I’m sure all of us who claim Jesus as Savior and Lord acknowledge His divine authority. We acknowledge it; but how often do we base our actions on the fact that His authority is real, active, and applicable in our circumstances? That’s what faith does. And that’s the kind of faith a Roman Centurion, of all people, demonstrated to Jesus.
Luke 7:2-8 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” 6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.”
Simply by treating them well, in what was for them a difficult situation (being subjugated to the Romans), this Centurion had endeared himself to the people. He obviously identified with them as people, not just as subjects. He went out of his way to bless them, and did not stand on his prerogatives as a Roman officer.
He didn’t have a lot of in-depth knowledge about Jesus – but what he heard he believed. Somehow, he understood that Jesus was of God, and called on Him in his time of great need.
This Centurion was a man of humility and sensitivity. Speaking through the friends he sent to Jesus, this Roman officer addressed Him as “Lord.” He wanted to make it absolutely clear that in no way was he commanding Jesus to come. When you contrast his spirit with what is often seen in those who have power over others, this is very remarkable. I believe the Centurion was a man so secure in his authority that he didn’t have to flaunt it. He didn’t see his position as making him better than those over whom he had been given authority. It is perhaps characteristic of his humility that he saw himself primarily as a man under authority, rather than one in authority.
The Centurion was sensitive to the fact that it could be awkward for a Jewish rabbi to have contact of any kind with a Gentile. So he did not claim for himself the right to have Jesus come to his house, or even to meet with him face to face. He also somehow understood that this representative of God did not need to be physically present – His Word was all that was needed.
As Leon Morris points out in his commentary on this passage, the illustration the Centurion uses is all about the power of the word. “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 the Centurion understands is that authority is expressed by and carried by the word. So, any person of real authority has but to speak the word to see his will carried out. In the whole way he handled this situation, the Centurion was expressing his belief in and appreciation for the spiritual authority of Jesus.
Luke 7:9-10 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
The great faith Jesus commended the Centurion for – greater than any He had seen in Israel – was seen first in the Centurion taking action on the basis of what he believed. He believed that Jesus had the authority of God. Because he understood authority, the Centurion based everything in his interaction with Jesus on the fact of Jesus’ authority. The Centurion acted on the basis that the divine, supernatural authority of Jesus was real. No questioning, no equivocation. It was a comprehensive manifestation of faith – belief followed by action totally based on that belief.
From beginning to end, the Centurion dealt with Jesus as if Christ’s authority was absolutely real. So, this may be one of the greatest scriptural examples of acting as if what you believe is really true. That’s what faith does!