36: The Centurion's Faith
In Capernaum there lived a man who was a lot like the leper Jesus had healed. He was not sick and miserable; he was strong and healthy. He was a Roman centurion, a captain over a hundred soldiers.
People did not fear and abhor this centurion; they loved and honored him. Still, he was a lot like the leper, for he also had great faith in Jesus' power and regarded himself as unworthy.
Most Romans despised Jews, but the centurion did not. He loved that oppressed people. He knew that the pagan idols could not make him happy. He wanted to serve the Lord.
When the Jews yearned to build a synagogue in Capernaum but didn't have enough money, the centurion had the synagogue built. The Jews loved him because of this.
The centurion was a noble man. Other pagan masters were often harsh and cruel to their slaves, but he was kind to them. One day, one of his slaves became sick and hovered on the brink of death. The centurion was as sad as if he were about to lose a friend.
He had heard about Jesus, for all of Capernaum was talking about His miracles. The centurion firmly believed that Jesus could heal his servant.
He did not go to Jesus himself. Because he was a Gentile, he did not regard himself as worthy of contact with Jesus. Instead he sent some friends, who were Jewish elders. They approached Jesus and urged Him to help the centurion.
"He deserves it," they said. "He loves our people and has built a synagogue for us."
Jesus went with them. When the centurion heard that Jesus was coming, he was frightened. Would the mighty prophet come into his house, the house of a Gentile?
The centurion knew himself better than the Jews knew him; he knew that he was not worthy to receive Jesus!
Quickly he sent other friends with a new message. These friends approached Jesus respectfully and said, "Sir, the centurion has sent us. He says, 'Don't trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to have You come into my house. Simply say the word, and my servant will be healed. You have the power to command sickness and death, just as I command my soldiers. I tell them to come and go, and to do this and that, and they obey.' "
When Jesus heard that, He was amazed. He knew that many of His own people who had seen His miracles still did not believe. But this Gentile believed that Jesus was the heavenly king whom even sickness and death must obey. He believed without even seeing Jesus!
Jesus turned around and said to the people who were following Him, "I tell you, in Israel I have not yet found such great faith as this. I tell you, there are many who will come from east and west to take their place in the Kingdom of heaven. But the children of the Kingdom will be cast out."
There again, were those strange words that sounded so sad and somber! Would God forsake His own people and receive the Gentiles as His children?
The people who didn't love and believe in Jesus had no idea what He meant. They shook their heads. Their eyes flashed with anger at the thought that the Jews might be rejected.
Jesus then turned to the messengers and spoke to them in a friendly way, "Go and tell the centurion, 'It shall be as you wish.' " When the messengers arrived at their friend's house, they found that the slave was already recovering.
The leper and the Gentile centurion both expected a great deal of the Savior, but they did not expect too much. Faith can never expect too much of the Savior. Those who believe in Jesus are never put to shame.