And the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goeth; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he cometh; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he doeth it.”
And when Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8:8-10).
“Faith” is a word casually thrown around in our world. Most people recognize that religion has a lot to do with faith. Many in America believe that all one needs is faith. Yet, despite all this talk of “faith,” precious little energy is devoted to what this faith looks like.
Since Jesus provides such a great commendation for the “faith” of this centurion, we would do well to consider his example.
As a centurion in the Roman army, he understood authority. The Roman military expected complete obedience to every command; they conquered the known world because of their famous discipline. When the centurion received orders, he strove to fulfill them. When he gave orders, he expected them to be fulfilled. Everyone knew their place and their function, and it was assumed that they would do what they were told. Consequences for disobedience were sufficient to keep such a system in place.
The centurion hears of Jesus and believes the claims made about Him– he beseeches Jesus by calling Him “Lord” (Matthew 8:6). Based on that conviction, he makes his request, and he knows that if the Lord grants the request, the thing will be accomplished. He has no need to have Jesus come to his house and to see Jesus perform the act in front of him– he understands that if Jesus is Lord, and He says something will take place, it will be accomplished.
He also knows his place. He declares himself “unworthy” of having Jesus come to his house. He recognizes authority when he sees it and defers properly to that authority.
This is the type of faith that causes Jesus to marvel. What of us?
Do we have the conviction that Jesus is Lord? Well and good– what do we do with that conviction? Do we have the confidence in Jesus to accept that if He says that something will come to pass, that it will happen? Do we have the confidence in Jesus to believe that if we lose our lives, we will find them (Matthew 16:25)? Do we have the confidence that if we put the Kingdom first, God will provide (Matthew 6:33)? Do we have the confidence in Jesus to forsake all in order to serve Him (Matthew 10:37-39)?
Do we really understand authority? Americans live in a country high on freedom and quite skeptical of authority figures. Do we really accept Jesus’ Lordship? Can we see ourselves as His servants (Romans 6:16-18)? Are we willing to entirely subject our own wills to His (Galatians 2:20)?
Furthermore, can we muster the humility to recognize our place before Jesus the Lord? Do we recognize our own unworthiness of having the Lord in our presence (cf. Titus 3:3-8)?
The centurion shows how we can have a “marvelous” faith. That faith is the strong conviction of Jesus’ Lordship leading to great humility and subjection before Him. Let us have this faith so that we can recline at table with the Patriarchs and the Lord!
Ethan R. Longhenry