The Jews had fought long and hard to gain their independence from the Seleucids only to see the high priest’s office fall to a man who was unqualified.
The Romans then brought their legions and standards into Jerusalem prompting a reaction of hatred from the Jews who were sensitive to the idolatry that had been forced on them through Hellenization.
So, when a friendly Roman came to Palestine and took an interest in Judaism, it must have caused excitement within the ranks of the Jewish rulers. And just such a man, a centurion, did come expressing an interest and even built a synagogue for the Jews.
This man was exceptional for more reasons than his willingness to pay for a building. This centurion had a servant that he loved. Most Romans treated their slaves as, well, slaves. So, when Jesus came, the Jews were anxious that he see this man. This is interesting in itself because it was one of the very few times the Jewish rulers actually asked Jesus to do anything.
When they came to Jesus, Luke 7:4-5, they listed three reasons for Jesus to see the centurion. First, they told the Lord the centurion was “worthy.” Next, they said the Roman “loves our nation.” Finally, they said, “he built us a synagogue.”
But when Jesus spoke to the centurion, the first thing he said was he was not worthy for Jesus “to come under my roof,” and then he said, “I did not consider myself worthy to come to you” (Luke 7:6,7 NASB). This man possessed the necessary prerequisite for salvation: humility. He did not demand Jesus do anything. Instead, he didn’t think he was fit to ask anything of him.
He was unlike the Jews in this, wasn’t he? They thought themselves more than worthy to ask Jesus anything they wanted.
Of course, the centurion said what he did because of his faith. We know this because Jesus saw his faith. On what was this faith built? The apostle Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). The centurion must have heard the word of Christ to have his faith.
Within the centurion’s faith in Christ was this one great thought, “I KNOW you can do this!” It’s right there in what the Roman said: “just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:7). Certainly this was the key that unlocked the faith that was inside this man. The centurion had done more than build a synagogue. He had built faith!
We should be able to say, “I know you can, Lord! Just say the word!”
Within Jesus’ statement, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith,” was an indictment of the Jews. Here was a Gentile who had more faith than the rulers of Israel who were supposed to be the chosen people of God. They should have been ashamed of themselves for their lack of faith in the presence of this man who obviously believed more than they.
How much faith do you have? Is your heart filled with the confidence that Jesus can do anything, or are there doubts in your heart that prevent you from being the person of faith you want to be?
Study the Bible and find the conviction in your mind that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. Start building that faith today.