Thesis: God speaks to and through evil
A Roman Centurion
Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
The Centurion’s Cry
That was the reverse of the normal attitude of master to slave. In the Roman Empire, slaves did not matter. It was of no importance to anyone if they suffered and whether they lived or died. Aristotle, talking about the friendships which are possible in life, writes: ‘There can be no friendship nor justice towards inanimate things; indeed, not even towards a horse or an ox, nor yet towards a slave as a slave. For master and slave have nothing in common: a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’
A slave was no better than a thing. A slave had no legal rights whatsoever; his master was free to treat him, or maltreat him, as he liked. Gaius, the Roman legal expert, lays it down in his Institutes: ‘We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.’ Varro, the Roman writer on agriculture, has a grim passage in which he divides the instruments of agriculture into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute, ‘the articulate comprising the slaves, the inarticulate comprising the cattle, and the mute comprising the vehicles’. The only difference between a slave and an animal or a cart was that the slave could speak.
The Centurion’s Barrier
Dwelling places of gentiles [in the Land of Israel] are unclean.
The Centurion’s Belief
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.”
I. The problem—vv. 1–6
A. The cleansing—vv. 1–4. A leper asked for healing. Note Jesus’ words, “I will.” The leper was healed.
B. The city—v. 5. Capernaum was about eighty miles north of Jerusalem.
C. The centurion—v. 5. The word centurion designates a captain in charge of about a hundred men in the Roman army.
D. The call—v. 6. He called on Jesus for help. Even though all others fail to help, Christ is near to deliver us.
II. The promise—vv. 7–9
A. Sure promise—v. 7. See the words of Jesus, “I will come and heal him.”
B. Simple plan—v. 8. The centurion said, “You don’t have to come to my house and touch the servant—just speak the word and he will be healed.” This is the simple faith Christ wants from us.
C. Simple person—v. 9. He was a great person, but had childlike faith … the kind God requires.
III. The power—vv. 10–12
A. Pleasing faith—v. 10. God does not ask that we understand all things; He asks only that we believe. Such faith pleases God.
B. Pardoning faith—v. 11. The Jews thought the promises of God were for them alone, but the gospel is for all people. (Note the word whosoever in John 3:16; Rom. 10:13.)
C. Punishment without faith—v. 12. Whether a person be a Jew, Catholic, or Protestant, if he fails to accept Christ as his Savior, he will be lost (John 3:1–8).
The Bible has much to say about faith. Faith is not only in the head, but is in the heart (Rom. 10:9–10).
IV. The perfection—v. 13
A. Command of faith—“Go thy way.” The centurion went, believing without seeing the results. Anyone can believe when they see, but real faith believes before it sees.
B. Completion of faith—“And his servant was healed in the self-same hour.” Jesus tells of the power of this faith (Matt. 17:20). Different types of faith are saving faith, keeping faith, healing faith, active faith, and overcoming faith.