Jesus was in Capernaum when news of His presence there reached a centurion whose beloved servant was sick to the point of dying. At first the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. The centurion was well liked and respected among the Jewish community because he for he loved their nation and built a synagogue for them. He was deserving of this favor.
Jesus went with them but He was not far from the house when the centurion sent his friends to Jesus with this 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.”
His faith was such that he hoped that Jesus would heal his servant so he sent word to Him but then he believed that Jesus did not have to be physically there to heal. All He had to do was say the word and the servant was healed. His faith was so strong that Jesus Himself was impressed. In fact He marveled at the man’s faith and He turned to the crowd and said to them, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
Those who were sent to speak to Jesus returned to the house and found the sick servant well. Perhaps they believed in Jesus from that moment.
Not only was the centurion’s faith remarkable but he was a model in humility. He said “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.”He did not think he was good enough to go in person to see Jesus or have Jesus come to him. He is like John the Baptist who did not feel that he was worthy to even loose the straps on Jesus’ sandals. He is like the tax collector who could not lift his head as he prayed to God because he did not feel worthy.
What is remarkable about this story is that the centurion who was a part of the group who oppressed the Jewish people sparking their hatred. The centurion was a Gentile whom the Jews considered to be unclean yet he displayed the kind of faith that they should have had in the One who came as “a light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
The centurion’s genuine faith put the religious leaders to shame. Their faith was dead because it was stagnant–dead, did not prove itself by works, did produce humility and dependence on God. They were proud, self-righteous, unbelieving and rigorous in their observance of the law yet they failed to see God’s acts of mercy in the miraculous healings of His Son. The centurion heard about Jesus and believed whereas the religious leaders saw the blind healed, the lame walk and the mute speak and other signs yet they did not believe.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus said to the crowd, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12). The Jews felt that their heritage guaranteed them entry into heaven but Jesus said that they are the ones who will be thrown out into the dark.
We must not make the same mistake as the Jews and assume that because we are Christians we are saved. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:23-29).
Like the centurion we must “seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And our faith should be such that we trust in the word of Jesus which has the power to heal and change lives.