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.’
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.
… 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. Matthew 8:5-10,13
The uncomfortable reality of our need for faith
I sat on a chair in a coffee shop and listened as my friend reminded me that without faith we cannot please God. My stomach churned a little as her biblical reminder sunk into my soul. Faith isn’t something I’m finding very easy at the moment. It doesn’t feel practical or logical, and as I grow older I seem to become more and more a fan of the practical and the logical. I want solid ground under my feet – always – and yet I know that there is no forward movement without lifting limbs through the air in purposeful steps.
Faith that gets God’s attention
I read this story in Matthew 8 and I think of my friend’s exhortation. I read this story about the faith of an army commander – and I get stuck on the part where Jesus was amazed. I feel compelled to unravel the circumstances that filled the Son of God with wonder. What exactly did this centurion do to illicit such a response from the One who oceans obey? I look hard, and I look again, and I face the reality that my particular personality finds so hard to reconcile. This man didn’t do anything amazing. He didn’t sell his house and give his money to the poor. He didn’t quit his office job to build a rescue shelter for orphans. He didn’t give up his Wall Street salary to run a youth mentoring program in the local community. He didn’t move to a rough neighborhood to start a church. He didn’t do anything.
Living with faith instead of living for recognition
I want an easy formula to follow, and I want life to play by my rules. I do well in an environment of work and rewards. I’m diligent. I put in the effort and I get the returns. As a kid, I learnt that achievement gets recognized and that recognition feels good. As much as I don’t want to admit it, much of the time I stumble on this, living by this principle instead of living by God’s Word. I know that it’s just a game though. It’s a game of performance, where “self” plays the lead role. And I know that God has a better way. Hard work wasn’t what got Jesus’ attention in this situation. Jesus wasn’t astounded by this man’s efforts. He was astounded by his faith.
Faith in the authority of Jesus
If our thoughts, our words, and our actions are not built on faith, then we cannot please God. I want my life to matter and I want it to matter eternally, not just for a fleeting moment on a man-made stage. I want the amazing things in my life to be things that amaze God, not things that amaze other people. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, we do not earn the love and acceptance of God, we receive it and we believe it. This army commander in Matthew 8 came to Jesus, and he came with faith. He believed that Jesus had the authority to heal his servant. He believed that Jesus had the power to determine a positive outcome for someone at an entirely different location. That’s faith that astounds. That’s faith that filled the Son of God with wonder.
Take a moment to reflect on the way that you are approaching life at the moment. How could you think, speak, and act in ways that are saturated with faith in the authority of Jesus?