Meet the Centurion and Discover Real Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just 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.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Obedience had been ingrained in me. I understood authority and submission to my superior officers. It’s called “the chain of command” and it’s the reason why armies function the way they do. I ultimately acceded my will to my superior, who’s under authority himself. I also have soldiers who I command. I led over 100 men as the occupying force in Palestine.

We were hated and despised.

My servant was sick, and I knew that he was suffering greatly, but I had run out of options. My servant was the only family I was allowed to have. Since I served as a centurion I was not allowed to have a wife for the duration of my service. Over the years I’ve kept good and trustworthy servants with me–these men were very dear to me. They became my family.

I certainly was aware that both my men and I lived in constant danger from radical Jews.

I had exhausted all my efforts to bring some relief and healing to him–and it seemed to be getting worse, not better. My “contacts” told me of an itinerant teacher who had a reputation as a healer. It seems Jesus had a large following and I realized that He could be my last option.

So I went to Him for help and Jesus responded. But He wanted to go with me to my home. His willingness to come encouraged me, but I simply couldn’t allow that. Jesus’ visit would’ve made Him ceremonially unclean–I was a Gentile, a “dog.”

My home was off-limits.

But I did understand something. I was under authority as an officer in the Roman army, and my men also took orders. Obedience meant survival in a hostile environment like Judea. Our entire unit was drilled constantly and we all understood the need for a “chain of command.” Each of us obeyed our superiors. We had to.

With all this in mind, I asked Jesus to heal my servant with just a word.

He marveled at this. He said that my adherence to protocol was evidence of real faith. Those who were with Jesus were told something earth-shaking. My trust meant something, He made me an equal with the Israel patriarchs. My faith was to be emulated by the Jews.

He then told His followers that my confident trust was respected and acknowledged as evidence of God’s favor.

Simply, Jesus spoke a word and when I returned home my servant would be healed. I returned home to find him healthy.

“Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

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Meet the Samaritan Leper

Luke 17:11-19

11-13 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

17-19 Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

It’s said by many that “misery loves company.” So here we were, ten men banded together, each as lost and far gone as the other. Once our lives were whole and normal–wives and children, homes and jobs, but those wonderful things had been ripped away when we were told we had leprosy.

And basically, I was an outcast among outcasts. I was the sole Samaritan among Jews; not that it mattered anymore–those kinds of distinctions were no longer an issue between us. What we all were facing was a “slow-motion” death. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do, being a leper meant we were beyond any hope.

Do you have any idea what leprosy is?

It was the ultimate impurity–we were the bottom part of the “bottom of the barrel.” Every morning we sat down and unrolled our dirty bandages. We counted fingers and toes–and we examined each other’s faces noses, and ears. Leprosy numbs, the nerves become insensitive. Essentially we were rotting away before each other’s eyes.

We scavenged for food mostly, sometimes our families would set out baskets of bread and fish, maybe some wine we hoped. And sometimes they wrote us notes which could be both good and bad–they just reminded us that all we knew was gone. We would share these with each other, somehow we wanted and needed that bittersweet solace.

I believed that God, in His infinite wisdom, had cursed me.

We were the damned. Walking and talking zombies who were just waiting to die.

We talked among ourselves–the healings that Jesus was doing were fascinating to us. The blind received sight, demons were evicted, the crippled and lame now walked tall and whole. We joked about our little group meeting Jesus for ourselves, but we were imagining the impossible. When you’ve lost enough hope, black humor settles in to stay.

We somehow heard that Jesus was going to travel near us, so we walked to a hill by the road where we might see him come by. It seemed foolish, but it was better than just sitting. It would be good to see what the fuss was all about. We saw a group that was coming down the road–it was Jesus and his followers, so we waited.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Suddenly that became our desperate cry. Each of us stood and screamed out to Him in our lostness–that got His attention. He turned to look at us, and then declared these powerfully gentle and healing words, ““Go, show yourselves to the priests.” That was it, six words, no theatrics.

But as I said before, I was a spiritual outcast, a Samaritan, and going to the priests wasn’t possible. So instead I went directly to Jesus. You should have seen me, I was kneeling and shouting praises to God! Dear one, joy was an understatement–I was astonished at new hands and toes, ears and skin. Where there was once rotten flesh there was now fresh skin–baby soft and brand new.

I was now whole!

Where the nine others went, I don’t know. All I truly knew was that my leprosy was instantly gone.

Lord Jesus, you rule over all sickness and disease. I was like this leper, I had no hope, but you found me and set me free. You forgave my sin. Thank you for finding and healing me. Help me to follow you. Amen.

Image: CNN, Scripture “The Message, by Eugene Peterson.

Meet the Man at the Pool

John 5:1-9

1-6 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”

8-9 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.

9-10 That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.”

There were hundreds of us, surviving in our own personal man-made hell. We were the blind and the lame; simply dropped off by our families here to exist, to somehow make it on our own. We were a desperate lot, but there was a strange camaraderie, we all understood that our condition was hopeless. We were just marking time–and my 38 years was a lifetime for some. It’s a very long time to be sick.

None of us were whole, not by a long shot, otherwise, why were we sitting here waiting to die?

It’s said by some that an angel would venture down from heaven, and stir the pool–and the first to get in the water would be healed. It was one of those strange things that kept us from going crazy–a mental mechanism that bruised hearts often carry deep inside. It was a necessary way to keep from being lost.

I lived with my friends on these hard stone steps all these years, I’ve seen some live, and many more die. Banding together we became a community of survivors. We understood each other, and we knew everyone’s story–what else was there to do but talk?

It’s funny how some ideas get started–a silly dream, or a fairy tale of leaving this pool and becoming normal again. We developed the knack of a gallows kind of humor, a bond that condemned men shared with each other. We bantered these in order to cope with this slow-motion death. These were inside jokes, mixed with hefty dollops of half-believed hope and odd humor that only dying men learn to appeciate.

But maybe it kept us alive for just one more day. Perhaps it helped us to survive this hell.

That day started like 13,879 days before, and there was nothing unusual about it. There was nothing but the growing heat, the flies, and the sour smell of unwashed bodies. But in an instant, my life was going to be decisively interrupted. And at the time I never saw it coming.

Jesus threaded His way through the sitting bodies to find me.

When our eyes met he stopped. All He did was to ask me simply— “Do you want to be made well?” That question cut through the many years of accrued pain. I mumbled something about the angel, and the pool, and not having anyone to help me into the water. His question pretty much unraveled me. It seemed like it was just Him and me, staring at each other.

He told me to stand, to pick up my mat, and walk.

All of those half-baked days of a wasted life crashed in on me then. I saw all the emptiness and sadness of 38 long years. But in an instant, He healed me. I stood and picked up my mat, I shook my head and cried. Through my tears, I saw my friends looking at me in shocked and total amazement.

I simply walked out of there, carrying the only thing I owned.

“Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.”

Isaiah 35:6, CSB

Art: Free Bible Images, text used is from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson