Today, we continue from the previous article’s discussion about a centurion who sent to Jesus for saving a servant who was dying. Luke 7:6-8 explains why the centurion didn’t show up in person (at least, not at the time when the Jewish elders came): He didn’t think that he was worthy.
I wonder what was going through the centurion’s mind during all of this. Did he ask the Jewish elders to approach Jesus with his question, but then have second thoughts about Jesus coming to his house while they were out? Did this military man wonder whether he was offending Jesus by asking Jesus to come to his house? Regardless of how this man of faith came to his conclusions, I think that we can all learn from his respect for the authority, power, and glory of Jesus.
In our family devotions one week (shortly before preparing this lesson), we read Mark 6:53-56, where people wanted Jesus to let sick people “touch even the edge of his cloak” for healing. Sam Cooke sang about the woman who had suffered from bleeding and “touched the hem of His garment” (and Luke 8:43-48 confirms how this woman’s faith was important).
This centurion’s faith is “next level”, though. He not only believed that Jesus could heal; he had faith that Jesus had authority over the illness. The centurion could give an order and action would be done without him having to be personally there, and he believed that Jesus could do the same.
Now, as human beings, we are sometimes pretty “tactile”. I suspect that one reason God gave us other people in the church is to share hugs and handshakes (or a holy kiss, as several letters of Paul mention). It wasn’t wrong for people to be healed by touching Jesus (like the woman described above), or be touched by Jesus for healing (like the time Jesus put mud on a blind man’s eyes – see John 9). It isn’t wrong for followers of Jesus to lay hands on people today and pray for blessings upon them. However, God’s power isn’t limited to only an act or a touch. He can just speak the word and the seas are calmed. In fact, His word can speak things into existence, as we find in the book of Genesis.
The centurion had an appreciation for this authority and true power, and he showed his faith through the message that he sent to Jesus.
Note that the centurion knew what it was like to have the power to accomplish things without getting his hands dirty, but he also knew his place. He had significant power in the military world of that day, but he knew that he did not have power over things that a sword couldn’t solve, like this illness. So, rather than trying to take his limited authority and bully Jesus around, the centurion humbled himself and asked for help, instead.
In Luke 7:9, Jesus praises the centurion’s faith. Even though many of those who were healed in Israel did so after getting close to Jesus (or coming into contact with Him), this centurion had an appreciation for the actual authority of Jesus over illness. In doing so, he was commended for faith that exceeded even that of those whose faith made them well “in person”. I don’t know if this centurion understood all that Jesus had command over, but he was definitely seeing some of the picture.
This faith reminds me about Jesus’ words to “doubting” Thomas, when He had appeared to Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection:
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:29 NIV
Let us have faith that God can work with authority over all things. He may choose to work through the physical world, like bringing healing through doctors and medicine, or restoring a relationship through a wise mediator. However, He is not limited to these things, and our prayers should leave room for Him to work in ways that transcend only the solutions that we can think of.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 5, 2021
- The Lookout, December 5, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.