Summary: The centurion exhibited faith - he took Jesus at his word. Why do we Christians have such problems in doing the same?
God’s ways are not our ways
As I looked at our Gospel passage today, I was struck by one simply sentence
4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
The Jews asked Jesus to heal the Centurion’s servant because they thought the centurion was deserving.
Put another way - he is a jolly good chap – and what’s more he has spent money restoring the Church building!
But that isn’t how Jesus saw the matter:
When he saw the Centurion’s faith Jesus said:
“I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
And then Luke records:
10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
How often do we judge by outside appearances?
I have heard people say at funeral talks words to the effect that
“He didn’t believe in God,
He didn’t go to Church but
He was a good Christian”
But is that what a Christian really all is?
I’d suggest to you that being a Christian is about FAITH
Story: Can you imagine if you rang me up to asked me to leave the tables down in St John’s Church (as Tim did before I went to Kenya) and I said yes, I would put them down in the Church that evening.
I would be a bit miffed if you came round to my house the following afternoon to collect them!
Because I had said I would do it!
Yet that is often how we treat God.
You see Faith is simply telling God we trust him to do what he says.
We find the definition of faith in the book of Hebrews
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"(Hebrews 11:1).
Take Abraham in Gen 15.
God gave him an incredible promise.
Humanly it seemed impossible but Abraham took God at his word and God credited it to him as righteousness.
Let me read you the first six verse of Genesis 15
15 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
And it is that very same faith that the Centurion in Luke 7 exhibits
St Luke records it like this
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.
7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
8 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.”
That’s simply called faith.
What is a centurion?
As we don’t have centurions today in the British army, you might well as what was a centurion?
The centurions were the backbone of the Roman Army and they were clearly recognisable because they wore a special helmet, and a more ornate harness of much better quality.
They carried a short vinewood staff as a symbol of rank.
They worked their way up the ranks as soldiers, and were promoted for their dedication and courage.
They were the veteran soldiers who commanded 100 men (a century) each, within a legion of 6,000.
There were thus 60 centuries in a legion, each under the command of a centurion. So there were 60 centurions in a legion
During the time of Augustus there were 28 legions.
The centurion received pay that amounted to more than 20 times the ordinary soldiers pay, about 5,000 denarii per year.
There were actually five senior centurions in a legion who received 10,000 denarii per year, and the chief centurion (the first javelin) received 20,000 denarii in pay annually.