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When one becomes a disciple, a follower of the Lord Jesus, he or she embarks on a life-long learning curve. One of the first truths the disciple needs to master is the relationship between God’s Word and their faith. Both Matthew 8 and Luke 7 record the story of a centurion in Capernaum who had a beloved servant, who “was sick, and ready to die” (Luke 7:2). When he heard of Jesus, he sent Jewish elders to request Jesus come to his house and heal his servant.
Jesus went with the elders. In route to his house, Jesus met friends of the centurion, explaining he was “unworthy” that Jesus should enter his house. Then came this gem: “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but SAY IN A WORD, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man SET UNDER AUTHORITY, having under me soldiers, and I SAY unto one, Go, and he goeth” (Luke 7:7-8).
Luke continues: “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” (7:9). This assessment by Jesus concerning SO GREAT FAITH cries out for analysis. For if a Gentile was capable of faith Jesus said he couldn’t find in Israel, perhaps we today can grasp the essence of SO GREAT FAITH and achieve similar results.
The first thing we learn from the centurion is his understanding of AUTHORITY! As a man who lived within an authoritative framework, who lived UNDER authority and had soldiers who lived UNDER his authority, he recognized WHO Jesus was, the authority inherent in his Person. He was convinced even disease and death were subject to his authority.
The second is the power of Jesus’ Word. The centurion understood neither DISTANCE nor DISEASE posed obstacles to Jesus’ power to heal once he spoke the command. In Colossians 1, we’re told Jesus CREATED all things. So when Genesis 1 says, “And God said, Let there be," we understand it was Jesus who spoke those words, and by them brought all things into existence. Jesus continues to HOLD all those created things together “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
In the last great battle, in which he destroys his enemies, the Lord Jesus will have a sword proceeding “out of his mouth” to execute wrath (Revelation 19:21). From Genesis to Revelation, the scriptures affirm the authority of Jesus’ spoken Word. They also grant the written Word the same power, especially the prophetic Word!
The third is the reaction of Jesus. The text says he “marvelled” at the centurion’s faith. The word “marvel” means “to [be struck with] wonder, to hold in admiration.” Paul used the same word in Acts 7:31 to describe how Moses “wondered” at the sight of the bush that fire could not consume. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, we’re told Jesus will come [again] to be “glorified in his saints, and to be ADMIRED in all them that believe.” It is expected of believers that they ADMIRE the Lord Jesus. How exceptional is it therefore that Jesus would ADMIRE great faith in a man?
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus extended his gracious invitation to the Laodicean church, that if ANY man would HEAR his voice, OPEN the door of his heart, he would “come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” What Jesus described was an intimate, reciprocal relationship. When we trust and confide in him, he enjoys our fellowship as much we enjoy his. As much as we ADMIRE him for his ultimate AUTHORITY, he ADMIRES us for our humble DEPENDENCY.
There is a real sense in which Jesus and the believer form a MUTUAL ADMIRATION society. If you doubt that, I suggest you read Exodus 33:11: “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”
Lastly is the messaging. When Jesus said “I have not FOUND,” he directly implied he was LOOKING. His words paraphrased: “Just in case ANY of you were listening to what just transpired, the faith of the centurion is EXACTLY what I’m looking for in my followers." He indirectly implied this to The Twelve: “You guys could learn a thing or two about faith from this Gentile soldier!”
What then can we disciples learn from the centurion? It includes recognition of the following: (1) All AUTHORITY in heaven and earth resides in the Lord Jesus. (2) The Word of Christ has no limitations—not distance, not disease and not death. (3) The believer can expect his unshakable dependence upon Jesus and his Word to be met with a reciprocal admiration as part of a growing, blossoming friendship.
In closing, we must ask ourselves why SO GREAT FAITH was such a rare commodity in Israel when SO GREAT A GOD (Psalm 77:13) was in their midst? That’s a fitting question for us today!