The next story in Matthew 8 is about an incredible miracle. (I’m not sure there’s any other kind.) But there’s something about the passage that’s a little confusing to me.
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 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.”
10 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.”
To me if would make more sense if Jesus had said, I haven’t found anyone in Israel with such a great understanding of authority.
The centurion never uses the word faith. But he talks a lot about authority.
The centurion lived under authority and led with authority.
When his superiors told him to do something, he did it. He was under their authority.
And when he told one of his soldiers or servants to do something, they did it. They were subject to him. He had authority over them.
He completely understood how authority works.
I wonder if understanding authority better makes having faith a little easier.
The centurion knew that Jesus had authority over all kinds of sickness and disease and demons. Apparently he had either watched Jesus in action or heard about him from people who had.
I don’t think the centurion had to conjure up enough faith to believe Jesus could heal his servant.
Or repeat scriptures over and over again trying to build his faith.
Or rehearse positive affirmations about the goodness of God to try to erase his doubt.
He didn’t have any doubt Jesus could heal his servant. Because he knew Jesus had authority over every problem he was facing.
And he also knew that, because of that authority, Jesus didn’t even have to be in the presence of his servant in order to heal him. All He had to do was “just say the word.”
How could he be so bold? Because he knew that if he told one of his soldiers to do something, he didn’t have to stand around and watch to make sure it was done. He knew his orders would be carried out because of the authority he carried.
So how does this relate to our faith?
It seems to me Jesus is saying that faith, in some ways, comes from knowing WHO HE IS, His position, and understanding the authority He has, based on that position, over the issues we’re dealing with in our lives.
But we already know all that, don’t we?
Then how does a Roman centurion who didn’t attend synagogue or read the ancient scriptures have more faith than a lot of us modern-day “Christians” with a church on every corner and multiple Bibles in our homes?
That’s a very good question. And it makes the rest of this story even more interesting.
11 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. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 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.