What was it about the Centurion’s faith that elicited this response from Jesus, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith (Matt 8:10).”
Was it because the Centurion supposed he did not need the presence of the Christ in order to see his request answered and his servant healed? Was it because he recognized authority when he saw it and authority needed no crutch? Was it because, even as a Gentile, he understood what true faith was and he was willing to exercise it? Did he think that his representatives, as noted in Luke 7:1-10, had convinced Jesus of his credibility and his goodness and thought that was sufficient for his servant to receive healing?
Christ made a pretty strong statement about the man’s faith to the unbelievable denigration of Israel’s contemporary faith system. Was that simply a way of condemning their unbelief in his mission? Was it a way of saying the Law,is no longer valid and that the Messiah was moving outside the Law, outside the remnant, outside the covenant people seeking people of true faith and to hell with the others? No pun intended.
It’s not really clear on any account, I don’t believe. Whether Jesus saw something inside the Centurion’s confident faith that said, “Here is a true follower – I will grant his request” or whether it was a lesson more for Israel’s need of healing than the Centurion’s servant is uncertain. Whatever the motive, the servant was healed. By both accounts the healing was rather matter of fact. It was done and that’s the end of both the story and the main characters in the story. However, it seems to me as a casual reader, there must have been more. It did not seem that the Centurion was impacted by his lauded faith. It does not seem that his servant was converted as a result of his healing. It does not seem that Israel had an “ah ha” moment and began to rethink their level of faith and commitment. So what was the point of the story?
For me, the whole issue revolves around authority. Just as a Centurion was vested with the authority of the King, the Centurion in the Gospels somehow knew that Christ was wrapped in the authority of the eternal God. How he knew that, I’m not certain, but it’s the only reasonable explanation that calls for Jesus’ response. The Centurion knew that in his own right he could do nothing as a commander. He could order men around all day, but without the authority given him by the King it would be useless. BUT…add the authority of the king and disobedience was more than just resisting orders, it was resisting the King! That is what gave the Centurion the authority of a Centurion.
Jesus walked with that same – yet greater – authority. Of himself, clothed as man, he could certainly influence those of willing hearts. However, living, teaching and doing under the authority of the Almighty well, that’s a different matter all together. That’s the kind of person one follows to their death. It’s that kind of authority that lead him to his death. It’s the same kind of authority that makes propitiation such a glorious word.
“Lord….simply say the word and (I) will be healed (Matt 8:8).”