The Roman Centurion: An Admirable Faith
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9, ESV)
There are several stories in the bible that are just glossed over. For instance, Hosea married a prostitute, yet when reviewing most Sunday School class curriculum, one rarely finds mention of this story- even though it takes up a whole book of the bible. The story of the Roman Centurion is one such story. A centurion was a commander in the roman army, much like a sergeant or corporal in today’s armies. The Centurion was a Roman, detested by Jews. So why is this man’s faith admirable? Well to understand the risk that the Centurion took, we must understand where he was coming from.
“When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.” (Luke 7:3)
While it’s now considered insensitive to think of a race as inferior, it wasn’t so Jesus’ day. The Romans were superior. They had greater armies, greater technology, and greater populations and lands. They acted as though they were the superiors: They lived in the finest houses, took the best looking Jews as slaves, and were able to abuse Jews as they saw fit.
As the Jews were not Roman citizens, they didn’t have access to the civil laws that were customarily given to Roman citizens.
Being Roman meant you had a lot of Roman pride. You were a citizen of the most powerful nation on the earth, and it was expected that you would be very proud of your heritage. Roman culture was to be held high above the customs of the lands that Rome conquered. A decent Roman would have nothing to do with the pathetic cultures that surrounded him or her.
Roman soldiers were a whole new class of ugly. Watching Easter Passion Productions gives you a rather tame view of these men. Many Roman soldiers were from the Italian Peninsula, and hated leaving the comforts of their home. Some were mercenaries, hired to keep the peace. Regardless of that, these men were nasty. They would rape the Jewish women. They killed, and no one gave it a second thought. They would steal, sometimes out of need, and other times out of desire. They drank, and drank excessively. They were pigs.
A Good Man
“And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” (Luke 7:4-5)
This man was good. He was not like the soldiers around him. We can assume that this man was more like the idealistic representations of Roman soldiers that we’ve seen in the movies: Probably a large man, with a lot of difficult decisions to make, and yet he has built a synagogue for the Jews. We can tell that he is a peace loving man. We can tell that he is a compassionate man, because he is asking Jesus to heal his servant.
Not Even In Israel
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9)
The thing to learn from the Roman Centurion is that there is no such thing as an untouchable. It was culturally unthinkable for a Centurion to seek out a Jewish carpenter and ask Him to heal his servant. He was willing to risk his reputation because he had faith in Jesus. How much are we willing to risk to come to Jesus and ask for His help? Is it our reputations? Our lattes? Our iPods?
This Roman centurion was willing to give it all- but not for himself.
For a friend.
And that’s what made him more faithful than anyone in Israel.