Why did the faith of a Roman centurion in Capernaum cause Jesus to marvel and call it the greatest faith He had found? Elders of the Jews had asked Jesus to heal the centurion’s servant because “he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:4). As Jesus goes to heal the servant, the centurion sends a different plea: “Lord . . . I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:6, 7).
We are tempted to think that we are worthy to receive Jesus’ healing because of what we have done. The centurion recognized his unworthiness and based his request on the power of Jesus’ Word. His servant didn’t need Jesus’ presence and touch. Jesus was Lord of the Universe, He had authority over everything, including the servant’s illness: “For I am a man placed under authority, and have soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:8). Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith. When the messengers returned home to the Centurion, they found the servant completely healed.
The very next day, Luke tells us, Jesus showed that His Word could conquer death itself, by resurrecting the son of a widow in Nain (Luke 7:11-17). How great is your faith in the power of God’s Word? Are you willing to quit relying on your own works and trust your salvation to Jesus’ Word?
When the disciples of John the Baptist told him what Jesus had been doing, he sent a message to Jesus, but it wasn’t a message of faith: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:19). Sometimes, those closest to Jesus have the hardest time trusting His word. If John could doubt, then anyone can be tempted to doubt God and His Word. In fact, the longer one has been a Christian, the greater may be the temptation to doubt. Ask God to give you the Centurion’s faith.
Luke 7 ends with a “sinful” woman interrupting Simon’s feast by anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. Jesus gently uses a parable of two debtors to show Simon that both he and the woman were sinners in need of forgiveness. As you read this story ask yourself what your response is to Jesus and to other sinners. The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet recognized that she was a sinner and came to Jesus to ask for forgiveness. Simon, the Pharisee, responded to Jesus by offering Him the prestige of a meal with him. He felt insulted that a sinful woman had come uninvited to his party.
As we recognize our own sinfulness, as we come to Jesus in faith asking for forgiveness, we will extend the forgiveness we have received to other sinners.
Professor of Church Ministry and Homiletics
School of Religion, Southern Adventist University