Not everyone accepted Jesus’ authority, let alone with bold faith. Today, we almost take it for granted. Or do we? How many professing Christians boldly set aside personal values to become more Christ-like? How often do we drop our baggage at the cross and live a new life empowered by Jesus? What does it even mean to be empowered by Jesus?
It means bold faith.
As I was re-reading the Gospel of Luke – a physician seeking truth, not an apostle – I was struck by the bold faith of the Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10). In Jesus’ day, the Roman Empire encompassed large areas of land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Judea, which is the region of Jesus’ earthly ministry. By this time, about 33 AD, the Jews were Roman citizens and Judaism was a legal religion in the empire. Yet, it is important to note that most of the Roman Empire was not Jewish. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Roman centurion was not a Jew.
But that is why his story matters and why Jesus recognized his bold faith when most others would’ve missed it.
Luke describes the centurion as having good relations with the Jews of Capernum, not that he was a member of the faith. From the very first mention of this centurion, though, Luke hints at his openness to receiving Jesus. We know this because Luke tells of the centurion hearing of Jesus’ ministry as the catalyst to seeking His help. The centurion then sent the Jewish elders to intercede on his behalf to summon Jesus to heal his highly-valued servant:
“And Jesus went with [the Jews loyal to the centurion]. 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.” – Luke 7:6
From this we see the next step of the centurion’s faith – the recognition that he was not worthy of Jesus’ presence, let alone His assistance. The centurion also demonstrated that he revered Jesus as more than just a healer.
The centurion’s next two sentences reveal another step in his faith – bold acceptance of Jesus’ authority. Speaking to Jesus through his friends, he said:
“But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” – Luke 7:7b-8
When Jesus heard these things he marveled (Luke 7:9). Why? Because the centurion deeply trusted Jesus’ authority to merely speak the words and His will would be done. What’s more, though, is that the centurion recognized Jesus’ authority as coming from a higher power; like Jesus, the centurion’s power came from the authority given him.
Now, we don’t know what transpired between the time the centurion initially sent the Jewish elders and when he sent his friends to declare his bold faith before Jesus’ arrival at his house. In fact, Matthew’s account of this event tells of the centurion personally visiting Jesus, not sending anyone on his behalf (Matthew 8:5-13). Here’s what matters: neither scenario is as important as the centurion’s testimony.
In his four sentences, the centurion displayed more faith than Jesus had found among the Jews.
- The centurion had credibility – the Jews testified to his kindness of heart toward his fellow man and that he let them build a synagogue in Capernum.
- The centurion proved open to Jesus’ message and ability – he heard of Jesus’ teaching and appealed to Him for help.
- The centurion boldly accepted Jesus’ authority – he recognized power was given to Jesus and that by mere words Jesus could heal.
Through his brief testimony, the centurion understood an element of faith that I think many Christians miss today. Until we recognize that no social or financial status, achievement, or action will ever earn us our way to God, we will forever be as lost as the Pharisees.
The centurion didn’t know the end of the story, that Jesus would be unjustly persecuted to death then rise again as our atoning sacrifice. Do you know this Jesus? It is time we accept Jesus’ authority, drop our baggage at the cross, and live empowered by the new life we’ve been given. Let’s boldly declare our faith in Jesus!
Always seeking to be found in Him,
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