Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."Luke 7:9(NASB)
Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel as their Messiah and King, but He also came as Saviour of the world. Although His ministry was to the Jew first, He always showed great compassion to the Gentiles who came to Him for help. One person who asked for His assistance was a Roman centurion, whose highly-valued servant was sick and about to die.
When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to ask Him to come and save the life of his slave. They came quickly to find the Lord, and earnestly implored Him to help this well-respected member of their community. "He is worthy for You to grant this to him," they pleaded, "for he loves our nation and was the one who built us our synagogue."
Immediately Jesus set out to heal his servant. He did not go because the man was worthy or because of His love for the nation of Israel. He did not go because members of the Jewish community requested it or because the centurion had built a synagogue in their neighbourhood. Jesus went because His heart was full of compassion, mercy, and love.
Jesus came from heaven to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, and drive out demons, but as He drew closer to the house, more servants met Him with an astonishing message from the centurion, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof. I do not even consider myself worthy to come to meet You personally, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed."
Jesus was utterly astonished by this message because it demonstrated a secure faith in the Person and work of Christ. "Now when Jesus heard this," we read, "He marvelled at the centurion, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, 'I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.'" How sad that Jesus came to His own people, who rejected Him, yet this heathen man demonstrated such astonishing faith.
This Roman commander was a remarkable man, who showed a far greater awareness of Christ's mission, ministry, and sovereign authority over sickness and death, than the Jews. Israel should have recognised Him as the promised Messiah, Who had fulfilled many prophecies about Himself. And yet, this Gentile showed a strong faith, deep humility, and a simple confidence in Christ - three complementary qualities that are so necessary in a man or woman of faith.
It was not the centurion's generosity towards Israel, or his obvious compassion towards his sick slave that amazed the Lord. Jesus marvelled at the simplicity and strength of this man's faith, for he expressed an understanding of Christ's authoritative word and exhibited an unprecedented awareness of His sovereignty in the spiritual sphere. Unlike his Jewish neighbours, this Roman knew that Jesus was from God, and that His authoritative Word was powerful enough to command the fatal sickness to leave the ailing body of his faithful servant.
There are only a few recorded instances where we read that Jesus was amazed. His amazement at the faith of this centurion stands in stark contrast to the amazement he had at the unbelief of the Jews in His hometown of Nazareth. The one... showing great faith in the spoken word of Christ and His supreme authority over nature, and the other... demonstrating such a lack of faith, that He was prevented from doing any mighty miracles in Nazareth, except to lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.
Our God is a God Who hears and answers prayers. Needless to say... "when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health." However, it should be remembered that God does not always answer our prayers for healing at the time we expect or in a way that we would like. Sometimes healing is delayed or even withheld to bolster our faith. Similarly, there are those that declare that if a prayer for healing goes unanswered it demonstrates a shocking lack of faith - but once again these are totally unbiblical teachings which should be avoided.
It was not the amount of faith this soldier demonstrated that is important - but the Person in Whom he placed his trust - the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not faith that is the issue but the Person in Whom we place our trust. May we cultivate the sort of faith demonstrated in the words and actions of this Roman centurion and cultivate a faith that believes in the authority of God's Word and the knowledge that His Word is TRUE.
Dear Father God, I know the importance of faith in our lives, and I thank You for the men and women in Scripture, and the different saints I have known personally, who have demonstrated true trust in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, I understand that it is not the amount of faith that is important, but the One in Whom I place my faith - the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You that He is the One Who is able to keep and uphold me, provide for me and sustain me, according to Your riches in Him. Keep me low at the Cross and ever looking to Him, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.