Great Faith Is Faith in Christ – The Centurion
Luke 7:1–10 (CSB)
1 When he had concluded saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion’s servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, requesting him to come and save the life of his servant. 4 When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy for you to grant this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.” 6 Jesus went with them, and when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, since I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.
Dear fellow redeemed, with this, the Second Sunday of Pentecost, we enter the second half of the church year. As the green symbolizes, this is the season of growth, a time for us to take a look at the importance of what we have seen during these great and marvelous festivals.
We begin the season with three accounts of Jesus dealing with common situations in His ministry. Today we consider the Centurion and his Servant, next week, the young man of Nain, and the week after, the woman anointing Jesus feet. Remember, the festival portion of the church year highlights the fact that heaven itself has invaded this world, this time, and this age, in the person of Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate. The last days are here now. The kingdom of God is here now, though we do not yet participate in its fullness until after the resurrection of all people.
The kingdom that is here now is not yet in its fullness, so that there may be time for people to repent, so for now the grace that Christ brings to this world works faith in us and is received by faith. What can we learn about faith from this centurion who has, as Jesus says, “great faith”? Above all, …
GREAT FAITH IS FAITH IN CHRIST
- In Christ Who Is True God
- In the Promises of Christ’s Word
- Faith Receives Christ’s Righteousness
In Christ Who Is True God
Of course the most obvious thing about this particular account of the Christ is the great faith of the Roman Centurion; Jesus Himself makes the comment. The centurion had accepted what so many others, both then and now, really didn’t believe. In the face of perfect, accepting, childlike faith, probably most of us can learn a lesson in humility. The centurion had outshone everyone in Israel that Christ had seen.
The most apparent characteristic of this faith of the centurion is that it was faith in Christ as true God and man. The Centurion had trusted Christ who was trust-worthy. True faith, let alone “great faith” clings to – has as its object – something that is true.
After all, there are people today who go around believing that this or that faith-healer will cure them. We don’t praise them, we call them fools. There were plenty of people like that in Jesus’ day too. We don’t know the names of many of them, because they were frauds. The centurion sets a good example for us with his firm faith that Jesus is God — but it is not only important that the centurion believed, it is also important that Jesus IS God.
We should not think that it is just a lucky fluke, either, that this impressionable religious fanatic just happened to put his faith in the right person. We receive Christ by faith first and foremost because He comes to us through His word. Romans 10:17 (CSB) 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
The centurion was a man who was devoted to the study of the Holy Scriptures. He was in a position to know on the basis of the Scriptures whether Jesus was the Christ or not. Jesus had to instruct even his disciples on the way to Emmaus how he was the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Promises, an understanding which the Holy Spirit perfected in them.
Quite evidently the centurion had it even now.
How do we know that he was a student of the Scriptures? Because he had given of his own wealth to build facilities for regular Bible study in Capernaum. He had built the synagogue there, where people regularly gathered to hear the Scriptures proclaimed. The ruins of that synagogue are there to this day, and archaeological evidence has been found which identifies the synagogue as having been built by a certain centurion.
In the Promises of Christ’s Word
So through the Scriptures, the centurion had already gotten to know Christ. This Christ who walked the dusty roads of Galilee, who preached to the people, who did the miracles had already been revealed in part in the Old Testament.
Just as you and I get to know Christ now, so that when we meet in heaven it will not be a brand new acquaintance, so the centurion knew something about this Christ. He had read of the grace of God, and of this Christ, such as in Psalm 45: “You are the most handsome of men; grace flows from your lips. Therefore God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2, CSB)
He knew of the mighty works that would be done by the Messiah, as Isaiah wrote, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;” (Isaiah 35:5–6, CSB)
Presumably he had heard that this is just what the Christ would do.
So the centurion knew this Christ. He knew of Christ’s authority as the Messiah, and extrapolated out from his own experience with authority. He knew that with proper authority also comes responsibility, so He knew that this same God who had made all creatures, including this pitifully ill servant, would also have concern and care for His own dear creature.
It was with trust and assurance, then that he called upon Jesus with this prayer for healing.
Christ knew the faith he praised, too. He knew that faith doesn’t lie just in confidence that God would do this or that thing. True faith must always be, first and foremost saving faith.
Saving faith first of all acknowledges our sin and our worthlessness. It acknowledges that we deserve nothing but condemnation for our sin.
Think even of our faith, how earnestly God assures us of His never-failing love. And yet we go through life worrying and fretting as though the here and now were the most important thing, and as though God hadn’t enough good will toward us to make life (which WE, after all have fouled with sin) just a piece of cake.
And recognizing our unworthiness, saving faith believes that God smiles on us. That there on the cross Christ did all that was necessary to win God’s good will. It may be a weak faith, it may, as we have said, be tinged by much worry and fretting, but faith it is, and a gift of God, and is the work of God’s saving grace.
But that faith which trusts in the goodness and grace of God is just the faith that asks with confidence. This is the faith that rushes to the throne of God to ask a favor, and trusts fervently that whatever the answer, it is God’s good and gracious will. Weak as may be, or strong like the centurion’s, it is nevertheless, saving faith.
Faith Receives Christ’s Righteousness
As we said at the beginning, each of these accounts that we consider says something about the people, and also something about our Jesus. In one way or another, we are like these people. Maybe we are like the centurion, of a strong and confident faith. Maybe we are like the others, not so strong.
But in any case, our Jesus is still the same. He is the same Jesus that justified the confidence of the centurion. He is the same Jesus that, even without putting in a physical appearance was quick to grant healing to the centurion’s servant. He is the same Messiah that the Centurion had already been introduced to in the Scriptures. He is the same Jesus that who is with us today, and whom we get to know, even as we read about Him.
May the Holy Spirit so open all our eyes that we may daily know our Jesus better, as Savior, and as friend.