The Centurian's Servant HealedVolume 3, Number 11
Created Date: January 8, 2009
Posted Date: January 8, 2009
A Centurion's Faith, Part 1:
The men who wrote the Scripture were separated unto the task and inspired by the Holy Spirit in not only what they wrote but in the actual words they used,; . Our last study identified seven Greek words in the original New Testament having to do with various aspects of faith, i.e., faith, of little faith, believe, unbelief, faithful, etc. It is instructional to examine how each word is used and the context thereof so we will examine some of them in the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where Jesus Christ's earthly ministry is recorded. Here we begin with the Greek word “pistis,” translated with our noun faith.
In many cases the first use of a particular word in the Bible is significant and this word is no exception. Its first occasion in the New Testament: “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”. Jesus was in His hometown Capurneum, Matthew 9:1 & 4:13, when He made this observation about a Centurion
who had approached and asked Him to heal his servant who was ill at another location. This occurred early in Jesus' ministry but His reputation for performing miracles was obviously well known; He had already turned water into wine at a wedding,, and healed many, ; 8:2
- 4. The Centurion's faith was such (i.e., he truly believed Jesus could do
what he was requesting) that when Jesus answered the Centurion and said He would go to the servant the Centurion responded that to do so was not necessary. He said he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof and all Jesus had to do was say so and the servant would be healed,.
A Centurion was the closest thing to what we know as a police commander of the time although he was actually a Roman military commander. According to a Wikipedia entry the term Centurion could apply to a Roman Military Officer comparable to what we know today as either a Lieutenant, Captain, Lt. Colonial or Colonial, i.e., there were different levels of Centurions. One could be in charge of 80 men or he could become a Senior Centurion and be in charge of a cohort, that is, 6 Centurions and their 480 legionaries. Many legionnaires entered the service at 16 years of age but they could not become a Centurion until they were 30. They led their men by example so fought at the front of their column. One ancient writer wrote: “He (a Centurion) is to be vigilant, temperate, active and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk.”
The penalty for not carrying out their duties was severe, including death. At the time of Christ they were garrisoned in Israel to maintain order and keep the Jews under the rule and authority of Caesar.
The reason the incident with the Centurion inis especially revealing/instructive is that he was a Gentile and the Gospels are very clear that Jesus' earthly ministry was to the Jews and not the Gentiles. Jesus had come to save His people, the Jews, the Nation of Israel, from their sins, ; He was born to be King of the Jews, . A good example of this was when the woman of Canaan approached and asked Him to heal her daughter. Jesus' disciples naturally suggested He send her away and Jesus did not rebuke them for this “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” , and referred to her as a dog, verse 25. The woman knew her place and did not dispute the fact that as a Gentile to a Jew she could be compared as a dog to a human and tacitly admitted she had no right to approach Him as did the Jews: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.” . (In spite of her being a gentile Jesus did heal her daughter.)
Another example demonstrating the difference between Jew and Gentile was when the Samaritan woman was surprised Jesus would even speak to her,. The point of all this is that Jesus' ministry was to Israel, not to the Gentiles, as evidenced by His first commission to His apostles: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:” .
Many Christians today misunderstand much of what is written in the Gospels because they don't consider that Jesus' earthly ministry was primarily to the Jews. At that time, in order to be in a right relationship with God a person had to be a Jew or a Proselyte to their religion and obey the Law God gave Moses. This was true all during the history of mankind beginning with the call of Abraham, recorded in the book of Genesis (and subsequently the Law given to Moses in Exodus) right up through the time recorded in Acts when God saved Saul who became the Apostle Paul and was subsequently sent to the Gentiles. Up until the time of the Apostle Paul the only way a Gentile could come into a right relationship with God was to be a proselyte to the Jewish religion, i.e., men had to be circumcised; be baptized with water; the Sabbath (Friday at sunset until Saturday at sunset) had to be honored; dietary requirements met; certain sacrifices offered at the Temple and many other regulations followed.
Jesus was brought up according to the Law of Moses,, and He declared He had come to fulfill the Law, . During His ministry He required the law be followed. For example, upon healing the leper: “And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Matthews 8:4. See also ; , 6:5 & 13:43. (It should be noted here that in order to be truly right with God and saved unto eternal life one had to follow the law by faith, . There were many Jews who followed the law out of proud self-righteousness but God knew their hearts and the fact that they trusted their own works for their salvation. More about this later.)
It is also important to note that from the beginning God meant for the Jewish nation to be the conduit to carry His blessings to the Gentile nations,; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 27:29; . God meant for Israel to be a Kingdom of Priests to the Nations, . But as we have observed throughout our studies of the men and women born witness to by their faith in the Old Testament, Israel as a Nation, as a corporate body, rejected God at every turn. They ultimately crucified His Son when He came as their Messiah. (We cannot fail to note here that not withstanding their past failures the Nation Israel will sometime in the future look upon Him Who they pierced and turn to Him in belief, , because God is not slack concerning His promises, Romans 11 and .)
With this background in mind we go back to the fact that Jesus saw more faith in the Gentile Centurion than in all of Israel at that time Matthew 8:5 - 10. Israel as a Nation had rejected God's prophets for years and they were about to reject Jesus, God's own Son and thus the Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
- 13. We can rest assured the Centurion's servant was healed and the Centurion himself displayed more faith than Jesus had seen in Israel because
that's what Jesus said. But there are questions that remain: Was the Centurion himself saved unto eternal life by being a proselyte to the Jewish religion? Did he follow the law in faith that that was God's will for him?