The Faith that Astonished Jesus

The faith of an ordinary man astonished Jesus, even when that of his own disciples so often proved wanting. Ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things when faith powers the engine of their petitions to Jesus.
by Suze Forster | Source: Catholic.net
Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, asking for help. "Lord,” my servant lies at home, paralyzed and in terrible suffering." Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." The centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes, and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He was astonished and said to those were following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed that very hour.

What an exemplar of faith this gentile Roman centurion proves to be! In modeling our own faith after this fashion, our spiritual receptivity and self-extrication creates near perfect latitude to hold meaningful, earnest and sincere congress with the Holy Spirit. Rooted in the leviathan machinery of the Roman Empire, the greatest civilization of antiquity, and situated in the lofty position of command, the Roman Centurion could have chosen to rely solely on the expansive resources and medical expertise of the age at his disposal. Instead he, a man under authority, meekly recognized and humbly submitted utterly to a man of authority whom much of the world considered to be no more than merely a gifted, charismatic (but misguided) prophet, self-elevated from that of lowly carpenter.

What a role reversal! What great faith! So great, in fact, was the centurion’s faith that he believed to the absolute exclusion of all doubt and hesitation that Jesus did not even have to be physically present to effect miracles – he had but to ‘say the word, and my servant will be healed’. He did not for one moment question the divinity of Jesus. He cast off all trappings and perceptions of earthly status, rank and influence, and acknowledged the supremacy of divine sovereignty, thus crediting to Jesus His true kingship and beseeching Him not as a Roman centurion but as a man of faith.

It was a colossal act of faith and a profound acknowledgement of Jesus’ godship, for the first word from his mouth was ‘Lord’ – the true and proper title of the Son of God. There are many other incidents throughout the Gospels that record similar goliath demonstrations of faith, but in this encounter with the gentile Roman centurion, the Son of God marvels at the faith of an ordinary human being, and one not raised in the Judaic traditions and beliefs that might have inclined his sensitivities and spiritual thirst towards the teachings of Jesus.

So what predisposed this Roman pagan to the sublime truth of Jesus’ divinity? After all, the disciples had followed Him and believed from the very inception of His ministry that He was the Lamb of God, and yet so often they were reproached for demonstrating so little faith in Him - they who had watched Him perform miracles every day, from the purging of demons from children to the total physical restoration of outcasts ravaged by leprosy. Firstly, that a man of means and influence would care for the health and fate of his servant (and we must not forget that we are speaking of an age where the social mindset no more questioned the moral maxim of slavery than it did the rising and setting of the sun) indicates that he was of compassionate and benevolent penchant.

The apostles were shown more than once to be haughty, condescending and proud of heart (Matthew 20:20-28) and this often interfered with their faith, polluting and thus dismantling the fabric of their belief. The Roman centurion, on the other hand, was merely a man of great mercy and kindness. He already possessed a heart disposed to compassion and therefore the truth of Jesus’ true identity was not hidden from him. He did not decide Jesus was the Son of God and hope for the best. He did not hear of His marvelous works and make an educated choice, leaving the outcome to caprice. He did not take a chance based upon an intelligent examination of the best odds ratio for success. It was not a decision based upon intellect that urged him to seek out Jesus. He believed without misgiving that what he asked for would be fulfilled before he solicited Jesus’ intervention. Jesus merely fulfilled the promise of the Father that faith without proof would be justified: ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, you can say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer’. (Matthew 21:21-22).

His spiritual clarity and purity was not clouded by flawed perceptions of his earthly right to lofty elevation, as often the disciples lapsed into. The disciples necessarily experienced a spiritually distilling crucible of incomprehensible adversity, both internally and externally, in order to prepare them for the enormity of their mission following the loss of their leader and Savior, but not before it exposed their faith as often porous and corroded. These burdens were not the lot of the centurion who, of a merciful disposition and therefore receptive to the awakening of divine truth in his heart, demonstrated the accessibility of Jesus’ salvific love, redemption and delivery from all anguish, whether it be self-directed or intended for others, when borne of faith.

The lesson for us in the story of the Roman centurion is that through faith, Jesus and His loving acceptance, His direct intercession, and His matchless compassion is accessible to us right here, right now – and He does not need to be physically present to effect miracles in our lives or indeed even answer our prayers. The centurion acknowledged his unworthiness to approach much less invite Jesus into his home but followed up immediately with a bold declaration of faith that acknowledged his unwavering and resolute belief that the Son of God was so sovereign that His will alone – His very thoughts! – had the power to bring to life a miracle, and neither time nor distance by any earthly measure was any obstacle. He ignored whatever voice of reason in his head might have argued against such unfounded belief, he discarded any pretentions to earthly station in the face of Jesus’ heavenly kingship, and he invested without reservation, heart and soul, in his faith in Jesus’ authority over all other authorities (including those of the civilized world, the laws of nature and the limiting constraints of logic) – and the depth of his faith was such that he ‘astonished’ Jesus. Can we possibly comprehend a faith so watertight that it has the power to amaze our own Redeemer?

Perhaps you are thinking that only extraordinary individuals have the latitude for such breadth and profundity of faith? Not so. The Roman centurion was an ordinary man, nothing more, nothing less. His only distinction was his faith.

The Roman centurion is each and every one of us! The Gospels recorded this event to give each and every human being hope and encouragement. Ordinary human beings can garner extraordinary results with the simplest of faith if it is sincere. Profound and remarkable faith is not measured on any earthly scale of size, dimension or volume. It is measured by three elements alone – sincerity, authenticity and doubtlessness. We do not have to be special in any way to be worthy of Jesus’ munificence. We do not need to be of earthly importance to warrant His attention. Jesus does not measure worth or value in worldly terms. We need merely believe in Him and ask for what we need in insoluble faith and He will grant it.

Just as the Roman centurion is each and every one of us, we must be the Roman centurion. Today discard your cynical voice of ‘reason’, dismiss your pretensions of worldly importance, invest heart and soul in faith and above all make that critical transition from acknowledgement of unworthiness to bold declaration of faith and ask Jesus in humility, absolute trust and childlike faith for all that you need.

No enormity of appeal is beyond His power to fulfill, for He alone has been given the supreme authority by the Father to fulfill His Promise: ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, you can say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer’.

Be joyful in your faith, jubilant in your hope!

Believe! 

And let Jesus astonish you with His response!


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