Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.
In the last story we glimpsed the humility and faith of a leper who had nothing. He came to Jesus for the restoration of his health and life. In this story, we glimpse the humility and faith of a man who has everything…wealth, prestige, power, respect, even the fear of those around him. Yet he recognizes a power far greater than his in Jesus.
He asks for help, not for himself, but on the behalf of his servant, who “lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus asks the centurion if he should go there to heal him, and the and the answer is surprising.
‘”Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 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.’ 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. 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. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and knashing of teeth.’ 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.”
The centurion understands authority, and he recognizes that Jesus has the authority of God, the divine authority to merely speak something into reality. He demonstrates a very real faith that doesn’t require any kind of ritual or proof. Ironically, this man who was probably so hated by the chosen people of Israel because of his occupation, accepted the promise they had largely rejected, and was blessed for it. Jesus uses this incident to warn Israel that if they continue to reject his truth, they will be left out of the Kingdom while others (gentiles) take their place at the feast in heaven.
Sometimes we cling so hard to our preconceived notions that we put God in a box, much like the Jews of Jesus’ time did. He wasn’t at all what they expected their Messiah to be. Despite the signs and prophecies, they were convinced that he was a fraud, and they rejected Him to their own detriment. The resurrection and the workings of the early church were still in their future.
Human nature hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. Jesus broke down the barriers so that everyone could be redeemed, not just the Jewish people. Yet today, even with the benefit of history, many still believe Jesus to be a fraud. The resurrection is no longer in our future, but the events of Revelation are. Those who do not have faith like the Centurion are still in danger of rejecting Jesus’ gift to their own eternal detriment. While there are (and will be) signs that confirm God’s hand and authority, the specific events of the end times may not unfold as we expect–the playing out of prophecy rarely does. All we can do is be watchful and ready, and open enough to hear God’s voice when He calls us.
Jesus, thank you for offering your gift of salvation to everyone who is willing to accept it. I’m grateful to know about people like this Centurion, who stand through time as example of true faith. He didn’t lead a perfect life, and he didn’t conform to the strict religious standards of the day, yet you helped him because he believed and he recognized your authority over all. We know that you’re going to return, and the signs are increasing. Whether or not it will be in my lifetime only you know. As I wait and watch, challenge me when I start to put you into my box of preconceptions and ignorance. You are greater and more merciful than I can possibly imagine. Guide me as I attempt in my own broken way to share your message with others. Amen
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