Sometimes people have amazed us. It may have been some unexpected aspect of their character. Or it may be that we were amazed at the things they said. That was the impact that Jesus had on people. But it may surprise us to realise that Jesus was twice amazed at people. He was amazed at the unbelief of those who should have known better, His own countrymen in His own hometown of Nazareth. Mk 6:5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
However the other incident in which we are told that Jesus was amazed is in Luke 7. He was amazed at the faith of a most unlikely person, a Roman centurion. Let’s see what we can learn from this man about the nature of faith that brought commendation from Jesus and ultimately great blessing to someone in desperate need?
1). POSITIVE ATTITUDES THAT BRING BLESSING. (As seen in the Centurion)
i. He noticed human need. 7:2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death. This Gentile military man in charge of about 100 soldiers was unusual. At that time servants had no rights or privileges. They had no value in the eyes of their masters. But this centurion was different. He had come to know that not only was this servant quite ill, but also that he was at the point of death.
ii. He cared about humans and their needs. 7:2 Now a centurion had a servant … who was highly valued by him. Luke writes that the Centurion valued him highly but he used a word (entimos) that means “precious”. Peter used it in his first epistle to describe Jesus as “precious” to God. 1 Pet 2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 To you then who believe, he is precious. Jesus was obviously precious to His Father in heaven. He was to become precious to His disciples when they came to fully understand why He had come to earth and the relevance of what He had come to do. But here in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we come across an important military man who saw one of his own servants as “precious”.
iii. He longed for human need to be met. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. He wanted his servant to be healed. He sent the Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal the servant. He didn’t rely on his status as a military commander. He humbly sent the Jewish elders to ask Jesus as a fellow Jew, for help.
iv. He was open to God and to God’s people. That was seen in:-
a). His love for the people of God. “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation. He stood against the anti-Jewish feeling of the time. The Jewish people could know protection under his care. His love had been seen in his attitude and in his actions towards the Jews.
b). His support for the people of God. and he is the one who built us our synagogue. The word (autos) here would seem to indicate that the Centurion (himself) was responsible as an individual for the building of their synagogue. He was concerned that the people of God should be able to meet together and to learn from their scriptures in their synagogue.
c). His concern for the honour of the God of Israel. He apparently wanted the Jewish people to honour their God. The synagogue would play a big part in that possibility.
d). His openness to the ministry of Jesus. He was willing to approach Jesus. That was surprising when many Jewish and Gentile hearts were already hardening towards Him. Perhaps he recognised real care and authority when he saw it in another person, for he himself was a caring person whilst possessing great authority.
2). POSITIVE FAITH IN JESUS’ POWER TO HEAL. 7:6
i). He humbled himself to ask Jesus for help. 7:3, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. … 7:6 And Jesus went with them. But then we read, 7:6 … When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.
The Jewish elders were saying about the Centurion. He is worthy to have you do this for him.
He was saying of himself, I am not worthy to have you (Jesus) come under my roof.
Their comparison. They compared him to other people, He is worthy to have you do this for him because he has done this and this and….
His comparison. He compared himself with Jesus. If Jesus was God’s servant in healing people then he felt unworthy to ask Him favours.
He may have begun to realise that He had asked a holy man of God to go to his unclean (in the sight of the Jews) Gentile home to minister to the servant. (And Jesus had begun the journey!)
But as he reflected on what he had done, he realised something. Jesus didn’t have to go into the house for healing to take place. We see now another dimension to his positive faith.
ii). He believed in the authority of Jesus to heal by a word. 7:7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. This is really quite amazing. A Gentile, a non-Jew believing that all Jesus had to do was to say a word of healing and healing would take place, even from a distance. Why would he believe such a thing? Because of his own experience of the power of words coming from someone with authority. He as a military man could utter a word of command and it would happen. He knew that words spoken from someone in authority accomplished what was commanded. So he believed that Jesus as a man with God’s authority could command healing to take place, and it surely would.
3). JESUS’ AMAZEMENT AT THE CENTURION. 7:9.
We see here Jesus’ surprise at the faith of a Gentile. He called his faith, “such faith” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Such faith to believe that Jesus could and would heal a lowly slave. Such faith to believe that Jesus could do it from a distance. (There were many by this time who had faith in Jesus’ willingness and ability to heal. But this was the first time he had encountered someone who believed Jesus’ word could heal from a distance.) Even Jesus was astounded at who possessed such faith, a Gentile, “… not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
4). THE HEALING. 7:10. 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. Imagine the surprise of the Jewish elders and the Centurion’s friends as they arrived back at the house to find the servant well and whole. The word for “well” is from hugiaínō (which is the source of English word “hygiene”) meaning to be sound and healthy. What a contrast they saw. The servant about to die in utter weakness but now whole, sound, healed.
It is interesting to note that Jesus healed from a distance on another occasion. Even more interesting is that He did it for another Gentile. A Gentile woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter who was some distance away. She showed her faith in Jesus’ character and power by saying that she believed that He could and would help her even though she was a Gentile. He said to her, Mark 7:29 “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
THE CHALLENGE FOR US TODAY
i). We need to emulate the positive attitudes we see in the Centurion. Attitudes such as
a). noticing human needs;
b). caring enough to want to see those needs met.
c). all with an openness to God and to the people of God.
ii). We need to emulate his faith that God does heal and can do so from a distance. To realise Jesus can heal today in the same ways, for He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. (Heb 13:8).
One of the privileges involved in Christian ministry is seeing how God answers prayer in bringing healing to those some distance away. That was a frequent occurrence in the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney during the time was the Leader of the ministry. Very often in our services we would pray with someone in the Cathedral for one of their family members or friends who lived in other parts of the globe. At a later time they would return and tell us what healing had taken place in answer to prayer. Sometimes it was at exactly the time we were praying with them in the Cathedral for their loved ones! Or over a period of time they would report on the progressive healing taking place in their loved one “out there”.
What might He do through us if we had the same positive attitudes and the same positive faith as the Centurion? What might He do through our prayers if we really believed we can pray for people “here”, and “out there” with the expectancy that He is willing and able to heal “here” and “out there”? I suspect a lot more would be happening than we are seeing at the moment.
Blog No. 121. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 1st June 2013