“Truly, I say to you; I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.”
After finishing his message in the sermon on the mount, Jesus walked a short distance to the fishing village of Capernaum. It was a small village with an estimated population of 1500 during the period of the New Testament. It was in this village that Jesus took up residence after leaving Nazareth and served as his home base as he ministered in the region. It stood near Bethsaida, where Peter, Andrew, and Philip lived before becoming disciples. After they followed Jesus, they, too, moved, along with their families, to Capernaum. It was also the home village of Matthew.
When Jesus entered the city, he was met by a surprising individual, a centurion. A centurion was an officer in the Roman army and commanded a unit consisting of approximately 80 soldiers. For the Jews, they were despised pagans who symbolized the control that Rome exerted over Israel. Even though the Centurion knew the Jews regarded him with disdain, he came to Jesus because he faced a tragic event. One of his servants was paralyzed. The story leaves us with many questions, “How was he paralyzed?” “Why would a Centurion, familiar with death and suffering, be concerned for the welfare of one of his servants?” We know that Centurion deeply cared about this tormented servant to the point that he was willing to humble himself and come to a despised jew for help.
Jesus' response was not only immediate but shocking to those who stood by. It was unthinkable for a respected Jew to enter into a Gentile home, especially one who was an army commander. In a remarkable display of humility and trust, the centurion informed Jesus that he did not need to come but could merely give a command, and the servant would be healed. This centurion, in humility, recognized the barriers of ritual uncleanness for a jew and willingly acknowledged his unworthiness. He understood and accepted this treatment and realized that Jesus could heal his servant from a distance with just a verbal command. To heal merely with the power of a spoken word was unprecedented at this time. Healing requires a physical touch. However, the centurion understood something the Jews failed to grasp. The power to heal was not based upon some physical act but on the power and authority one possessed. He recognized something in Jesus that the Jews refused to accept, that Jesus possessed all the authority of God, and because authority is conveyed through the orders one gives, Jesus had the authority of God to deliver the demand for the illness to be cured merely.
Jesus was amazed at this centurion's faith. Jesus had been looking for genuine faith in the Jews, and now he found it in the confession of faith of a gentile. Jesus then uses this as an opportunity to rebuke the Jews for their lack of faith and to point out that the kingdom of heaven will include all people of all nations.
In this story, there is an essential lesson regarding faith. Faith involves the recognition of Christ's divine authority over every circumstance in life. It is surrendering to his authority over our life and trusting in his actions. The centurion recognized Jesus had the power to heal, so the only question was regarding Jesus' desire to heal. In other words, was Jesus willing to heal? Faith is surrendering to the will of God and allowing him to answer our prayers in the way that he determines. It is recognizing his authority, not just his power. To live by faith is to submit and surrender to his control over our life. Do we have that kind of faith