From everything we gather in Scripture, Jesus was an emotional man. When his good friend Lazarus died, he wept. When people turned the temple into a “den of robber,” he got angry. When a Gentile Centurion makes a statement of faith such as that in Luke 7.8 (and that done through a messanger), his jaw drops. Or at least that is the way I interpret the word “amazed” in verse 9.
The story begins with the ending of the previous section; Jesus has just polished off the crowd with the sermon on the plain and is moving forward, anxious to get to the next town to help someone. But someone has already heard of Jesus. A Roman centurion who has a sick servant in his house has heard of Jesus and no doubt he has heard of the great thigs Jesus has been doing around the area. Apparently he has heard that Jesus can make sick people so he sends for him. However, he has sent the wrong group to visit Jesus.
The Arrogance of the Elders
The first group of men sent by the centurion have nothing but good to say about this Gentile. Why? Because of all the good things he has been doing. “Jesus,” they could have said, “haven’t you seen the wonderful synagogue this man built. Although, being a Gentile, he will spend eternity stoking the fires of hell, surely this man has done some good for the Jewish people.” Notice, the text says that they say he deserves the healing Jesus can give. Note this – none of us, no human being on earth deserves anything but the fiery pit of hell from God. What arrogance these men must have in order to demand from the Great Physician healing. Fortunately Jesus is gentle with these men; he goes with them.
Folks, let us never become so arrogant so as to think for a moment that we deserve or through avenue of ourselves have merited the salvation and grace in which we now stand. It is nothing but the great love and mercy of the Father which keeps his wrathful away from us. It is the precious blood of Jesus which gives us the justification and rigth standing with God we so desperately need. Jaw dropping faith is not faith that makes demands of the divine but is one that acknowledges its place before the Almighty.
The Humility of the Centurion
And that is what we find in the centurion when he sends the right man to go talk to Jesus. This man brings a different message to Jesus, one is that is from the mouth of the centurion himself. Instead of saying he demands special privilege or deserves anything from Jesus, he says quite the opposite: he does not deserve any of this. Notice his faith-response: Jesus, just say the word. This man had so much faith in Jesus’ ability to heal his sick servant that Jesus need not even be present. Merely a word from the Master will heal the sick.
It is this response that drops the jaw of Jesus. There is no arrogance or pride in this man. He acknowledges Jesus is man with authority and power, much like himself but of a different nature altogether. Jesus carries the divine nature, something much great than a centurion. It is this faith which is unheard of in Israel. Faith which does not put demands on the divine but accepts its humble position before God. Therefore, the centurion’s faith stands as a rebuke to the Jew who should have had the same faith.
It is appropriate that Jesus heal this servant from afar because in it he is ministering to the Gentiles who are those “far off” who now have peace preached to them (Eph 2.17). And we, many centuries later, must follow the example of this Gentile and accept our position before the Lord. We are at peace with Christ and God and we can ask with boldness for anything we need. But ever present before us is the fact that we are asking for these from the all-powerful cosmic sovereign Lord. He is so much greater and mightier than we are and we must never lose sight of that.