God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 8, 2018
6 Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, because I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I am also a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The Roman centurion didn’t want Jesus to come to his home. This showed both his humility and his faith. In his humility, he thought that Jesus should not need to associate with a Gentile like him. What a contrast there is between him and a soldier like Naaman the Syrian! Naaman despised the idea of washing himself in the Jordan instead of one of the better rivers of Damascus (2 Kings 5:12). His pride almost kept him from being healed. But our centurion knew his place in the middle of things in God’s world. He simply trusted in Jesus, and so we also see him expressing his faith with a clarity that few people have had: “Say the word, and my servant will be healed.” His illustration from his own life of giving orders and having them obeyed was exactly right. The one with authority commands, and the commands are carried out.
This passage cuts deeply into our spirits; it breaks our hearts. Oh, on the surface we say, “What a wonderful faith he had! It’s about time one of those people in Jesus’ day had a strong faith!” But the Holy Spirit doesn’t hold up this centurion to be a statue in the park so that we can sit under his shade and think about him on sunny days. The Holy Spirit has polished this centurion’s tale so that it shines clear and bright like a mirror—the mirror of God’s law. We look at this centurion, and then we look at ourselves. Do I see his faith in my life? His trust was spectacular, humble; wonderful. Each of us needs to look from him to ourselves and consider the ways we haven’t had this kind of a faith.
Before we’re too quick to say, “I have a pretty good faith,” let’s ask, really ask, what is my humility like today? Do I hurry through my table prayers, morning prayers, and evening prayers, even when I’m alone? Do I pray more to have done the thing than to really ask God for something, or to thank him for something? If that’s my attitude about God’s invitation (to pray), then what’s my attitude about the things God commands? He says, “Do not murder” (the Fifth Commandment), but I mustn’t think that because I haven’t slain anyone, that I’ve kept the command: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). The commandments are about more than deeds; they are about our attitudes and our thoughts. And what is faith but an attitude and a thought; a trust that influences and guides everything that we do? We stand with our shoulders drooping and our jaws dropped, staring into the mirror of the centurion’s fine faith, with our offenses hanging over our heads like a storm cloud. But we have the promises of Christ. God says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22). The centurion’s faith, remember, was not based on the terror of God’s judgment, but on the grace and forgiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Knowing we have a Savior from our sin, we freely admit our guilt, and praise God for his forgiveness. The life of the Christian is a life of giving thanks, humble thanks, for the wonderful gifts of God. See your sins in the mirror of the centurion’s faith. But see an example of faith in action, too, and don’t lose sight of Jesus here in the text, striding toward the man’s house, unexpected but more than welcome—the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the one who brings healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). Your sins are forgiven in Jesus. You are at peace with God.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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