Matthew 8:5-13 New International Version (NIV)
The Faith of the Centurion
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Tonight we will be exposed to a truly remarkable story of a man who understood what it meant to follow Jesus, and he will hopefully become an example of faith. But in saying this the message although it celebrates the faith of the centurion is actually a story of the wonder and power and love of Jesus.
So tonight we will see how though the actions of a gentile centurion how worthy, great and beautiful is Christ.
Now, it says that Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith! Jesus was not so much amazed at this man’s faith; the shock is that gentiles were getting what the Jews could not see. A Prophecy fulfilled in that day that the Prophet Hosea promised almost 800 years before.
I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'" (Hos 2:23)
This man could understand Jesus as Messiah, when the Jews Jesus’ own people could not see. And I’ll explain why.
You see this man came to Jesus as understood that;
1. He is not worthy - Jesus is
We see expressed in this passage a declaration of incredible humility; this man comes to Jesus desperate for his servant to be healed, and Jesus says sure, let me come and heal.
Now, picture the scene properly, Jesus was growing in popularity, there are people now crowding around him and this man not only gets an answer from Jesus but a suggestion of invitation; Jesus will come to his house!
I mean talk about hitting the “getting more than you asked for lottery”! But the man instantly says in verse 7
“Lord, I don’t not deserve to have you come under my roof!”
What is going on here? Is this false humility? Well, no! Matthew does not give us as much detail as Luke does with regards to who this man was.
In Luke 7:3-5 it says;
3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
The Jewish elders make a case for this man being a righteous man, who loves the nation of Israel and who has even build the people a synagogue! He is a good guy!
But he declares unilaterally to Jesus that he doesn’t deserve to have Jesus come under his roof! Why?
Well, church, this is the same mistake we make all the time, we see on the outside and make a judgement on what is going on on the outside. The Jews would have looked at this man and did say, if anyone deserves to be helped by Jesus this man does! However, he knows that he is not worthy of Jesus.
He is not worthy to have him come under his roof. And I guess this is what our generation struggles with so much. We have been told by almost every point of reference movies, books, adverts, our parents. You are special, look inside and trust your instincts.
Deep down you are a beautiful butterfly waiting to come out of its shell. And If you don’t believe me, then take a look at our great mantras, the things that we tell stories about; the great heroes of our age are no longer people who overcome adversary and pain, it is people who discover themselves, who have the courage to be themselves.
“Just be yourself” we are told, “have the courage to live you!” We have forgotten that human beings are essentially at our core a contradiction. We love to be good people but revel in the suffering of others and ourselves.
We all carry a dark side! Augustine, to Nietzsche to Jung express the expressively dangerous side of humanity that we all refuse to acknowledge is there, just behind the mask of our face.
If you are sitting here think oh not me, then ask yourself, why do we slow down at an accident? Why are fail videos so ubiquitous on YouTube? If you are so good why did you think that murderous thought against that person who wronged you, or thought that lustful thought over that person who you were attracted to.
The crazy thing about being human is that we all long to be the good guy and all convince ourselves that we are, and yet when we are completely honest with ourselves we are hypocrites who want nothing but our own advancement.
None of us deserve to have Jesus come under our roof!
But this is the message that Jesus emphasized throughout his preaching, he did not come to save the healthy but the sick, he came for the broken, the lost, the unworthy!
This Roman centurion knew himself well enough that He did not deserve to have Jesus come, but He trusted that Jesus could do what Jesus said he could!
Which leads us to the second realisation of this centurion, he realised that;
2. He cannot - Jesus can
This officer, took the practical authority that he had in his military service and said if this is what I can do, surely Jesus (being the Jewish Messiah) could do more!
He applied a simple rule, if I can have power as a man, how much more could Jesus have authority if He is who He says he is.
You see, from Luke again we see that this Roman centurion was not just a run of the mill centurion, he was good to the Jews, he had obviously started to believe the Jews about YHWH being the true God, and he had come to believe their expectations of the coming Messiah.
Jesus claims to be that Messiah and the Roman centurion took Jesus at his word!
I would argue that this is the premise of saving faith throughout the bible, people taking God at his word! People trusting God to be who he claims to be.
For this Roman official; my servant is dying, Jesus says he can it will be done.
Abraham, God says I will be your shield and your salvation; Abraham trusted and God accredited it as righteousness.
Moses’ parents trusted God had given them a peculiar kid and so hid him from Pharaoh’s guard.
Joshua trusted when God said march around Jericho and the walls fell.
As Hebrews 11:32 says;
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Everything was by faith! Not by their brilliance, not because this was a centurion, not because they were special, they trusted their God was! They took their God at His word!
The centurion knew he could not heal his servant! Only Jesus could!
Here is the warning; there is a sneaking into the church that you have not because your faith is not big enough, you don’t have enough faith; the problem is that the amount of faith is irrelevant it is the object of your faith that matters.
Jesus elsewhere says; He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."” (Matthew 17:20)
And here is the crux of this message; the amount of faith is not as important as the object of our faith. It is not how much you trust God, it is do you actually trust Him!
This is why Jesus commends this man’s faith as;
3. An exception faith
The temptation of this passage is to read it with the main character being the centurion; like He is a hero for being able to trust Jesus so much.
But if this was the case, why does Jesus go on a lesson effectively about the coming in of the Gentiles to the Kingdom of God in his next response? The Marvel that Jesus has is because this man is a gentile, he is outside, he is not familiar with the Scripture as all the Jews would have been from their childhood. He had a crude and simple understanding and yet he believed!
This is the nature of faith; faith is not about the quantity of faith, it is about the truth of faith and it is about who it is orientated towards.
I can have all the faith in the world that drinking poison will not kill me; it still will! And I can have the simplest crudest understanding that God is good to His children and He will be!
To bring this whole message together, and to connect all points; you can have all the faith in the world that you are perfect just the way you are, that you are essentially good, and the truth of the matter will destroy you!
You can have simple, crude faith that you are a sinner, but you are deeply loved by the creator of the entire universe and His divine love will reach over the expanse of time and space, and into the depth of sin that you find yourself in and will make you His treasure!
Church, an uneducated centurion could see Jesus for who He was and that was enough to bring life, if we with our poor understanding and simple ideas could see the beauty of the truth of the gospel it will heal our souls, forgive our sins and overcome our short-comings.
Church the simple message of this passage is the kind of faith that God is looking for, the kind of faith that heal our souls and saves us from ourselves is not reserved for the academics, but for the fools. It is not reserved for the strong, but those who know that they are weak.
The kind of faith that saves, the kind of faith that heals is the faith that does not depend upon the person but depends upon Christ!
Church where is your hope? Where is your faith tonight? If it is in how I approach Christ, if it is in how I must ascend to him, or how I pray, or how much faith I have; this is not the faith that saves and is not the faith that the Father is looking for.
The exception faith is the faith that says, “I cannot, He can!” “I am a failure, He is my saviour!” Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling!
What is your faith in church?