Surprised by faith!  It is Jesus' turn to marvel now.


 

Now when Jesus concluded all His sayings, He entered Capernaum.
A certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and
ready to die. So when the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent
elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his
servant. They begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom
He should do this was deserving, 'for he loves our nation, and has
built us a synagogue.'

Then Jesus went with them. When He was already not far from
the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying, "Lord, do
not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter
under my roof. Therefore I did not 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."

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned
around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you,
I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"  And those
who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well
who had been sick.
                                                            Luke 7:1-10 NKJV condensed


                                      Just Say the Word

Oh, wouldn't we all like to be able to say the word, and it is done! The
centurion who had that kind of authority was a Roman army commander
and a gentile. We do not know his name, but this story grew out of his
love for a dying servant. In which instance, his commands were ineffective.

So distressed was this centurion about the fragile condition of his
highly-valued servant that he willingly pleaded and begged in order to
save him. That catches our attention. Tender affection is not something
we want to associate with soldiers in the occupation army because
then we have a harder time despising them.

As the accolades for this man swell you may think he was the one who
died and you are at his funeral! By showing respect for the people in
his jurisdiction, he had been able to win over many hearts and minds.
He actually made the locals feel like he loved them and had a
synagogue built for them! This information cuts into everything people
thought they knew about the arrogant Roman army.

On this day our honorable centurion was grieved. A disastrous illness
had struck close to his heart. Also on this day, Jesus, the Jewish healer,
was rumored to be nearby. The centurion knew it would be inappropriate
for him to approach Jesus because he was an unworthy gentile and a
soldier. So instead he asked for the aid of his constituents. The elders
of the synagogue will be his intermediary. They will go and beg Jesus
to come and heal his servant.

The wheels are in motion, the elders on their way. The suffering servant
he treasured so much lingered near death. We have no idea where
his faith in the healing powers of Jesus originated. But we do know, his
military mind saw a strategic error. Rabbinical law prohibited religious
Jews from entering gentile homes.

Being thoughtful and considerate of these prescribed Jewish customs,
the centurion called on friends to go to Jesus and ask him to speak
the words of healing from a distance. Physical touch was not needed;
just say the word. Who would know the power of the spoken command
better than he!

Jesus was almost at the centurion's house when the friends stopped
him and described the centurion's wishes. No one in this story
questioned whether Jesus was able to heal. The issue was how to do
it within the boundaries of two opposing cultures. When Jesus heard
the words of the friends, he marveled! Never before had Jesus
witnessed such faith! And it belonged, not to a fellow Jew, but to a
gentile Roman soldier!

I see a consistent pattern of faith at the heart of everything the centurion
did. Surely his troops valued his leadership. Because he believed in
them, they did not disappoint. The locals felt his love and respect, too,
and returned his kindness. So when this centurion faced a crisis, he
turned to those who favored him, and asked for their help. Once more,
his faith in others did not fail him.

Like us, he responded out of his own life experience. The centurion
reported to higher authorities who determined the duties which defined
his daily life. Similarly, his own attitudes, decisions and directives
determined the actions of his troops. He knew both how to obey and
how to command. Quite simply, the mandate to order those beneath him,
comes from above. Power comes from a higher authority.

It took the fresh eyes of an outsider to see it so clearly. Jesus was doing
the will of his heavenly Father. Those who listened to Jesus day after
day were slow to grasp its significance, yet in an instant, the Roman
centurion connected the dots. The miracles of Jesus were the work of
the unseen God of the universe.

Faith makes miracles happen--in daily lives and ordinary relationships;
in critical situations when loved ones are dying. That's where the hero
of our story crossed the cultural barrier and, in spirit, met Jesus. Our
"unworthy" commander drew up a win-win plan that would not place
Jesus on a hot seat of unnecessary and distracting religious controversy.
Jesus marveled at his faith, spoke the word, and the beloved servant
was healed.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Make a statement or tell a story that in some way relates
                      to the military.

 

Do you think Jesus would have entered the Gentile's house to heal his
servant?
            Why or why not?
(The Laws of Moses are stated in the first five books of the Bible.
The barrier against mingling with Gentiles was part of the Rabbinical laws,
those man-made additions meant to explain in detail what the Law of
Moses required.)

 

Why would Jesus think the faith of the centurion was extraordinary?
            Did you regard the account of his faith that highly?
Jesus healed many people according to their faith.
            What was so different about the story of the centurion?

 

Think of a time when you were surprised by faith.
            Whose faith surprised you and why?
            What does it mean to be a person of faith?

 

Did you ever have an authority figure whom you felt honored to obey,
where affection and respect were the motivating factor and not fear?
            If so, describe the person.

 

Matthew and Luke told the story a bit differently. Matthew (Matt. 8:5-13)
said the centurion pleaded directly to Jesus.
            Would the story make any difference for you if the centurion and
            Jesus came face to face?   
                        Explain your answer.
            Why did the centurion say he was unworthy?
                        What did he mean?

 

You would think a centurion would have plenty of reason to be cynical
and disillusioned. Yet here was a man who created a constant climate
of trust and respect?
            Why is it so hard to live that way in a difficult environment?
            How does one create a climate of trust and faith?
            How full or empty is your "cup of trust"?
            When did you feel like you had little or no faith in anybody?

 

What are some little (or big) miracles which happened because you
believed in someone?

 

Faith is found in unexpected places.
            When have you found more faith outside the church than inside?

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