The Faith of the Centurion – Eastertide Reflection 33
By Michael Banks
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When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this’, and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Reflection: “God stuff and the Jesus thing”
When my two children were both very young we were on holiday abroad and pursuing the Italian custom of ‘passaggiata” and evening stroll through ancient streets. When we came across a church we would enter it. My son referred to this as the ‘God stuff’ part of our walk. On seeing a shrine, central to which was the crucified Christ, my daughter declared, “Look, the Jesus thing!”
Thus the terms ‘God stuff and the Jesus thing’ entered our family vocabulary!
In Luke 7: 1-10, the Centurion certainly ‘gets’ the God stuff and the Jesus thing when he asks Jesus to heal his slave who is on the point of death. He ‘gets it’ to the extent that Jesus was amazed by him and declared “I tell you, not even in Israel have I seen such faith”.
To me, this is remarkable on a number of levels. In Luke’s Gospel, this is part of the First Journey narrative of Jesus’ ministry around Galilee. The ‘good news’ is spreading to the non- Jews. Signs that all peoples will be one in Christ.
All the more remarkable is that the Centurion is a representative of an occupying power, the Roman army. He is accustomed to instant obedience as he has the authority to demand it. But he does not demand anything of Jesus. He recognises in this instance not only his own unworthiness but the authority of Jesus as a holy man of God in whom God’s power is at work. The Centurion has faith in the healing powers of Jesus to the extent that he doesn’t need him present to heal his slave, rather just ‘Say the word’. Jesus performs a miracle, the slave is healed and the Centurion’s faith is justified. He is a man of faith and love. He shows compassion for his slave; the Jewish Elders petitioning Jesus on the Centurion’s behalf declare that he loves their nation and built them a synagogue….probably not your typical Roman Centurion!
The Centurion is living out the way of love. He demonstrates faith in action…believing and doing.
Jesus responds with healing which is a symbol of both loving care and the power of Kingship.
Tomorrow is Ascension Day and marks the beginning of Thy Kingdom Come.
God summons us to His love. God embraces all. Our theme for Thy Kingdom Come this year is ‘prayer and care’. Is this not an example of living out the way of love and faith in action?
At this time of ‘lockdown’ due to the Corona Virus, we pray for deliverance from it and we pray for those who are vulnerable, suffering, dying. We pray for those whose livelihoods are imperilled. We also offer pragmatic and practical support to those who need our help. We demonstrate we care by caring for others. This is Faith in action. This is living out the way of love. Like the Centurion…believing and doing.