Requirements For Faith 1 - The Centurion
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Chan Gin Kai
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But 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 at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. (Luke 7:1-10)
In the NIV version of the four Gospels, the word ‘amazed’ was used 32 times to describe the people’s reaction to Jesus. Conversely, ‘amazed’ was only used twice to describe Jesus’ reaction to people. So what amazed Jesus?
The story above was one of them; Jesus was amazed by the faith of the Roman centurion and remarked that he had not found anyone with greater faith. How incredible would it be to get such a compliment from Jesus?
The other time Jesus was amazed was at the people from his own hometown. We certainly hope that’s not how Jesus feels about us... He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:6)
Jesus is amazed by great faith, and he’s also amazed by the lack of faith. So how do we grow our faith in him and in God?
A Humble Heart
The Jewish elders “pleaded earnestly” with Jesus, saying that the centurion “deserves to have you do this”. He must have been an incredible guy for the elders to have such a high opinion of him and plead on his behalf. He must also have been great at his work for the Roman military to consider him worthy of the rank of a centurion.
It was difficult to impress both the Romans and the Jews at the same time. It was hard to do the work of a soldier, enforcing the Empire’s rule over Israel, and yet behave in a nice and kind way to the people. But this centurion achieved them both.
But while everyone else thought very highly of him, the centurion thought the opposite of himself. He sent his friends to tell Jesus, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof... I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.”
Such humility is rare, and is required for faith. We can’t have faith without humility. Proud people, especially those who have had some little achievements, usually put their faith in themselves and their own abilities. But faith requires us to put our trust in God, not in ourselves.
A humble heart is required for faith to exist.
A Loving Heart
The centurion’s attitude towards his servant (actually a slave) was unusual. In the ancient Roman Empire, slaves made up 30 to 40 percent of the population and formed the majority of the work force. They were the property of their masters, and the masters could use them or dispose of them as they pleased. They wouldn’t waste the time, money or effort to cure a sick slave. So it was common for masters to simply kill them if they were too sick or injured to perform at their work. It was easier to just get rid of the slave and buy a new one.
But the centurion cared for this slave. Perhaps the slave had unique skill sets that made him highly valued. But I believe it was also because the centurion had a unique heart... He cared for people he didn’t have to.
The Jews despised the Gentiles, especially Roman soldiers. But instead of returning tit-for-tat, this centurion cared for the Jews. The elders described him, “he loves our nation and has built our synagogue”... He loved people who despised him.
Faith and love are often mentioned in the same breath in the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 1:3, Philemon 5, Ephesians 1:15, Colossians 1:3-4). One begets the other; each virtue helps the other to grow. Have you ever heard of anyone who has great faith but little love? Do you love?
A loving heart is required for faith to grow.
An Obedient Heart
When a man enrolled as a Roman soldier, he swore a military oath known as the sacramentum militaire to the general and the emperor. The sacramentum stated that he would be punished severely if he failed to properly perform his duties. Discipline in the army was extremely harsh and the general had the power to summarily execute any soldier under his command.
As a military man, the centurion knew all about authority, power and obedience. He understood that authority and power went hand in hand, and absolute obedience to the person in command is expected. In a battle, the soldiers obey the general’s authority, trusting that their obedience to the general’s strategy gives them the power to win the war.
So because the centurion believed Jesus has the authority and power to heal, he trusted that Jesus only needed to give the command and the sickness would be gone.
Do we understand the concept of authority, power and obedience? Do we have absolute obedience to God’s authority, trusting that our obedience to God’s plan will give us the power to win our war with Satan?
An obedient heart is required for faith to show its power.
In the end, the centurion and Jesus never met. We don’t even know the centurion’s name. But the story of his faith has been told for generations across the world. He is an example for all of us in faith.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".