Today’s Reading: Matthew 7-9
Today’s Reflection: Matthew 8:8-9
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
What is this text saying?
A Roman Centurion goes to Jesus requesting healing for his deathly ill servant. Jesus offers to go with the Centurion to his home and the Centurion gives this astonishing reply.
Why is it important?
At this time the divide between Jewish and Gentile peoples (including Romans) was great. Jews did not normally congregate or socialize with non-Jews, and no Jewish religious leader would want to be seen doing so. Gentiles were ‘unclean’ in their way of thinking.
This notion does come from a biblical place. The Old Testament warned Israel against intermarriage, treaties, and other relationships with the foreign nations around them. But the purpose for this was so Israel could remain a faithful example to the other nations—undiluted by pagan and idolatrous beliefs. Israel was to live such that other nations would desire to follow God themselves, rather than just to keep the blessings of knowing God to itself.
So the mere fact of Jesus interaction with the Centurion alone would have come as a surprise to His disciples. Even more surprising is the Centurion’s confession of faith and understanding of the messianic nature of Jesus. When the Centurion makes the statement in Matthew 8:8-9 he clearly recognizes three critical things:
1 – That Jesus receives His authority from God.
2 – That Jesus has authority over the things of this world.
3 – That Jesus spoken word has power to exercise this authority.
When the Centurion compares Jesus position to his own he essentially says, the way I have authority from the Roman Government, you have authority from God; the same way I command men and they MUST do what I say, you command the issues of life and death, the very fabric from which the world is woven, and they MUST do as you say. A profound and powerful statement indeed.
Jesus is amazed by these words and proclaims three things in response (Matthew 8:10-13):
1 – That He has not seen faith like this in Israel, among God’s chosen people
2 – That many will come from outside of Israel and join the Kingdom of heaven, while many descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be cast out.
3 – That the Centurion will receive just as he has believed.
And indeed, the Centurion’s servant was healed that same moment.
How can I apply this?
1 – Make God’s Word your own. The Centurion framed the nature of Jesus, His authority, and the power of His word in a context the Centurion could understand—that of being a Centurion. He found a way to make the Gospel relevant and real, something practical. Examples of this are all throughout scripture: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Psalms 23:1); the righteous man is ‘like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season’ (Psalms 1:3). God invites us to do the same thing.
I’m not talking about trying to spiritualize our sins and the consequences of our wrong actions to justify ourselves—a dangerous trap we must be wary of. I’m talking about taking the truth that God proclaims about Himself, and framing it in ways that help us to make it real and relevant to ourselves and to others.
I remember a friend who had done a remarkable thing—this person passed on a financially lucrative job opportunity because they knew it’s worldly nature would take them away from God. This reminded me of a bible text that praised Moses for his faithfulness to God over worldly pleasures. So I took the text and replaced Moses’ name and his circumstances with my friend’s name and circumstances and shared it with them. When we make God’s Word our own the bible becomes more than a book of old stories, it becomes a living part of us, here and now.
2 – When was the last time Jesus marveled at your faith? The bible says Jesus ‘marveled’ at the Centurion’s statement. Think about that for a moment. The God who framed the world with His hands marveled at a display of faith. Perhaps understanding this we can see how a mustard seed’s worth of faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). We each should make it our life’s ambition to have and to exercise faith such that it causes Jesus to marvel and make a boast of us—just as God made a boast of Job’s faith (Job 1:8).
3 – It’s not how you start… The Centurion was likely raised as any young Roman of that day and age would have been. Taught to worship the state of Rome, through the person of the Emperor, who held the titles ‘kyrios’ and ‘soter’—Greek for lord and saviour. He would have been taught to revere mythical gods and seek their blessing on various aspects of daily life.
But somewhere along the way the story of the God of Israel interrupted his life. The teachings of the Messiah captured his attention, and eventually His loyalty. Though he continued to serve Rome, the Centurion put his faith in the real ‘kyrios’ and ‘soter’, Jesus the Christ. On the fateful day he encountered Jesus, that living faith drew forth the power of the living God and the result was a miracle.
You might come from a background as far from God as imaginable, you may have been taught to do things contrary to the ways of God, but no matter who you are or where you come from, if you place your faith in Jesus miracles will happen.