“When he had concluded saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. A centurion’s servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, requesting him to come and save the life of his servant. When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy for you to grant this, because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue’” (Luke 7:1-5 CSB).
This centurion seems to have been an exceptional Roman. Stationed in Galilee, he became involved in the local life, even to the point of building a synagogue for the Jews of that town. Perhaps he was attracted to the God they worshipped and their way of life. If you visit Capernaum today you will see extensive excavations of the first century town and an impressive synagogue that would have dominated the town even in Jesus’ day. The current synagogue dates from the 4th century but it is built on the foundation of the first century synagogue, so you get an idea of the size of the one built by this Roman centurion.
The centurion had a servant who was very sick – he was about to die. The centurion had heard about Jesus and undoubtedly that he could heal. He was so highly regarded by the Jewish community that he was able to get the local Jewish elders to approach Jesus for him. They pleaded his case to Jesus.
“Jesus went with them, and when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, since I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’” (Luke 7:6-8).
We see even more of this centurion’s character and his faith. He must have heard that Jesus was coming to his house and he immediately sent word not to come – he wasn’t worthy for Jesus to come under his roof. He understood the power of words because he was an officer used to giving commands that were followed. He knew the power Jesus had and was confident that all Jesus needed to do was to speak and his servant would be healed.
“Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel.’ When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health” (Luke 7:9-10).
The faith of this Roman amazed Jesus! He hadn’t found a faith like this anywhere in Israel among the Jews. Yet a Roman, undoubtedly someone who had worshipped pagan gods, believed in Jesus enough to send for him and to realize that Jesus didn’t even need to be there to heal his servant. And when those he sent to Jesus returned they found the servant in good health. Notice he wasn’t just getting better, but he had been returned to health!
Now how is our faith? Do we really believe that Jesus has the power to change our lives? Do we believe that Jesus can change us? Are we willing to spend time in God’s word so that our lives better imitate him?
The centurion put his faith into practice. May we be willing to do the same!
Readings for next week:
5 February – Luke 5
6 February – Luke 6
7 February – Luke 7:1-23
8 February – Luke 7:24-50
9 February – Luke 8:1-25