The Lord Jesus Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), once marveled at the faith He found in a man. In fact, it’s the only time in the New Testament record that we read of such a response from Jesus. On top of that, the man in question was not a disciple, a rabbi, or even a member of the Jewish nation. He was a Roman soldier – a centurion.
The account is given to us in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. As Jesus entered Capernaum, he was met by a small delegation of Jewish elders who came to Him with an urgent request. There was this Roman centurion whose servant was so sick that he was close to death. The centurion loved this servant and had asked these elders to approach Jesus to see if He would be willing to come and heal his servant.
What is unusual about this is that Jewish elders were not in the habit of being fond of Roman soldiers. When they came to Jesus, they quickly explained to Him, “That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:4-5). This was also very out of the ordinary, for Roman soldiers were not in the habit of being fond of the Jews.
As Jesus went with these elders and was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Jesus who brought Him this message from the centurion: “Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Luke 7:6-8).
The Jews said, “He is worthy.” The centurion said, “I am not worthy.” Then he said to Jesus, “Just speak the word and my servant will be healed.” The next verse says, “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Luke 7:9).
This Roman centurion was probably the least likely person to amaze Jesus. He was in charge of one hundred soldiers, having distinguished himself above the others as a man of war. He probably had a pagan upbringing. But something had happened in this man, for he was also a man of great faith, according to Jesus. He is a reminder to us that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
No doubt many will be surprised on that day when the Lord Jesus hands out His rewards, for the great ones on that day will probably be believers who lived in relative obscurity. You see, Jesus is not as impressed with titles, degrees, and accomplishments as we are. He is impressed with those who really do humbly believe Him. The Lord is not as concerned with our fruitfulness as much as He is our faithfulness. The centurion was faith-full. I want to be more like him! How about you?
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).