When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” (Luke 7:3-5 NASB)
What would have happened had this big burly Roman Centurion, his Roman Century around him (100 Roman soldiers), swaggered up to Jesus and demanded, “I want you to heal my slave.” What would Jesus do? We ask that a lot in situations we get into, but before we really understand an answer, we should probably spend some time with Jesus in the first place. If you already do, then what would your answer be? What would Jesus do to a swaggering Gentile occupying soldier making a demand of the Son of God, his Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Think it through. What’s Jesus’ angle, His point, the teaching element, the multi-faceted parable He’s faced with?
When I read this account of Jesus Healing the Centurion’s Servant, I’m confronted with a few things that set me back a bit. I have to confess that my faith really isn’t there yet. But I also confess that I’m a bit jaded on this story because the Centurion makes it kind of easy on Jesus. He’s really good, and it’s easier to help the good people. Friends aside, what about the stuff Jesus said about loving enemies? What if this “friendly” Centurion was not so much? I ask this because the ones who seem to be set against Jesus don’t receive this sort of consideration. We have the ear of the slave Peter cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus heals a difficult crippled man beside a pool. More obliquely, there are nine lepers who do not return to thank Him. But we quickly run out of people Jesus healed who were more His enemies than friends. Or do we?
Why Heal In The First Place?
Healing is a strange miracle when you think about it. Immediately following this miracle, Jesus raises a boy to life for his mother in Nain. That’s pretty dramatic, but it’s temporary, as is every healing Jesus performs. Nobody lives on this earth forever. In fact, this earth won’t live forever; it’s getting ready to flee some place, except no place will be found for it (one more thing in Revelation I don’t understand – it’s an enormous pile of stuff). So healing of the physical sort is merely a “shadow” of the healing to come. Yet Jesus does it a lot, a lot of people want it, and they follow Him around everywhere to get it.
I get that Luke’s a doctor and so physical healing is a big deal to him, but Matthew and Mark, and John all include a lot of it, and it’s center-stage for them too. But again, it’s temporary. So do Jesus’ enemies “deserve” healing too? Would Jesus heal someone even though brash, loud, demanding, arrogant, and rude? Who or what sort of person could be those things in Jesus’ presence anyway? Even demons run and hide when He comes around, so how dense does a person have to be to be arrogant to the Creator of the universe? But what if?
The Oddity of a Good Foreign Occupying Soldier
This Centurion would have been a perfect opportunity to find out. But he’s not. He actually “loves” the Jewish people. Sure, he loves the people over whom he looms like a death threat, but still, they’re not known for be a kind people to rule. Yet this Roman soldier who is dedicated, consistent, and tough (qualities sought in selecting a centurion) actually loves the Jewish people. He pays to have their synagogue built. Who is this guy? He’s a complex quandary of a character. He is truly a “frenemy” in the clearest sense of the word.
Could he have swaggered up to Jesus and demanded? Sure. But think about that. What that would have meant is that he believed Jesus could heal. If he believed Jesus could do that then he already knows Jesus is not a “normal” guy. Not many people can simply heal whenever they like. If he knows Jesus isn’t the run-of-the-mill person, Jew or otherwise, then would a tactical-thinking person just swagger up and demand? What else might happen, even if such a person did heal? If someone is capable of healing, then would they not also be capable of hurting? Besides, why can this guy heal? If Jesus is truly that powerful, then there are a lot of other qualities that can be assumed.
He “Got It”; Do I?
My point is this, this early A.D. Roman leader of soldiers hears of Jesus, and then calculates correctly that He is “One in authority”. Fast forward 2,000 years, and we have people who also hear of Jesus, and come to extremely different conclusions. And saying that he heard from people who saw these events is no help here. We have the writings of people who saw these events and we still don’t believe. What is our problem? Science? Advancement in knowledge? Or have we been duped so often by mere people that we’ve become a generation of cynics, skeptics, elevating doubt to heights of intellectual esteem? You know we do that. I do that!
So how can I have this “great faith”? That is what I want. I want to read of Jesus, recognize One of authority, and behave as if it’s true. Do you get that? It affects how I pray, what I say, my choices of action in stress and day-to-day. If Jesus is all He claims then what does that mean for my prayers? What would be my constant focus in conversation, with anybody? What would I do different, day in, day out, and under duress?
Jesus formed the skies above, and died beneath them. He made the earth below, and was buried in it. He made heaven as His home, and rose from the dead to walk about then went back to it. If this is the One healing a favorite slave of a Gentile soldier, then what do I say when I pray? What do I pray for? Do I believe that He will do it? Why or why not? What do I say to my neighbors, my customers, co-workers, and more importantly, my family? How do I speak to them? Not just what do I say, but how do I say it?
My challenge is to be the insightful foreign occupying soldier. I want to read about who Jesus is and behave as if it’s true. What do you want?
Share your view through the knothole.