Fidelus Militum

“And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”

Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

{And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.} Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one,

Go, and he goeth;

And to another, Come, and he cometh:

And to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.”

Luke 7:2-9, with {Matthew 8:5-8}

Faith described in the Bible for us as a desirable and necessary attribute to possess. Faith in God acknowledges His Lordship based only upon His testimony: the Bible. It is much easier to claim faith when we can see results, or proof before we commit to trust. In the life of Christ as told by Luke, the first people to acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship had a face-to-face encounter with Him:

  • Simon Peter, When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)
  • A Leper, “And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” (Luke 5:12)

But with these, even Christ Jesus was moved to say, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) Faith cannot be born through sight. Rather, we know from Paul’s later epistle: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

The centurion was the first person to acknowledge Jesus as Lord by hearing only, and believing. Add to this, that he was a Gentile, and you have a convicting challenge to the Jewish people as well as a pioneering  pattern for the Church Age. Let’s examine the dynamic of his great faith as our challenge and pattern.

1. It was a faith of the Word

Great faith declares that its object is its master. Jesus is no man’s slave. Trust in God surrenders to God. Beware of anyone who would ignorantly “command God” to do some favor for themselves. (They take Isaiah 45 out of context to their own humiliation.) Friend, if Christ is the beginning and source of our faith, and yet how do we miss giving to Him also the mastery of it? The centurion came BEGGING to Jesus, not belligerently.

2. It was a faith of work

Although, by human standards, he had bragging rights. His faith was not dead. A work-less faith is a worth-less faith. He loved the Jews, and built them a synagogue. Now, the true test of faith is two-fold: its inward relation to God, and its outward display to others. They cannot exist apart, though their evidence may not be alike. The centurion had faith of Word and faith of work.

As Jesus began to respond, the centurion’s desire for clear understanding drove him to send, after the elders of the Jews, also his friends. You see, the elders had bid Jesus to COME to his house, and that was never his intent. He only desired a CURE for his servant. The miscommunication was likely intentional, as the Jews always “require a sign.”  But whatever the case, he could not just let it happen. He was determined there would be no misunderstanding of his expectation of Jesus, nor of his position as His servant, not the other way around.

Somebody said, “It’s your lucky day!” And he replied, “No, I am just blessed.” Another called, “What are the odds?” To which he responded, “No chance, just the mercy of God.” Why I bet that not so much as a sneeze went by, when showered with “Bless yous!” that he would smile, “He has. By so much of His grace, He has.” Don’t assume that people just know that you’re a believer, make it plain!

But even the friends, as honest as they were could halt the Saviour’s march into Gentile dominion. Jesus came in to each house, as the host.  He passed thru every Kingdom, a conqueror. He is the final word in every argument, the last “Amen” of every prayer, and the crescendo of every song. If he walked into this centurion’s homestead, He would be the head, and not the tail. Was it pride that brought out the centurion out to plead with Jesus once more, or was it true humility?

Great faith declares that its object is its master, not the other way around.

3. It was a faith of worship

We are more easily hypocrites than we are human. Instantly, we assume false humility or ulterior motive must lie behind why the centurion embarrassed himself to the Lord and His disciples. But this is true humility; for didn’t Christ himself declare this as “great faith?” What could be so wrong with Jesus attending to a prayer request? What was so dangerous about letting Christ cure this man’s servant?

If the very basis of great faith is Christ as its author and master, then the highest absolute standard of that faith must be: Christ, as the author and the master. Everyone in THAT home served the centurion. But his relationship to Christ he would never disdain to that low design. He went out to meet Jesus, as a testimony to all his household, that he himself was subject to the Lord Jesus. This was a faith of worship.

This centurion knew hierarchy; he lived by ‘chain-of-command’. He knew when and how to salute the higher rank. He recognized the power behind the name of ‘Caesar’. He knew his whole life could be changed by the orders on a simple piece of paper if it was merely signed by his commander. And so it was for the hundred men under him. They were men “set under authority”. No one went, no one came, and no one did anything in his century that THE CENTURION DID NOT DIRECTLY COMMAND.  If Jesus Christ had entered that house, it would not have been a display of great faith, but a denial of it.

How many times have we dared to credit God’s answer to our prayers, to the effort we put into them? Have you heard of someone ‘praying for years’ so that God would answer? “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6) How often do we steal the credit for a need supplied, or a victory won, or a storm navigated? Oh, yes, it takes faith even to pray to God at all; but faith that makes GOD MARVEL occurs when we are content to remove the credit of our contributions. “Neither thought I myself worthy”

4. It was a faith of wait

Great faith lets God work on His terms, and in His times. He said, “But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” David sang, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) Paul preached, “Thou therefore endure… as a good soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3) Perhaps this last is the greatest of all virtues in the faith of the centurion. A man must be willing to wait if he expects to exalt God, and give honor where honor is due.

Other cases of healings demonstrate the crushed hopes of loved ones when Christ is hindered from coming to the rescue. Jairus’ 12-year old daughter dies while Jesus interviews a crowd because an unclean woman had touched him. Mary and Martha’s beloved brother, Lazarus, dies when Jesus decides to abide two more days while he is sick. It appears that nothing but death comes when Jesus is late in his answers.

And yet Jesus was late to heal the centurion’s servant as well, not at the delay of devilish forces, nor at the hindrance of circumstance, nor foe, nor nature, nor darkness, but the centurion sending the elders, and his friends, and himself! He prevented the Lord from answering too soon, so that his confidence in God would be certified by the truth, the words of the Lord. He desired that his faith be tried. No wonder that the Lord marveled! Would to God we could muster enough confidence in Him to read his Word, do His work, submit to His worship, and volunteer to wait for Him!

‘Til then, nor is my boasting vain,

‘Til then, I boast a Saviour slain;

Then, Oh, may this my glory be:

That He is not ashamed of me!

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