Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-13
The story of the Roman Centurion and his great faith is recorded in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew and record the statement of Jesus – “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”
This Centurion is declared to have greater faith than anyone in Israel and for this reason it should become a source of great interest to us who seek to have “great faith”
When we initially look at the story we consider that his faith was great because he believed that Jesus could heal his servant, but there were many in Israel at that time that believed that Jesus could heal and the Gospel records prove that fact over and over again. Many believed that Jesus could heal and yet they were not in possession of such great faith.
Let us look at the story in the Gospel of Luke. We are told that this man was not a Jew and was a Gentile God fearer who the Jewish leaders declared to be a worthy man – Luke 7:4-5 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.”
The leaders or elders recognised and declared this Centurion to be “Worthy” and it is clear that he had made great efforts to support the community of Israel.
The Centurion despite being attributed with this great title of being “Worthy” saw himself in a different light and considered himself to be unworthy declaring
“Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed”.
Remember there were many in Israel who had come to Jesus and trusted in His word to heal but we do not find a man with position, power and the backing of Jewish elite conferring on him the title of “worthy” actually declaring himself to be “unworthy”.
We therefore understand that the Centurion knew “himself” and in truth judged “himself” correctly. Despite all the endorsements of the Jewish elders, his position as Centurion, obvious wealth and position of patronage in building a synagogue. He declared himself “unworthy” and in humility recognised his relationship to God.
The Centurion also understood and believed in the authority of Jesus and recognised that here was the greater authority over sickness and demonic activity. He likened this to his own position of command over his soldiers. He understood that the strong man had been bound and now the One who is greater is in Israel to plunder and sweep his house clean
Matthew 12:29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
So what was this great faith that caused Jesus to marvel and can we have such a great faith today?
For the Centurion his faith started small and was simply to believe that God exists and can be found
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
The reward of seeking is to find and if we seek Him then our reward is to find Him.
The Centurion became a man of “Great Faith” not because he believed Jesus could heal or that he could do so by a single word but because in seeking God he had found Him and also found himself.
The Centurion was a man who “understood himself” and “knew his relationship to God” This was the Great Faith that had not been found in Israel. In his searching the Centurion had been rewarded with a true understanding of himself, a humbling experience that led him to declare “I am not worthy”. This Centurion had gained understanding of God and his relationship to God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. He did not base his request for divine intervention on his status or declared worthiness but had confidence in the mercy and authority of Jesus to answer his plea.
As a people living after the death and resurrection of Jesus we have such wonderful opportunity to grow in faith but our faith will only be great when we start from the place of “understanding ourselves” – recognising our personal unworthiness and in humility placing our confidence in God accepting that our righteousness (a right standing or right relationship) is only established in our being “in Christ”. Our faith is not increased by a belief in what God can do but by a personal union with Him that is based on “Who I am” “Who He is” and that my approach to seek Him will always be rewarded by finding Him. In finding Him I understand just a little bit more, as I go on to find by my continual searching.
It is simple yet difficult to understand myself, as I desire to agree with those who would declare me worthy, but my journey of faith always includes the reality of who I really am. When I approach Him in the truth of this reality, He awaits to make Himself known and then I find myself having “Great Faith” that acknowledges His authority and mercy to do more in me than I could possibly imagine.
Lord help me to understand myself and to seek you in that reality so that I may experience more of You than I have yet found.