When confronted with Jesus’ miracles in the Bible, seeped as they are with 2,000 years of devotion and faith, we sometimes skip past just how scandalous some of the situations would have been – not just to the ruling elite, but even His own followers.
As described in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus had just delivered the Sermon on the Mount and was returning to the “home base” of His ministry in Capernaum. A Roman centurion approached him about a servant who was paralyzed and in pain.
Romans didn’t have a reputation for caring much about their servants, and they weren’t big on asking the Jews for help. And the Jews – particularly the brand of zealous Jews found in Capernaum – were not necessarily inclined to mix socially with the Romans.
So this interaction would have caused a stir in both camps.
The centurion seemed to understand this. When Jesus offered to go to the centurion’s home and visit the servant, the Roman military man said no.
“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.”
Matthew describes Jesus as being “amazed” by the centurion’s response, and the “servant was healed at that moment.”
But, as always, there is more. Jesus said to those around Him: “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”
Listen to that rebuke from the perspective of the Jewish zealots who had attached themselves to Jesus. They thought they were following a Messiah in their own image, one who would knock the Romans down a couple of pegs – not heal a centurion’s servant. And most certainly, not one who was willing to praise the faith of a gentile.
Jesus wasn’t looking for convenient allies in a civil war but committed soldiers in the fight for eternity. He was uninterested in ethnic feuds and more interested in the salvation of humanity.
Many of Jesus’ Jewish followers saw a Roman as a blood enemy of Israel. Jesus saw a man created in the image of God who was hurting.
Are we blinded by the purity of our commitment to our own cause, or do we have the faith of a Roman centurion? Rather than earn the cheers of our fellow zealots, we should hope for the approval of our Lord and Savior.