Only once in the Word of God do we see Jesus surprised by the faith of anyone. And the man in question was not even a Jew. He was a Roman officer. But he believed that Jesus could heal his servant from afar. Earlier, he had sent some Jewish leaders to implore Jesus to come and heal his servant. While Jesus was on the way, he sent word to Jesus that He did not need to come to his house, and that he was not worthy to have Jesus come under his roof. He said all it would take was for Jesus to say one word, and his servant would be healed.
Great faith that surprises Jesus
Not only did Jesus heal his servant, but He also marvelled at his great faith. However, the interesting thing here is not just that this man who was a Gentile and did not have a covenant with God had great faith; it’s how he came about such great faith. This is very important because Jesus did not just marvel at his faith. He compared his great faith and the relative lack of faith of God’s chosen people. So how did he get his faith? Simple. The New Testament tells us in the Gospel of Luke, chapter seven, that he heard about Jesus. So, his faith came from what he had heard about Jesus.
This was in Capernaum. Capernaum was the theatre of many of Jesus’s miracles. It was in Capernaum that he delivered the demoniac in the synagogue, that he healed Peter’s mother-in-law and where the entire city came to be healed of their diseases and delivered of demons. It was also in Capernaum that he healed the paralytic, and many of his natural miracles took place in the vicinity of Capernaum. It had become His de facto headquarters when His city of Nazareth would not receive Him. The town was where Andrew and Peter lived.
So, the man had heard about Jesus; he had no doubt heard that He was very powerful, that He was a great rabbi and that He healed all kinds of strange sicknesses and afflictions He came upon. And from what he heard, he arrived at a conclusion. Jesus was the one for the job, and He will do it very well. The Word of God makes it very clear that we gain faith from hearing the Word. The Word of God produces faith in us. So, the real question we must ask ourselves is, what are we hearing? What are we listening to? What we believe is the result of what we have heard, and what we believe will determine what we become.
What this man understood was that Jesus had authority in the spiritual world, that he had authority over sickness and the forces that cause sickness. This Roman Centurion himself gave complete obedience to his superiors and also had authority over soldiers who obeyed him completely. So as far as he was concerned, in the same way as he obeyed his superiors, and his underlings obeyed him, human and spiritual circumstances would obey Jesus. That’s why he said all Jesus needed to do was give a command and the sickness would leave.
We can have extraordinary faith
We can have faith in God. We can, in fact, have extraordinary faith if we decide to continuously meditate on God’s word, to listen to Him and hear Him. But if we are hearing people who do not believe in God, or who do not believe God, we are going to end up shipwrecking our own faith. So, we must be extremely careful about what we are hearing. This may sound very simple, but it is something that many people do not practice.
They listen to everything and everyone. They spend hours in front of the television. They spend their time on the internet consuming diverse information with their peculiar underlying assumptions. Then they end up taking radical decisions and kind of being convinced of things that are contrary to the will of God.
When I taught this in our church, I told the story of one young woman who was interviewed about her story. She had decided to become a boy and went through several very difficult procedures in the bid to become a boy. She did not just dress like a boy, she had a double mastectomy. She took huge doses of testosterone, but she baulked at having a hysterectomy. The doctor told her in very plain language she was to have a hysterectomy, otherwise, she would end up with ovarian cancer because of all the testosterone she was taking. She went through a very difficult patch and one day it was as if she woke up from a bad dream. She suddenly came to herself and said, ‘why am I trying to become a boy’? And she stopped the whole thing. Unfortunately, her voice had been forever impaired. And she can no longer go back to speaking like a girl.
The connection here is why she took this route. She said that she wasn’t feeling too good about herself. She didn’t feel like being seen as a sex object; she didn’t want to be compelled to dress up or to feel vulnerable as a girl. So, she went online looking for solutions to her feeling of disconnection with her gender. And she came across all these articles and videos and stuff extolling the virtues of changing one’s gender and just in watching those videos and reading those articles, she became convinced that this was the right thing to do. So she put her faith in people she did not know who barely asked her any questions and started taking hormones and subjected herself to surgery to become a boy.
Faith does come by hearing and whatever we hear will eventually sink into our hearts and become what we believe. The woman with the issue of blood had heard that Jesus was a Healer, that Jesus was doing great things and that He could deliver anyone from any affliction. She believed it and sought Him for help. The centurion’s servant was healed, one life was saved because somebody listened to the right information and applied to Jesus for help. So, it is important that we pay attention to what we hear.
What you do matters
Yet, beyond what we hear, we must also pay attention to what we do. The Jewish leaders favoured the centurion. They went all the way to Jesus to beseech Him to help the man. This was a very unusual procedure because the Jewish leaders going to plead the case of a Roman official is not something you would expect to see happen. This man was part of an army of occupation that was hated by the Jews who baulked at this encroachment on their territory. Yet here they were imploring Jesus to help this man, and not even the man himself, but his servant, which is even more surprising.
Why did they do this? Because of what he did. Yes, faith is important. And we must have faith. However, along with faith, we must also have excellent character. This centurion had demonstrated kindness and generosity towards not only his servant but also the Jewish nation. In the Roman world, a person had the right if he found that his slave was no longer productive, to have him killed and procure another one. But this man seemed to have a very strong attachment to this servant. He was close to desperation because of the seemingly imminent death of the latter and he sought to have him healed by all means.
Why did the Jewish leaders plead for the Centurion? Because he built their synagogue. They told Jesus that this man loved their nation and that he had built their synagogue. The good you do today will attract favour to you tomorrow. And this favour can make the difference between life and death, success and failure, prosperity and destruction, healing and sickness. Let’s be careful how we treat people. Let’s be generous. Let’s be humble. Let us bring good into other people’s lives. And Jesus rightly said that whatever we sow, we will reap.
The humility of the centurion
There is another important dimension to the story of the Centurion, it’s his humility. This man was an officer, a man of a certain stature. Quite obviously this man was fairly wealthy, but he was so humble that he felt that he did not deserve Jesus’s attention. The Jewish leaders told Jesus that this man deserved that Jesus would come to his house and heal his servant because of his love for the nation and his generosity in building the synagogue. However, the man himself felt that he did not even so much as deserve for Jesus to come to his house. He was not worthy to receive him.
Despite all that he possessed in the natural he did recognise the spiritual authority of Jesus. He had enough humility to know that the spiritual is superior to the natural. Irrespective of what you are in life, be humble. Acknowledge that there are people who God has lifted up. Acknowledge that everyone has value and must be treated with respect. Once again, be humble. Do not be proud. I often see people arrive in church battered and broken, with nothing. But once the Lord begins to bless them and lift them, they start thinking highly of themselves and elevating themselves above everyone, including the man or woman of God, who prayed for them when they went down.
Humility is the hiding place of our glory. It is humility that will trigger the favour that we need to make progress in life and whereby people will plead our cause. Indeed, sometimes we need someone to plead our cause. No man is an island. Everyone needs someone. From the story of this centurion, we learn the importance of what we hear. We learn to develop great faith. We learn the importance of goodness, generosity and humility. The fruits of the Spirit are absolutely essential for our faith to be effective.