Summary: The Faith That Put A Smile On Jesus' Face

October 03, 2020

So far in our series, Jesus and…., we have explored Jesus’ encounters with Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well – both of which resulted in changed lives. Today we will consider the encounter between Jesus and The Centurion of Capernaum.

There are 2 – slightly different – versions of this story in the Gospels: Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. The sermon today will follow the story as told by Luke.

In Luke chapter 6 we read that Jesus had 2 Sabbath encounters with the Jewish Leaders that left them in a rage and looking for a way to kill Him. After Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount {Luke 6:17-49}, He went to Capernaum…..

Capernaum was a fishing village located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was established during the Hasmonean Dynasty {140-116 BC} and had a population of approximately 1500. During the time of Jesus, Capernaum was an administrative center and the location of a roman garrison - both under the control of Herod Antipas.

Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew the Tax Collector all lived in Capernaum.

In the town there was a Centurion, whose much loved servant was sick and about to die.

A Roman Centurion was a low-ranking officer in charge of 100 men {although that number varied}. The ancient historian Polybius offers a list of qualifications looked for in Centurions:

• They must be not so much seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable.

• They ought not to be over anxious to rush into the fight; but when hard pressed they must be ready to hold their ground and die at their posts.

When the Centurion heard that Jesus was in town, he sent some respected Jewish Leaders to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant --- This was very unusual. Jewish leaders were definitely not in the habit of being fond of Roman soldiers or doing them favors.

Feeling the obvious oddness of the request, one of the elders quickly added, "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue."

This was also unusual. Roman soldiers were not in the habit of being fond of Jews or going out of their way to be helpful to them, but is seems our Centurion was a man among men:

• He was deeply moved by the sickness and imminent death of a beloved servant.

• He was deeply respected by the religious community in Capernaum because of how he treated them – even though he was not a Jew.

• He was a deeply humble man.

Jesus said, “let’s go” and headed for the Centurion’s house. To those listening, this too, would have seemed extremely unusual --- Jews DID NOT go to the homes of Gentiles. It just wasn’t done!!

They were not far from the house when a friend of the Centurion stopped them. “I have a message” ….

Lord, don't trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, 'Go,' and they go, or 'Come,' and they come. And if I say to my slaves, 'Do this or that,' they do it."

Jesus' expression turned thoughtful. He pondered those words, " Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.”

The "founder and perfecter of our faith" marveled at the faith of this man – not a rabbi, not a disciple – no one you’d expect. This man was a Roman soldier, a representative of Israel's enemy, and yet he understood what the Jewish crowds did not yet grasp……. AND JESUS WAS AMAZED!!!

I imagine He nodded his head slightly and with just a hint of a chuckle in His voice He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you; I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”

A Gentile. A Pagan. A hated Roman invader had succeeded in doing what the entire Jewish nation had failed to do --- Amaze Jesus and put a smile on His face.

The Centurion had said, “Just say the word,” yet all we are told is that when the friends returned to the house the slave was completely healed. No “word” is recorded. Jesus healed the man without saying a word. He did not touch the servant. He did not offer a public prayer. He didn’t do anything outwardly…yet the man was healed.

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