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“The Centurion’s Great Faith”
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The feet of faith walk forward believing God is, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith in its highest form removes all worldly shackles and just rests in the truth that if it is His will, there is nothing that can hinder God from performing a miracle in one’s life. Ethnicity, background, and prestige all fall away in the eyes of our Savior whose only view is that of an opened heart filled with belief.
- “Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
- And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
- And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.”
There is much debate on whether the “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5 and the “Sermon in the Plain” found in Luke 6 are in fact the same event. I personally believe they are nevertheless one should not get too hung up on it at this point. The fact is, before arriving at today’s lesson, Jesus taught a powerful sermon consisting of blessings and woes (similar to that of the Beatitudes).
He interjected these lessons with questions and spiritual insights including once asking “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39). He also pointed out “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good,” (Luke 6:45). Jesus ends chapter 6 inquiring “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46), comparing the foundations of their spiritual lives.
After this teaching session, “when he ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.”
“Capernaum,” situated on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was known for fishing and trade. More known to us today, it was the place considered to be home-base of operations or headquarters, if you wil,l of Jesus’ ministry. He is noted on several occasions as going to Capernaum (see Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31; John 2:12, and so on). People also knew this was a place where He could probably be found and sought for Him there (see John 6:24).
Therefore, this small village of only approximately 1,500 people or so became etched in history as a place where Jesus walked and taught; a place where miracles were performed and faith was noted as being great for one man.
The possessor of that “great faith” enters the scene when someone near to him falls to the afflictions of sickness and no other help will do outside of the intervention of Jesus. He is known as a “centurion” meaning in charge of hundreds. He is a man who is a leader during the Roman occupation of the land. He has authority (of which will be discussed later). He has position. And though considered not one of the people, his faith, as Jesus will note, was exhibited in a greater degree than those of His own people.
The centurion’s position was prestigious; nonetheless he had a compassionate side and cared for those under him. This may not be the picture of a Roman soldier that immediately comes to mind, but it was for this man. He had a “servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die,” (vs. 2). With the usage of the word “dear” it points out his genuine concern and affection for this particular servant. Again, this is far from idea of these soldiers we know of.
The point is the individual of his concern was “sick, and ready to die.” When we read of the same account in Matthew it tells us he was, “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented,” (Matthew 8:6). From this description we know that he suffered in pain and was paralyzed. Whatever brought on this particular disease it seemed to progress to the point of agony, causing the centurion to believe his servant’s life was in danger. He was, as he believed, “ready to die.”
Therefore, out of his concern he sought for the only remedy he could – Jesus. We are not sure exactly when or where he became aware of Jesus. Being stationed in Capernaum, Jesus’ home base of ministry, it was only a matter of time before he became exposed to His miracles and teachings. Either by way of others or maybe even having the chance to witness it himself, he found out that Jesus heals and sought for His help.
“When he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.” Many are familiar with the animosity that was present in that day between the Jewish people and their oppressors of the Roman Empire. History often shows that people are generally not favorable to those who invade their lands and take over.
Yet, this particular centurion seems to have secured a favorable relationship with the village and the leaders therein. So much so, he had no qualms about seeking their assistance in bring to Jesus’ attention the plight of his sick servant.
Oh, the humility of character this man in charge exhibited. He was in a position to order (as later he demonstrates he can) and take charge, yet he simply seeks assistance. The Bible encourages us, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” (Romans 12:18). This includes people over you, people under you, and people all around you. There are many rewards of maintaining positive relationships and one can never tell who God has placed in one’s path to provide for much needed help.
- “And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
- For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”
The “elders” has no reservations in talking with the centurion commander or with communicating to Jesus his need. Therefore, “they besought him instantly.” With great urgency “they came to Jesus” and presented the centurion’s case before Him. They noted “he was worthy for whom he should do this.” The favor this man showed to the Jewish people earned him a good reputation among the villagers.
Standing as an advocate before Jesus they speak well of his character, pointing out “for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.” There is much speculation on exactly what is being said here in regard to the centurion himself. Did he build the synagogue as a means to just keep the peace? Was this some sort of political tactic?
I could be wrong, but I disagree with this view. The elders made a point of using the word “loveth” in describing his relationship toward the “nation.” Could it be there was a genuine spark of wanting Whom the Jewish people were serving was alive in him? Living in such close of proximity of the people maybe he had an opportunity to review his life and compare what he previously knew to that of those living for God. Perhaps he wanted more and participated in the only way he knew how. Who knows? We can only imagine that in some way or form God was working on his heart.
- “Then 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:
- Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
- For 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.”
After hearing the story of the centurion and his servant Jesus went with the men who had advocated the man’s plight. One of the things I love about Jesus is it doesn’t take much to move Him. People overcomplicate faith until it can’t be recognized. Jesus simply heard them out and with the compassionate heart He has He was ready to move into action to help, yes, even this Gentile.
Coming near the house the centurion makes a surprise move. Sending out friends he stops the progression of Jesus coming into his house. He knows his position in life. He knows that he is not one of these people. He knows that he is “not worthy.”
One of his greatest characteristics he shows here is his humility. I see too many in our day brazen enough to approach God any kind of way, as if it is owed to them. I cringe at it all. Pridefulness is against everything pertaining to God and something God will fight against (see James 4:6). Rather, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word,” (Isaiah 66:2; emphasis mine). God pays attention to the humble.
As a man in authority he doesn’t lift himself up demanding to be seen. He humbly and respectfully recognizes who he is and he recognizes who Jesus is and counts his own self “not worthy.” He didn’t take it upon himself to approach Jesus, therefore sending the elders previously and now his friends as well, holding Him off from entering “under my roof.” How are we approaching Jesus? Do we have hearts lifted up feeling we deserve the privilege to be heard and blessed or are we surrendered respectfully to Him, recognizing His holiness compared to our human weaknesses?
This centurion not only possessed a special measure of humility, but faith that was uncommon. He said, “But say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.” Wow! He didn’t need Jesus to come to his house. In his faith, he didn’t need Jesus to touch his servant in a special way. But, he understood what most in that day failed to realize. All Jesus had to do was speak a word.
The word of Christ is powerful. Operating under the same authority as His Father, He could count it done whatever He speaks (Psalm 33:9). It will come to pass. He can literally speak healing into any situation and it will obey His command and bring about deliverance (see Psalm 107:20). This centurion recognized His authority and the capacity to do the impossible even from a distance.
Explaining how he came to the conclusion of viewing Jesus and his situation, he said, “For 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.” As a commander of the Roman army he knows what it is to take orders and obey the commands of one’s superiors. At the same time, he understands his own position well. At any given time he can issue an order and expect nothing less than complete follow through. He had the right in his ranking to do so.
Viewing Jesus, he perceived His power operated to an even higher degree than his. He knew that all Jesus had to do was speak and healing would obey. Whatever sickness bound his servant would have to bend to the will the Savior and obey His orders. This is the same Jesus whom the winds and waves obeyed (see Matthew 8:27). This is the same one who made demons tremble and come out of people (see Mark 1:21-34). This same Jesus was a part of Creation (Colossians 1:16). And, this same Jesus is able to save those who come near to Him (Hebrews 7:25). He has opened the eyes of the blind, healed leprosy, unstopped deaf ears and raised the dead back to life. This centurion saw in Him the power to do what needed to be done to heal his servant and he believed!
9) “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled 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.
10) And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.”
Jesus was amazed at his response. He had not met anyone in Israel who had so recognized His authority and power as this man; someone whom willing gives himself over to total abandon to trust Jesus to heal and believe that He will.
Astounding! This was the true epitome of “great faith!”
When one’s faith is centered on Jesus healing can take place. Not just physical healing as we see here in this lesson. But, emotional, spiritual, relational . . ., in every area of life that needs restoration, Jesus is able to heal. But it only comes about by faith. The Bible reminds us, and I quoted a portion of it earlier in the introduction, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6). The centurion filled this faith criterion. Beyond a shadow of a doubt he knew that Jesus was able to do all that he had known of Him, and sought Him with an open heart of belief.
Jesus spoke highly on his behalf, saying, “I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” If we were to put our spiritual thermometer in the waters of faith, how would we measure up? Would we be found on the greater than side or the less than side?
Faith is the access key to everything God wants to do through us and for us. Jesus once taught, “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive,” (Matthew 21:22, NKJV; emphasis mine). One has to believe as the centurion did that Jesus can do this for you, too.
One of my favorite portions of Scripture reminds me that our God is the good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children, (see Matthew 7:9-11). Really, He is! Therefore, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7, NKJV).
The miracles of Jesus were not just for the benefit of the receivers. Through the retelling of them we are able to build ourselves up in our own faith and be encouraged by what we read. Verses like John 20:31 tells us, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” which is the ultimate ends to having great faith – life eternal.
(Click here for PDF: The Centurion’s Great Faith Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: The Centurion’s Great Faith Draw the Scene
Jesus Heals Bandage Bookmarkers: Just print, color, and cut out. I suggest using cardstock or glueing to construction paper for support. Enjoy! Jesus Heals Bookmarks
Memory Verse: The Centurion’s Great Faith Memory Verse
Below are Links/Resources/Activities to support this lesson. Enjoy!
“Faith is the Key” (Kids activities, printables, and group activities including “Faith Relays” and “Keys of Faith” activities. Enjoy!
“Healing the Centurion’s Servant” (Activities, games, teacher’s guide, etc.)
“The Faith of the Centurion” (Lesson ideas with a printable paper centurion cut out. Enjoy!)
“Jesus Transforms the Centurion’s Servant” (Lesson and craft activities. Enjoy!)