Jesus Was Amazed By An Outsider
By Beth Demme
Picture the scene. A Roman soldier, a Centurion in charge of 100 men, comes to see Jesus. There’s been an accident or maybe an illness. The Centurion’s servant, someone important to him, has been paralyzed. The Centurion comes to Jesus, sure that Jesus can help.
The Centurion comes as a man of authority, but he doesn’t attempt to exercise any authority over Jesus. He doesn’t demand assistance or intervention. He doesn’t insist that Jesus give his time or his care. The Centurion begins by sharing with Jesus what is happening. He tells Jesus, “my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”
Jesus doesn’t hesitate, he responds, “I will come and cure him.” But the Centurion, despite his position, is too humble and, possibly, too overwhelmed to accept the offer. Incredibly, he says, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”
In both Matthew and Luke, we read the Centurion’s faith amazed Jesus:
- “When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.’” (Matthew 8:10)
- “When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” (Luke 7:9)
Jesus was amazed because the Centurion was a Gentile living in a pagan society – there was no expectation that he would be a person of faith.
Jesus contrasts the faith of the Centurion with the faith of the Israelites.
The people of Israel are the people of Moses, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They have a history with God. They have:
- the stories
- the scriptures
- the promises
- the covenants
- the Temple
- the priests, scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees
The Centurion has none of that. And yet, he has faith.
In the Centurion’s story, the people inside the religious order weren’t the ones with faith.
As a church person who hopes to one day serve as a pastor, this hits close to home.
Like the Israelites, I have a history with God. I know the stories, read the scriptures, celebrate the promises, understand the covenants, and worship the one true God. But reading about the Centurion’s faith reminds me that knowing all the right things isn’t the same as having faith. The Centurion’s story reminds me that God has a history of working in ways that exceed human expectations.
The Centurion’s story also makes me wonder – where might Jesus find amazing faith today? The Centurion was outside the church of the time, but he understood who Jesus was and what Jesus could do. He wasn’t bogged down by pre-conceived ideas about how the Messiah would look, speak, or act. He was free to accept Jesus as he met him.
May I, too, accept Jesus as I find him.
What about you? Do you have a faith that might amaze Jesus? Are you like me – someone who loves knowledge, but has to work on faith? How do you think we (you and I) can we be more like the Centurion? Tell me about it in the Comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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