The Book of Luke, The Centurionís Faith Ė Lesson 83
Today we will be studying a passage of scripture where we find a relationship between a military manís understanding of authority and that manís resultant exercise of faith.
We will see that a proper understanding of authority will also give a better understanding of the author of all authority.
It is so important for parents to exercise authority in the home and communicate what authority is by practicing their God given authority in order for children to understand what authority is.
Many young people do not learn about authority until they enter the military and face it head on and some are not able to handle it.
Many do not learn about authority until it is too late and they end up behind bars where authority is always present in their lives.
But the home is Godís training ground for authority.
Children of Christians should come face to face with authority in the home so that they will bow the knee to the author of all authority and to the one in whom all authority has been given, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 7:1-10, Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2And a certain centurionís servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. 4And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 6Then 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: 7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8For I also 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. 9When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled 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. 10And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
The accounts of the activities of Jesus Christ in the book of Luke as well as the other Gospels are meant to point us to Jesus Christ.
The Gospel writers bring others into their accounts because Jesus touched their lives but we are to learn about him as we look at those whose lives were touched.
Jesus said, Take my yoke upon you and learn of me!
This passage is the story of the healing of a slave by our Lord and gives us a glimpse of how he viewed faith expressed in him by others.
It tells us how he rates faith, for in this passage we learn that in this Roman centurion he has now found the greatest faith that has been exhibited in Israel.
This is quite an indictment for the land of the Jews!
But that extraordinary faith was exhibited by a man whom we only know as a centurion in the Roman Occupation Army.
But in every study of Luke we must remember to focus our attention on the one who gives faith and to a lesser extent on the one who exhibits faith.
The centurion was not the healer, the servant was not the healer, Jesus Christ was the healer and he did it by the authority vested in him by the Father.
The servant was simply the one healed and the Centurion was simply the one who exhibited faith in the healer.
So Luke is careful to relate to us this story about an army officer and his beloved servant who was on his deathbed.
And in this army officer we are introduced to a characteristic which pleases our Lord Jesus Christ for this man is revealed to us as a humble man.
His humility is revealed to us in that we are told he sent others to ask Jesus to heal his beloved servant for he counted himself unworthy for himself to come to Jesus.
He is also a foreigner who understood better than any of his day how far Jesusí authority extended and how it operated.
Most likely this centurion, who we are told was headquartered in Capernaum, was attached to the army of Herod Antipas who ruled the area during this time.
Originally a centurion was in charge of 100 men (from our word "century"), but in time, the number varied.
A centurion was a lower ranking officer, probably similar in the Roman hierarchy to the position of an army captain (O-3) in our own army. A lower level army officer.
From historical accounts we learn what qualifications were expected by those who filled the position of centurions.
ďThey must be not so much "seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable; they ought not to be over anxious to rush into the fight; but when hard pressed they must be ready to hold their ground and die at their posts." A centurion must be a man among men.Ē
But this passage reveals to us that the centurion posted to the Capernaum garrison is far more than just a military leader.
Luke reveals to us several extraordinary things about this manís character.
We are told that he was moved deeply by the sickness and imminent death of his beloved servant.
"Servant" sounds good to western ears, but most likely he was a "slave" (Greek doulos).
Obviously, though, he was more than just a slave, and perhaps as much as a trusted friend.
Perhaps he was even a believer who had brought the centurion to believe.
But by the centurionís actions, you can see how he desired to see his servant well and would do anything to help him.
Matthew's Gospel indicates that the servant was paralyzed and in terrible suffering.
Matthew 8:6, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
The centurion is also deeply respected by the religious community in Capernaum.
Though he is not Jewish, he seems certainly sympathetic to the Jewish faith.
"5For he loveth our nation, the community elders told Jesus and he hath built us a synagogue.Ē
Perhaps the centurion was a big donor to the synagogue building fund.
For a non-Jew or Gentile to get the leaders of the synagogue to plead with Jesus on his behalf says a lot about the esteem in which he was held.
Scripture teaches that respected Jews were often proud that they had no association with a non-Jew.
But with this centurion there was clearly an exception.
He was obviously a seeker after the God of the Jews.
They could see that and admired him for it.
The centurion of this passage is shown as a deeply humble man.
Centurions were not known for being timid or meek.
Yet, in this Luke account, this centurion never actually appeared personally before Jesus to plead his cause.
Instead, he sends others in his place and not as a premeditated move in order to get Jesus to agree to his request.
There are no ulterior motives to this man.
No, we are told it is because of a sense of personal unworthiness.
In verse 7 he says: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:
The friends are told to say, " trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: " (7:6b).
No doubt the centurion knows the religious Jew's normal refusal to enter a Gentile home.
But there is more to this than than.
The centurion has a very clear sense of who Jesus is, and what his level of authority is.
His humility is grounded in a profound respect for Jesus' position.
It is the humility that a private would have in the presence of a great general.
In comparison, the centurion sees himself as unworthy to even invite Jesus to be a guest in his home for he recognizes him as one having great authority.
And as one who has great authority he recognizes that he has no right to anything of that authority.
He recognizes that if anything is given it will be given by pure grace and pure grace alone for he is totally undeserving.
This man is a unique character in the Gospels and provides a stark contrast to the disciples and the unbelieving religious leadership in Israel.
For most of Jesus' disciples, their faith grew gradually as they saw Jesus exerting power over blindness, leprosy, the dead, and even the powerful storms on the Sea of Galilee.
The disciples have walked with him for a year or so and still haven't figured out the extent of Jesus' power.
But the centurion has a deep understanding of the power of Jesus Christ without even walking with him or even meeting the Lord Jesus in person.
Where does this understanding of the centurion come from?
Being from or near Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus, there must have been a great deal to hear about Jesus.
Being so intimately acquainted with the synagogue in Capernaum would certainly give him knowledge of the incident of the man with the unclean devil in the synagogue of Capernaum.
He must have been witness or heard of the great healings of the multitudes by Jesus Christ, and the healing and the forgiving of the paralytic man who was lowered from the roof. Luke 5:18-26.
So now he, a man of authority, had a great need which propelled him to seek this one in whom he recognized great authority.
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: 7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8For I also 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.
The characteristic of the centurion that we are given is his clear understanding of authority.
We see clearly that there is a connection between an understanding of authority and the expression of faith.
The centurion understood clearly that a person in authority has the power to accomplish his purposes simply by the expression of his word.
He does not have to be at the place where the job gets done.
He does not have to lend a hand in the accomplishing of the task.
Parents begin the task of rearing their children by doing everything for them but eventually their simple word will get the job done.
Office managers do not do the work but their work is in expressing their word.
An army captain wants a latrine dug. Does he get a shovel?
No! His work is in his word to the lieutenant.
Does the lieutenant get the shovel?
No, the word goes to the sergeant who in turn issues orders to his men.
What accomplished the task?
The word of authority accomplished the task.
That is how it works in this world and the centurion recognized that Jesus Christ had the authority to banish whatever sickness took hold of his servant.
The centurion saw Jesus Christ as a commander like himself, a commander over sickness and disease.
He knew Jesus didn't have to come into his servant's chamber, and lean over him, lay hands on him, and personally raise him up.
The centurion recognized that Jesus had the authority to heal simply by his word, period.
The centurion recognized that all the Lord Jesus Christ had to do is to speak the word and it will be accomplished.
" but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed." (7:7)
Luke doesn't record Jesus even having to speak a word, though perhaps he did in order to show the power of his word and to verify the centurionís faith in him.
"10And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick." (Luke 7:10).
The servant is now up and fit and healthy. He is completely healed!
So Jesus Christ rates the centurionís faith as the greatest faith that he had found in all Israel.
What was the mark of that faith?
It was the recognition that his word is power enough to get the job done.
Jesus Christ says, Whosoever believeth on me shalt be saved.
His word is all that is needed here. It will get the job done. You can rely on that!