Summary: This sermon explores the faithful response of the centurion to Jesus. His faith in Jesus is rooted in his understanding of authority. This centurion has provided us with a picture of what it means to know Jesus Christ - as Lord of our lives.
The text for this morning’s message is taken from the Gospel lesson read earlier, especially these verses, [6 So Jesus went with them. 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.” 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.] So far our text.
Before these verses, Jesus had just completed the message that is known as the Sermon on the Mount. He had given the disciples a message which deals with our attitudes, our need for forgiveness, loving our enemies, examining our leaders, and what it means to obey the Word of God. Upon finishing this long session of teaching, He heads into Capernaum. By doing this He leaves His homeland - for the surrounding areas. Do you recall the reception He had received in His hometown? He had read from the prophet Isaiah, and then told the people gathered that these very words were fulfilled (at that moment) in their hearing. Do you remember their attitude and reaction? They had pressed Him toward the edge of the hill upon which the town stood in order to throw Him down from it… Not to welcoming of a reception, to say the least.
Yet despite this negative response, word about Jesus spreads to the surrounding lands. Certainly talk of the power He wields; the healings, the exorcisms, how He speaks forgiveness of sins. And also there is talk of the authority of His words. He speaks not as a mere messenger. The prophets of old were to be awed and respected; but Jesus was to be worshipped.
It is in respect to His authority that we concentrate this morning on the reaction of the Roman Centurion to Jesus. The centurion understood the concept of “a chain of command.” He understood what it meant to be under authority and have others under him. He recognized this principle in action in Jesus. He had heard of Jesus – the power by which Jesus acted; and the authority by which He spoke.
Here, we get a good glimpse of this centurion. He sent two delegations to Jesus not to impress Jesus with the idea that He was somebody important and was therefore owed a favor. He simply recognized who Jesus truly was, and thought then of himself as being unworthy to even stand in Jesus’ presence.
He did not feel God became indebted to him, because he had been kind and helped the Jewish people build their synagogue. No, instead he is humble and submits himself to Jesus’ authority.
And this point is remarkable, because this man was an official of the Roman Empire, and a spokesperson on behalf of the Emperor Caesar. Rome was the greatest power of its day. People of high standing and local political leaders seeking political influence would have been begging to get inside this centurion’s home. His house was the seat of power, yet he tells Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have to have you come under my roof, that is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” Dear friends, here is where true faith begins.