“SUCH GREAT FAITH”
Luke 7:1-10, Key Verse: 7:9
“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.’”
In the last passage, Luke 6:43-49, we learned the conclusion of the sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught his disciples how to live fruitful lives and be wise builders. When we store good things in our heart through meditating on the word of God and think about excellent things, we will bear good fruit. Simply speaking, when you study the Bible and school subjects diligently, you will bear good fruit in time. In addition, if we put Jesus’ teaching into practice, we will build your life on the solid rock, and no troubles in life will destroy the foundation of our faith. Amen!
Today’s passage is a demonstration of the last passage in life, bringing a fruit bearing person as an example. Surprisingly, the person is not from the Jews but from the gentiles; it was the most unexpected person, a Roman centurion, who won the hearts of his enemies through his love and care. In the end, the author is teaching how a person can put his faith in the word of God into practice. May God grant each one of us the life-giving word of God through this passage! Amen!
Look at verse 1. “When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.” Jesus taught his disciples the Sermon on the Mount, which is known one of the most beautiful teachings of Jesus. Even though Jesus gave these teachings to his disciples to learn and put into practice, people of the world have also taken lessons from them; especially they call the saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” the “Golden Rule”. After teaching his disciples, Jesus went to Capernaum, which was a prosperous city in the northern part of Galilee where there was a compound of Roman solders.
There was a Roman centurion who was very different from a regular Roman soldier. Look at verses 2 and 3. “There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” A centurion was the captain of over 100 soldiers, overseeing the city. It has long been believed that centurions were almost always promoted from the ranks of common soldiers. Soldiers who had served at least 10 years in the ranks and had occupied junior staff posts such as "optio" or "signifier," like lieutenant today, could become a centurion if there was a vacancy. This centurion must have been through many battles, killing innumerable enemies. How tough a centurion should be in order to lead 100 Roman soldiers at the time of war! The compound was stationed in Capernaum, the commercial city of the region, so the Romans could rule the rebellious people of Israel. In Luke 23 we find how Roman soldiers were cruel as they ridiculed and tortured Jesus with a crown of thorns and bloody lashes. After crucifying an innocent man, they cast lots to divide his clothes. Also, a centurion was served by slaves who attended to his needs. He commanded them and they absolutely obeyed him; otherwise, the slave could be punished severely. Moreover, a slave was considered property at that time. If a slave’s owner considered them useless, the owner could get rid of them for a new one.
The centurion in this passage also had slaves, probably from many nationalities including Jews. But he treated his servants differently, not as property. When one of his servants whom he valued highly was sick, he cared for him dearly. He probably brought doctors to treat him, but the servant kept getting worse and was dying. The centurion did not know what to do. While he was searching for a cure, he heard about Jesus who healed all kinds of sickness and even raised the dead. When he found hope for his sick servant, he wasted no time. He knew the culture of the Jews, that a rabbi would not listen to a Roman centurion. He asked some elders of the Jews to go and ask Jesus on behalf of him to come and heal his servant.
What was the response of the Jewish elders? Look at verse 4 and 5, “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.’” At that time, the Jews hated Romans because they were conquered by them and taxed by them heavily, using their own people like Levi. One of Jesus’ disciples, Simon the Zealot, was a member of the group revolting against the Roman government for the freedom of their own nation. During the Japanese occupation, many Christians were like Simon the Zealot, fighting against Japanese soldiers for the freedom of Korea. If a Japanese captain requested such a favor from a Korean elder, they would refuse or bring the worst Korean herb doctor.
Amazingly, however, the Jewish elders were willing to go to Jesus on behalf of the centurion. It was because they felt the centurion deserved Jesus’ favor because he did a lot for them. He loved the nation, Israel, dearly. While most Roman rulers despised their conquered nations, the centurion respected the Jews and their religion. In the movie Ben-Hur, Masala was a good friend of Ben-Hur and his family. But when he became a Roman centurion and had a conflict, he became merciless and took everything from the Hur family. But this centurion spent his own money in order to build the Jewish synagogue in the village.
How could he have been such a man of integrity? According to today’s passage, we can say that he was a man of righteousness. He had a good relationship with others, not only with the lowest level of the society, servants, but also with the Jews who considered Romans enemies. The centurion’s life won the hearts of those who would normally be his enemies, so much so that they were willing to go extra miles for his servant. Here, the author brings the best example of a person who loved his enemies and bore good fruit in life, not from among the Jews but from the gentiles, this Roman centurion.
Recently, I have been reading a book with the title, The Meaning of Marriage. The author says that one of the most serious problems of this generation is a consumer mentality, which is from a pragmatic way of thinking. Simply speaking, a consumer mentality is that I am out if I don’t get anything out of it; if it is not valuable to me, I do not invest. This is a general practice in doing business, but Christians should have not applied it in marriage and in the church. With such a consumer mentality, marriages today are easily broken. With the same mindset, many Christians are living without love and commitment in a church and in a family today. When I examined myself, I found myself having a pragmatic mindset; if it was not valuable to me, I would not invest my time, money and effort. But the centurion was such a good man who cared for his servant even though he was sick and useless, and he loved the Jews who hated him. Through the example of this noble centurion, I found that I still have some pragmatic way of thinking in me. May God help me to grow in the image of Christ, caring for the helpless and loving even people who hate me with the power of Jesus’ love. Amen!
What was Jesus’ response? Look verse 6a, “So Jesus went with them.” Jesus was humble and listened to the elders, even though he knew that he was going to be persecuted by the elders. He was willing to serve the centurion and heal his servant. But something unusual happened. Look at verse 6d and 7. “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.” The centurion heard that Jesus was coming to his home in order to heal his servant. Maybe he thought that Jesus would not come but send one of his disciples to heal his servant. He realized that it was a mistake to ask Jesus to come to his house. It was because he recognized Jesus as Lord. When he realized that Jesus is the Lord of all diseases, he felt so small that he did not deserve to be in the presence of Jesus. Probably his house was very nice compared to the house of the regular Jews, but he believed that Jesus is too great to stay in his gorgeous house. The centurion was noble before people and humble before Jesus.
Moreover, he believed that Jesus’ words have authority and power. If Jesus just speaks, his servants should be healed. According to his analysis in verse 8, he understood Jesus through his military experience. Jesus is the commander of all diseases. He was a man with authority. During many battles, when he commanded his soldiers to attack their enemies, they obeyed him absolutely at the risk of their lives even if it seemed impossible to win. When he commanded them to withdraw, they did the same even though they were winning. In the same way, when Jesus commanded evil spirits to go away, they obeyed. When Jesus commanded the dead, saying, “Lazarus come out!” the dead Lazarus was raised from the smelly tomb. As his words had authority and power to move his soldiers, how much more would Jesus’ words have authority and power to heal his servant.
What was Jesus’ response? Look at verse 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.’” While on earth, Jesus was amazed twice: by people’s lack of faith and by the faith of the centurion. Missionary Mary called it amazing faith. He knew who Jesus is and humbled himself before him. Moreover, he believed in the authority and power of Jesus’ words. Jesus was more impressed because he was a Roman centurion. He could not find such great faith among the Jews or even his disciples. This gentile’s faith amazed Jesus! Probably the centurion did not know the Old Testament much, but his faith is expressed in humility before Jesus and in love for the Jews and his servant. Nothing impresses Jesus except our faith, which is practiced in humility and love.
Look at verse 10. “Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” When the friend of the centurion came back, he found that the servant was healed. In fact, Jesus even did not have to speak for the servant to be healed. By the humble faith of the centurion, the servant was healed.
This reminds me of Hebrews 11:6, which says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The author of Hebrews listed all exemplary men and women of faith who pleased God, beginning from Abel to the prophets. Among them, he wrote the most about Abraham, who believed in the promise of God and obeyed and went to the promised land even though he did not know where he was going. Even though he had a few weaknesses, Abraham’s faith was expressed in humility through obedience to God’s word and in his love to his nephew Lot. Even though Lot was not a good nephew to him, Abraham loved him and God saved Lot in response to his prayer. May God help us to have faith like the Roman centurion, believing in the power of Jesus’ words and expressing our faith in humility and love, so that we may experience the power of Jesus’ healing.
When Dr. Jason’s family went to Ukraine, Peter got sick. At that time, the hospital in Ukraine was not good enough to treat Peter. People suggested the Perry family to move to another country, such as Germany. But Dr. Jason decided to trust in God who brought them to Ukraine. Missionary Peter commended his faith like the Roman centurion, believing God blessed his humble faith and healed Peter.
Through today’s passage, we learned about the Roman centurion’s life and faith. He loved the Jews so much so that he won their hearts. He loved his servant, not as property but as a family member. He knew who Jesus is and humbled himself. He had faith in the authority and power of Jesus’ words as he was a man with authority and power. Jesus was amazed by his faith, expressed in humility and in love, and blessed him through healing. May God bless each one of us to have faith in the power of Jesus’ words, impressing Jesus through our humility before God and love for people. Amen!