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.”
(Luke 7:9 NIV)
Jesus was amazed by the faith of the centurion. It was something he had not witnessed before. That’s remarkable considering how the centurion was not a native of Israel. There are other fascinating things to learn from this episode.
It’s intriguing how highly the centurion values his servant. Not only intriguing but outstanding. He could have let his servant die and merely look for a replacement. He could have expressed concern but merely do all that the medicine of the time would allow but leave it there. So highly, however, did this man regard his servant that he went to exhaust every option open to see his servant healed. What great value, what high regard for a servant, what love.
There is something about this aspect of his character that has even impressed the Jewish leaders. They are hardly going to go out of their way to do something for a symbol of the foreign overlords of their land. Yet in this case the centurion had gained favour with them because he made their concerns, his concerns. He cared about their nation and their synagogue to the point of helping them build it. He was in a position of political and military rule, but he exercised honourable service to those he ruled.
Those parts were enough to get Jesus interested enough to make the journey to his dwellings. Then, however, comes the aspect that amazes Jesus. At no point does the centurion have a face to face encounter with Jesus. He prefers to send others on his behalf, not because he feels Jesus is beneath him, on the contrary, he acknowledges that Jesus is above him. This centurion has greater insight on Jesus than the religious rulers who should know better. This centurion recognises authority. It’s one thing to instruct military personnel, it’s another thing of a far greater magnitude to have demonic powers, sickness and sin under subjection. This centurion did not consider himself worthy of approaching such authority. This centurion also knew that mere verbal instructions would be sufficient to get the job done. That’s great faith – to recognise, to acknowledge and make a request based on these things.
In as much as we have a degree of control over our lives, we know there are some things beyond our control. We can learn a lot from the centurion to recognise and acknowledge Jesus as having far greater control than we do. We can learn in the light of this to submit to Him and also submit everything we have to Him – those we care about, those suffering greatly, those in need of great help. We can trust Him to do what’s right in the situation. We can do this as we develop His character of compassion for those around us.