s high praise coming from Jesus! Jesus was amazed! This centurion was not even an Israelite, and he had greater faith than anyone Jesus had met in all of Israel! This man didn’t have a fraction of the information that we have. He simply humbled himself and believed. Amazes me too!
Imagine Jesus saying those words about you! Let’s amaze Jesus by simply believing Him today!
Then Jesus said something that rocks us to our core! “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ” This centurion, an outsider, who had been separated from the promises and blessings of God enjoyed by Israel, was now one of many who have been brought into the kingdom to enjoy it all! He would sit right alongside all the Israelites who had true faith, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sadly, many would miss out, because they hardened their hearts and refused to simply believe and receive. So Jesus was warning them…. Don’t miss it! Look at this man! Follow his example! Your pedigree does not matter. Your past does not matter. Just come to me empty-handed and believe! And so many have for the past 2000+ years! We have come to Jesus and believed. As we express our faith each day, by simply trusting His Word, we are expressing the same faith as our centurion brother. How amazingly simple is that?
So, now, let’s get to it! Let’s see Jesus’ response! “His servant was healed that very moment.” Done.
That’s the end of the story.
He believed in Jesus. He showed his faith by his actions. He asked Jesus for help. He believed Jesus had the power and authority. He trusted Jesus’ wisdom and kindness. He asked. He received.
Let’s do that. Show Jesus the respect to ask and receive, according to His perfect wisdom and kindness.
Lessons from our centurion brother:
- • He asked Jesus humbly.
- • He brought his friend’s need to Jesus selflessly.
- • He recognized Jesus’ authority, and that Jesus was under His Father’s authority.
- • He believed Jesus’ words.
- • He trusted Jesus’ decision either way.
And let’s take a lesson from Jesus too:
Jesus was willing to change His plans and go wherever He was needed. Not out of obligation, as much as out of true love. His heart is so big. He cares so much. Are we ready to change our plans to go wherever we are needed? Let’s love like He does. Let’s care like He does. Let’s surrender our time and our plans, to His will and to reach out today.
Jesus’ heart was warmed by the centurion’s faith. True faith is a rare jewel, and very precious. To Jesus, it was the wonderful response to everything He taught. As if Jesus were to say, “Yes! He’s got it! Follow his example!” Let’s follow the centurion’s example and make it our aim today to warm Jesus’ heart with our faith. It could be as simple as a whisper, “I trust You, Lord.”
Jesus spoke it. Jesus bragged on this man to those around him. I’m sure the centurion was told what Jesus said and was encouraged. And to help others to see what faith is, and how to live it out. There is a lot of power in speaking truth and building each other up. Let’s speak life-giving words to those around us today.
Need ideas? See “100 Wonderful Things to Say” on www.ReachALifeToday.com.
Jesus answered his prayer. He loves to answer! Just like we love to give good gifts to those we love, but even more. He loves to heal. He loves to give. He loves to grow our faith. He knows the best thing for us to have is a peaceful quiet trust in Him. So sometimes He stretches our faith. He works our faith muscles to make them stronger. Then we are at peace. Because He loves us that much.
By the way, sometimes we get the answer to our need, and we don’t even recognize it. And by not recognizing it, we fail to give him thanks. Uh oh. Not only is this disrespectful to him, it also does not increase our faith. We’ve just missed an opportunity to give Him praise, and to realize how faithful He truly is! Let’s pay attention – keep our eyes out for the answer and thank Him immediately! That way we will know for the next trial, that the Lord will come through in His perfect way and His perfect time!
I have a feeling that if Jesus were to write the centurion a letter, He might say something like this:
My brother, your faith did my heart good. You showed the Israelites a thing or two about faith. You showed me great honor. I am so honored that you are one of those who will come from the east and the west and sit at my table. It’s going to be amazing and wonderful beyond imagination, when we are all together! Larger than the Roman Empire! Greater too, because it is my kingdom of love and goodness.
For now, keep praying and showing your great faith by your actions. That is a powerful testimony you’re giving to the watching world. As you honor me in your family, in your community, and in your work, it will have a huge impact now and in eternity. Your wife, your children, your family, the soldiers and servants under your authority, those in authority over you, and on and on will be blessed because of your faith.
You are one of those I talked about whose life will produce one hundred fold into the kingdom! You amaze me!