THE CENTURION’S SERVANT
friend Martin, from Holland, is a rich man, but he is old. When I met him just arrived from Miami he had all sort of ideas of how the Coast would be transformed, in line of what he had lived there. I said that here we did not want skyscrapers. He bought a modern house and enjoyed the area. Suddenly he had a heart attack and almost died. In the hospital he shared room with a homeless, for in his country heath is mixed. No one from his club of the rich visited him, only the gardener from the street where he used to walk his dog came to visit. I had spoken with him about Jesus before, but clearly he trusted the authority and power of money and status. When he returned, then recovered, he was telling me in tears his experience and how he had realized that the only one that was with him was God, the poor and his family.
The experience of my friend taught him that he had not understood well which one was the authority of the universe, which lies over Jesus. But there is another character known as the centurion, who did understand that authority. Let us see the Text in Luke 7:1-10:
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3 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. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, that he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 6 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: 7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 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. 9 When 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. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
Commentary to the Text:
The Lord is now entering into Capernaum, and there He is received by the elders of the Jews. The same as other centurions in the New Testament, this one has good relations with the Jewish people. They came to intercede so that Jesus would heal the servant who was very sick and about to die. His goodness goes before him because he had built them a synagogue. This places us in a context, not of oppression or hostility between Romans and Jews, but showing how the empire allowed each faith, in those days. Then, as history proves that it became a tyranny, demanding warship to Cesar. We know that the story is told in Luke 7 but also in Matthew 8:5-13. Matthew tells that the centurion himself came to Jesus, while Luke tells that before he sends the elders of the Jews. A study of history and commentaries provides that the relevant matter is that the centurion did not feel worthy before Jesus, and that the elder of the Jews did not believe in Him, but the circumstances of the servant and the demand of the centurion, obliged them to intercede for him. Then the centurion himself would come to Jesus and say: “say the world and my servant will be healed”.
The authority of Yahshua was understood by the centurion because he was a man under authority, with soldiers under his command. He obeyed the power of Rome, as his soldiers obeyed him. Jesus marvelled of such great faith that understood its foundation. In the same way Jesus also marvelled a second time before the unbelief of Israel in (Mark 6:6). We see other centurions in the N.T. like Cornelio, in whom the Holy Spirit manifested, another at the foot of the cross who claimed: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39), and Julius, who escorted Paul to Rome.
Commentary of the context:
Capernaum, north at the lake of Galilee, was where Jesus did many miracles, also near Gennesaret. It was the base camp of Jesus. There was a Roman detachment, and is where the Text mentions that synagogue to be. The place of the multiplying of the bread for 5.000 men, and where Jesus called Matthew (Levi), where he worked collecting taxes. Despite of all they saw there, the city did not believe in Him and Jesus foretold its ruin, which came (Luke 10:15).
David Helm, one of the more recognized teachers of expository preaching mentions that we can imitate Agustin of Hippo. As he used to talk about the classic Greeks to his audience, using ideas for his society, he did not do it to impress, or to attract the pagan audience to the church, but because it was the context in which they were living.
Today, in our postmodern world, even for many postChristian, the authority of Jesus, or simply authority itself, has been confronted by the new generations. Today we live in the midst of a world that legalizes euthanasia, abortion with more deaths than both great world wars together and with the disinformation, the deceit and the fraud as flag of world governments. Before this panorama, how do we see authority? Where do we find that faith of the centurion that understands that Jesus is over all this chaos that surrounds us?
Jesus has all the authority and the power in all dimensions. Why don’t we trust in Jesus with the faith of the centurion in the circumstances of life? How many times do you doubt of the authority of Jesus? Or if you don’t doubt of His authority, do you doubt that He will get involved if your lives? But there is another authority grater in Jesus than that of healing the sick, and we will look into it at the end.
According to this Text, the faith of the centurion was so clear about authority that even though he did not consider himself worthy that Jesus would go under his roof; he knew that if Yahshua said the word, his servant would be healed. Even more, the centurion was not asking for himself, he even asked for the intercession of the elders of the Jews who he knew would give good testimony of him for building them a synagogue, which shows that he cared for the life of his servant. The key to the understanding of the centurion about his understanding of the authority of Jesus over sickness was similar to giving an order by a military “say the word” give the order, and it will be done.
Jesus is the commander in chief of the universe, the Creator, the military of highest rank in all dimensions, whether physical or spiritual, and in some way the centurion perceived that Jesus dominated over dimensions where man does not reach, like sickness, death, matter, but also principalities and powers in the regions above, as Paul tells the Ephesians 6:12. And, as Jesus is the Creator (John 1), His authority over the universe is seen clearly, because as the centurion asked that He would say the word and the servant would heal, also Jesus said the word “let there be” and there was light, and this way all creation (Genesis 1 & 2).
It marvels me the degree of understanding of the faith of the centurion in Jesus, over the bases of how the authority works in the army. Truly we would be doing better if we obeyed Jesus without questioning, like the military do, but the Lord treats us better being His soldiers, because He also explains His Word and makes us participants of His kingdom.
To conclude with the structure of command and authority in the army, I would like to compare it with the celestial armies in Revelation. We do not know their number, but the Bible tells of millions of millions. It also tells about some in specific, like Gabriel, or the archangel Michael, of cherubims, seraphims and angels, principalities and powers, and fallen angels, and their chief a fallen cherubim, the devil, and how Jesus his over all of them. This I found in books of Theology in the subject on angelology, about the structures of the celestial army. Charles Ryrie in his book of Basic Theology, or the Biblical Dictionaries, provides us much information about the angels and how their authority works. The centurion understood this panorama of the heavenly army, and therefore he came to Jesus, although he tried before through intermediaries, the elders of the Jews, who would be, to his eyes, like the centurions here on earth. In the same way, there are ranks, and are subject to superior commands, and even though some have deserted to the enemy side, their usurpation war has already been won by the king, Jesus Christ and his armies, and His kingdom shall have no end.
The centurion is a military position of similar rank to an official, maybe a captain, and there were different types of centurions, but their authority was over one hundred soldiers, a centuria, both words come from Latin. Centurion, authority over 100 soldiers, words from the Latin centum. The centurions of the New Testament had good relations with the Jewish people. Cornelius –touched by the Holy Spirit. Another: at the foot of the cross “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39), and Julius, who escorted the apostle Paul to Rome.
As we have seen, we know that Jesus is the Creator, but, Did the centurion know it or his faith simply was clear about the type of elevated authority that Jesus had over death and sickness? We do not know. Maybe the fact that his was a friend of the Jews and having built the synagogue could have brought him close to the Biblical faith of the elders of the Jews about the Messiah and His being.
Faith moves mountains! In fact this is a popular saying that comes from the words of Jesus in Matthew 17: “If you have faith such as a mustard seed, you will say to this mount: move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you!”. How many mountains have you moved in your life? If you have not had the chance of having a mustard see in your hand, I suggest you do, because you will not forget the experience in relation to the Words of the Master. When you see how small it is, and you compare it with the size it reaches, like a tree, and that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches, you will understand better the faith of the centurion, and how important is to understand the Word of Jesus.
It shows a lack of understanding of many believers because they have no knowledge of the Bible, and of how the Kingdom of God works. In the same way as my friend Martin, who trusted in the authority of his position and his money, which at the time of test did not help, but finding himself in the verge of death brought him close to Jesus. All of us must have a faith like the one of the centurion, understanding that the Lord is the maximum authority of the universe and that He cares for us, who answers our prayers, who is with us if we come to Him.
Do you think that the faith the Lord was seeking in the centurion was that he believed that He could heal his servant, or other sink, or raise the dead? Don’t you think this was one more step for the centurion, the Jews and all Capernaum to believe in His salvation, in the power of His death on the cross, and in the resurrection for eternal life? Is this not the most important? In the same way in the parable of the “Rich and Lazarus” (Luke 16:20-25), the rich cried that someone from the dead would risen and worn his brothers so they would not be condemned. In the same way the inhabitants in Capernaum and other cities did not receive the Messiah who had done all those miracles before them. Capernaum may symbolize our city or time; would they believe if miracles were done? Jesus has authority over the pandemic, do we believe that He will deliver us? Therefore it is our responsibility to preach the Gospel because it is power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).
Therefore the challenge that the faith of the centurion brings to us, is such that truly it must make us think to what point do we trust Jesus, whom we know in a personal way in the Spirit, from whom we know that was raised from the dead, who healed the sick, lame, meek, deaf, blind, cleansed lepers, through away demons, and restored all who believed in Him. How can we not believe that He will take care of us in adversity, and will make us bare fruits of the Spirit if we ask Him? But the challenge of the centurion is not enough; the great challenge is that we focus in the Gospel of Salvation, because that is the tool that the Lord gives us, that we believe that the Gospel saves, and therefore preach it.
Will we say to Jesus: Say the word! And this or that in our life I place in Your hands? Our faith depends of prayer and of the knowledge of His Word. Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed. What a marvel! Jesus said. Lord, say the word so I can have faith in the Gospel of Salvation and that I may preach it. Did the centurion get saved? I believe so!
I invite you to pray more and study the Bible more, from this day and that you experience how your faith will understand how the authority of Jesus works, and how it will give you security that the Lord is in control of all, the same as the centurion, and therefore Jesus may marvel with our faith; but over all things He will prepare us for preaching. When praying, we will say: Lord , I trust You, yours is the authority, yours is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory; and finally we will say to Him: say the word and…!