by John Henson
The life of a Roman centurion was one of combat, leadership and the continued pursuit of seniority and rank.
A centurion usually commanded a “century” of 80-100 soldiers, but some of them rose to the senior ranks and were the backbone of the Roman legion. A senior centurion, or prima pilus was only outranked by seven other officers in the legion, and was considered a member of the senior staff of the legate, who commanded the legion.
To be considered for senior command, a centurion had to be fiercely loyal to Rome and have no other considerations in his mind. Rome and the emperor were his gods, so it is quite surprising to see such a dedicated soldier developing a love for God’s law and a desire to see Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10).
There’s more. This centurion cared about a slave. The centurion’s servant was a slave, and slaves were generally considered property by Romans. Yet this centurion had compassion on a servant that had become ill and close to death.
Humility was not a common quality in Romans, perhaps much less among centurions, but this one did not believe himself worthy to address Jesus (Luke 7:7). He asked the Jews to intercede on his behalf, which they did.
While the world is filled with the proud, in the eyes of God, it is much better to be like this centurion (Proverbs 29:23).
The centurion was willing to believe and obey Jesus. The Lord said that the soldier possessed “great faith” (Luke 7:9), because the commander told Jesus that all the Savior had to do was “say in a word,” and his servant would be healed.
The centurion demonstrates many things about the new kingdom of faith in Christ Jesus, starting with the beginnings of a kingdom based on faithful obedience, not birth; a kingdom based not on personal merit, but on the mercy of Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7); and a kingdom formed on the greatness of godliness and humility.
As important as these matters are, the centurion shows the importance of becoming involved in something he believed mattered. Isn’t that one of the really important lessons for us who live in a world that doesn’t want to get involved?
The centurion didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch his friend die. May we all have the same kind of love and desire as this humble soldier, and get involved in teaching the world about Jesus!
John serves with the Grand Blanc, Mich., church. He’s a graduate of University of Tennessee at Nashville and Tennessee Bible College.
by John Henson