July 18, 2021 Centurion Faith

Centurion Faith

July 18, 2021




Read Matthew 8:1-13


The “great crowds” probably included some who had gone up the mountain but, because they are described my Matthew to be great, most probably started following him after he came down and was more accessible. Elsewhere, we are told that many followed him because he fed them. Others followed him to see his miracles. Still others followed him because of his words were so full of wisdom and authority. Why do you follow him? Do you follow him because of what you can get in this life? Do you follow him out of curiosity? (There are many who become Christians because it is new and exciting. But, after a year or two, they stop coming to church and you never see them again. They were just curious.) Or, do you follow him because you know he is Lord of heaven and earth? You know that he is. You know your destiny is in his hands. You know that you deserve the lake of fire but he saved you! Only those who know these things continue to follow him. Others will either fall away or live half-heartedly all their lives, with one foot in the church and one foot in the world. They will die and hear the words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you worker of lawlessness.” [1]


2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”[2]


Observe the manner in which the leper comes to Jesus. He knelt before him. Kneeling is a manifestation of humility and submission. How different this is to how some come to the Lord in the modern age. Yet, this is the way all must come to him. We come knowing that we are helpless (humility), deserving eternal perdition. We come submitting to the Lordship of Jesus.


The leper comes believing. He knows that, if Jesus wills, he can be made clean.


Leprosy, especially in the first century, was a terrible disease. It is caused by a bacteria that infects the whole body but especially the skin and muscles. Without treatment (there was none until recently) a persons body parts, such as their nose, ears, fingers, could fall off! The skin becomes white and flakey. Lepers were shunned and avoided. Although it is contagious, it is one of the least contagious diseases in the world. Only about 5% of the people who are exposed to the bacteria are subsequently infected. Of course, this data was not known in Jesus’ day. Lepers were castaways according to OT law.


Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing;[3]


The leper had said, “if you will…” Jesus could have answered, “No. Your leprosy is just a manifestation of what your heart is like. You do not deserve to be healed.” God is under no obligation to heal anyone.  Our Lord Jesus is a compassionate Savior. He ministers to us in our need even though we do not deserve anything. “I am willing!” Jesus is still saying these three words, even to you! Even to me!


Why are some people healed and others not? There is more than one answer to this question. The Scriptures reveal that some are not healed because they hold on to their sin and will not confess it (James 5:16). Some are not healed because they lack faith. But, more often, we do not know the reason why some are healed and some are not. All things being equal, the Lord’s disposition towards those who belong to him is that he is willing to heal them, as he was with this leper. But, all things are not equal. Sickness, like any adversity, may be used by the Lord to bring about our sanctification. Ultimately, we often simply do not know.


I knew a friend and pastor who came down with leukemia a number of years ago. He was a godly father, a faithful and loving husband, and a good pastor. He and his family prayed incessantly and the church – several hundred people – also petitioned on his behalf. If anyone were to be healed, I would think it would be my friend. But he died. It is inexplicable. Yet, the Lord had a good reason and we will know it one day.


We do not always know why the Lord does what he does, but we continue to trust him.


Then we come to the account of the centurion.


When Jesus asks (CSB) if he desires that he go to heal the centurion’s servant, he replies in this way:


But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”[4]


When Jesus hears this reply he was amazed. And makes this statement:


“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.[5]


What was it about the centurion’s faith that caused our Lord to marvel and to be so pleased with his faith?


If we can identify it, then we can nurture this kind of faith within ourselves and so have a faith that pleases the Lord!


If we consider the centurion’s statements in verses 8 and 9 we can see three things about his faith that were evidently lacking in the sons of the kingdom.


First, he says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” He recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as Lord. This is not one of the three revelations about his faith that makes it unique. Nevertheless, it is essential. If a person does not acknowledge and own Jesus as Lord, whatever kind of faith they have is worthless. If a person rejects Jesus they ought not to expect anything from God the Father because the Father loves the Son above all things. Yet, there were many in Israel who acknowledges Jesus as Lord.


The centurion says he is not worthy. This is a self-revelation of deep humility. This was seldom seen in Israel. Pride is a sin that afflicts very many. It is the sin that brought the downfall of Lucifer. It brought death to the door of Hezekiah and he was only saved by humbling himself.


Pride afflicts so many that Paul (Eph 4:2; Php 2:3; Col. 3:12), James (4:6), and Peter (I Peter 5:5) all had to remind their readers to cultivate humility.


God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, we can do so many things right – be a good husband or wife, work hard at our job, never miss church, read our Bibles – but if we harbor pride then we will not receive grace and we ought not to expect our prayers to be answered.


The first unique quality about the centurion was that he was humble.


Then the centurion says four words that are powerful. He says to Jesus, “Only say the word…” Whereas the Jews sought a sign (I Cor. 1:22) in order to believe, this man knew that Jesus only had to speak a word. “Only say the word!”


The second unique truth about this man was that he fully trusted in the truth and power of Christ’s word! He did not need an outward manifestation of power.


Many have the kind of faith that seeks a sign. But the kind of faith that only trusts in the Lord’s word is a more blessed faith (John 20:29).


Do you trust in the Lord’s word? Of course, if you asked any Christian this question they would answer in the affirmative. They believe that Jesus is Lord and, therefore, they will say they trust his word. But, wait. Not everything that we think, especially about ourselves, is correct.


Dr. Laura is one of my favorite advice-givers on the radio. She is not a Christian but has an amazing amount of wisdom that aligns with Scripture. She said this:


“When we say one thing and do another, what we do is what we are.”


If a person truly believes that the Lord’s words are both true and powerful, then they will take them in – they will read them, study them, make certain they understand them.


How often we are in the word reveals who we are! Thank you, Dr. Laura!


This is insightful. Therefore, I need to say it again.


How often we are in the word reveals who we are!


“Pastor, are you saying that if I don’t read and study my Bible every day then I am not a Christian? That may very well be true, because what we love and who we love is revealed by what we do, not by what we say. Those who claim to love Jesus but never spend time in his word show where there real love lies. It’s in whatever you are doing when you neglect the words of our Lord. However, I am not saying that one who neglects Christ’s words is not a Christian. A genuine Christian can fall into sin. And, certainly, neglecting God’s words is a sin. But it is also true that a genuine Christian will not remain in disobedience. They will repent when their sin is made known.


The second thing, then, that the centurion possessed was a complete trust in the power of Jesus’ words. “Only say the word!”


The final unique truth about the centurion is that he was a person of position and authority. This is not unique in itself, but those who have position and authority seldom possess faith. Or, if they do, it is not a strong faith. Remember our Lord’s words in Matthew:


And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”[6]

Why is it difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom? Because they have so many of their needs met through their own resources that they seldom seek God.


Solomon recognized this also:


Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me.

Give me neither poverty nor wealth;

feed me with the food I need.

9 Otherwise, I might have too much

and deny You,  saying, “Who is the Lord?”

or I might have nothing and steal,

profaning  the name of my God. [7]


As we read through the gospels we see that those who had position and authority were the ones who opposed Jesus. It was only Nicodemas and Joseph of Arimathea who demonstrated faith.


For the centurion to have position and authority and to place so much faith in Christ caused Christ to marvel.


The centurion understood authority. In order for us to experience the blessings of trusting in the Lord, we should recognize and submit to authority. There is authority in the family. There is authority at our jobs. There is governmental authority. And, there is spiritual authority. We are rebels at heart. All people are. But blessed is the person who calms their restless heart and submits to authority. When we do this, we will discover that the Lord was at work through whatever authority we find ourselves under!


To have authority and to submit to other authority is a most favored position to be in! This was the centurion’s place. He himself had authority and he knew that Jesus had the authority to heal.


We can emulate this kind of faith! We can cultivate humility and be on guard against pride. We can fully trust in the words of our Lord. And, we can manifest that trust by abiding in his word. Finally, we can trust in the Lord by submitting to the authorities that he has placed in our lives.


What kind of faith do you have? Is it the weak faith of Israel or the marvelous faith of the centurion? If you have the typical faith of Israel, do not be content with it. Take hold of the centurion faith! Have done with lesser things and press into the kingdom!








[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 7:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 8:3). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Pr 30:8–9). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.