A centurion from outside God’s people Israel, understands Jesus’ authority, and therefore God’s grace, more deeply than the Israelites.
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 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.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Who deserves God’s grace?
When the Jewish elders come to ask Jesus to heal the centurion’s servant, they reveal a lot by the way they argued his case – “this man deserves to have you do this because….” The centurion has done a lot of good – that’s why they feel they can ask Jesus to help him. Perhaps their approach also reveals something of how they see their own position before God.
How does the centurion see himself? He tells Jesus: “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof”. He knows he’s unworthy to ask this thing of Jesus, so he sends those whom he thinks must be closer to God – perhaps more “worthy” than he is.
The centurion understands authority. He recognises Jesus’ authority. He fully trusts Jesus’ power and authority over sickness, having heard about Jesus’ miraculous healings. More poignantly, he understands that Jesus has authority over him as well. He understands his true position before Jesus – underserving and unworthy.
As a result, this centurion understands grace much more profoundly than the Israelites. The whole point of grace is that it is undeserved. Understanding God’s grace means understanding both our true standing before him and the full extent of his authority over us as the creator of the universe and Lord of all. The centurion understood this. The Israelites seemed to forget over and over again that their relationship with God was not about their worth or ability to be good (history reveals their shortcomings before God as a nation over and over again). It was always about God himself – his love for them, his promises to them, his faithfulness towards them, his mercy and grace towards them, calling them and rescuing them over and over again, in spite of their waywardness and heartbreaking rejection of him.
I wonder what the centurion felt when he heard what Jesus had said about him? I wonder whether he later heard that Jesus was crucified on a cross and then reported to have risen again – what did he think of Jesus then?
Head: How do you see yourself in relation to God? How does a true perspective of our position before God affect our understanding of his grace towards us, shown by Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf? How does this impact how you see and treat others around you?
Heart: Spend a moment now and allow the reality of God’s kindness towards you sink in to your heart.
Hands: How could you show kindness and grace to those he brings into your life today?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank-you that you have loved me and saved me in spite of my unworthiness before you. You are amazingly gracious towards me. Please help me never to forget the depth of your grace towards me. Please change me by your Spirit so that my life might reflect your love for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen
A song to listen to: This Life I Live
Ros Cree- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina