We just heard about a centurion who had enough faith in the power of Jesus to ask that he heal his slave. In the time Jesus lived, a centurion was:
- A military officer, commanding over 100 soldiers, who was sent by Rome to govern and control the Jewish people
A gentile or ‘pagan’ who worshipped a myriad of gods
A hated and despised symbol of all that the Jewish zealots were actively rebelling against
A slave owner; which in that day and age, were considered to be possessions and accorded all the rights of a stray dog.
But this was no ordinary Roman soldier:
- He was a friend of the Jewish people
He helped build a synagogue in Capernaum; he saw the need of these ‘conquered’ people and did something about it
He cared deeply for his slave who was near death; he saw the slave as a human being, a member of his family
He had heard of Jesus from the Jewish community and believed he had extraordinary powers of healing
He was humble and considered himself unworthy to meet with Jesus even though he power over people’s lives in Capernaum
He understood Jewish law and knew that to allow Jesus to enter his home would have been ritual defilement.
So he asked the town elders to go speak with Jesus and ask him to heal his slave. . . from a distance! He believed in the power of Jesus and had FAITH that he could heal his slave. That Jesus was so powerful that he could command that the slave be healed and it would happen.
What extraordinary faith!
Let’s take a minute to look at what was happening at the time. Jesus and his disciples were traveling around the area preaching, teaching and healing. Jesus was trying to leave his disciples with the skills they needed to continue his work. But it was not going all that well.
We are told in John 1:46, that the people of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town rejected Him, saying:
Can anything good come from Nazareth?
In Matthew 17:19, the twelve disciples did not even have enough faith to drive out one simple demon possessing a child
In Matthew 14:22-33, Peter tries to reach Jesus by walking on the water, but because his faith is not solid he begins sinking like a rock
Jesus had just finished preaching the Sermon on the Mount and although the disciples had wanted to send the people away hungry Jesus had provided food for 5000 from five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21).
And these were the men and women who left their entire lives to follow Jesus – these were his chosen to carry on his work.
But their faith was lacking.
Just as, at times, our faith is lacking.
There are three instances in the Bible where centurions are used to exemplify gentiles faith in Jesus:
- This scripture of the centurion asking Jesus to save his slave (Luke 7:1-10)
The centurion at the crucifixion who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 15:38)
The Centurion Cornelius who is the first gentile disciple (Acts 10:36-48)
These centurions signify that those who have been ‘lost’ can be found through their faith in Jesus.
Have you been found through your faith in Jesus?
Faith is believing in God, trusting in His promises and His Son Jesus, and accepting His teachings. It is eagerly searching that which is true and a willingness to bet your salvation that the Word of God is true.
The Christian writer Max Lucado says:
- “Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. Eyes see the prowling lion. Faith sees Daniel’s angel. Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow. Eyes see giants. Faith sees Canaan. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior. Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood. Your eyes see your grave. Your faith sees a city whose builder and maker is God. Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise-breaker. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face.”
Having faith is a choice, and only you can make the choice to practice faith in your life. But the rewards of faith is worth the searching. Because:
- Faith heals,
Faith saves, and
We all know people who have such an abiding faith that they have been miraculous healed when everyone else had given up hope. We remember the story of the bleeding woman in Mark 5:25 who knew that if she touched the hem of Jesus’ robe she would be healed.
Or in Mark 8:22-26 when Jesus took mud and made a blind man see.
These are two of many example of Jesus and his disciples healing people, based on their faith in God and Jesus. If you think for a moment, you can probably think of people you know who have, in some form or other, be healed through their faith in God.
In the liturgy, creeds, and rituals of the church, we have affirmed that by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are saved. When we are baptized we are welcomed into life in Christ. Not by what we do but by the grace of God.
There are many instances in the Bible where gentiles, pagans and heathens are saved after being baptized.
Jesus perceived that the Roman centurion’s faith was real — for he loved his slave, he loved the Jewish people, he built a synagogue, he trusted Jesus for healing, and he was humble beyond a fault. Just as a rose cannot help but bloom, and an oak tree produce acorns, so an alive faith cannot but help overflow in love, mercy, and justice.
Faith is never an arrogant dogmatic certitude. Faith is always a sure confidence in the midst of uncertainty.
Toward the end of World War II, Allied forces searched farms and houses looking for snipers. At one abandoned house, almost a heap of rubble, searchers with flashlights found their way to the basement. There, on the crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David. And beneath it, in rough lettering, this message:
- I believe in the Sun — even when it does not shine.
I believe in love — even when it is not shown.
I believe in God — even when he does not speak.1
Faith always believes in the future.
My question to you today is, will you make the effort to renew your faith this morning? Will you fully trust in Christ this hour. The choice is yours.
Let us pray:
God our Father, you conquer the darkness of ignorance by the light of your Word. Strengthen within our hearts the faith you have given us; let not temptation ever quench the fire that your love has kindled within us. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
1 Source unknown
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH 2 June 2013