by Elaine Pierce
What does it mean to believe, to have faith in something or someone? The Roman centurion in today's passage was used to people listening to him. Here's how he describes the soldiers under his command:
"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 8:9)
So when his servant is sick and near death, he asks for help from a man who is gaining recognition for his astonishing teaching and healing miracles. While the centurion is not a Jew, Jesus' reputation has spread beyond the synagogues and temple. He asks Jesus for help, and he is confident that Jesus will deliver.
Can you imagine what the Jews thought about this? Jesus clarifies that the centurion has more faith than the "faithful." His words are strong and stinging:
"I tell you the truth; I have found no one in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom [the Jews] will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:10-12)
The centurion has no doubt that Jesus can heal his servant if he chooses to do so. He is not steeped in the scriptures. He is a Roman citizen, not a Jew living under Roman rule. While his Biblical knowledge is almost nonexistent, his faith is certain and true.
When the centurion returned home, his household must have been bursting with joy - and amazement - at the servant's healing. We don't know what happened after this. Did the centurion start following Jesus? What happened to his military career? Did his faith, his understanding of who Jesus was, grow and deepen? We don't know. What we do know is that Jesus recognized his faith, and he granted him his desire to restore his servant to health.
Jesus meets us where we are. He unimpressed with our accomplishments or our good deeds. Foremost, he wants us to follow him, to forsake all others, and to accept the gift of eternal life he offers freely.
Heaven will be filled with people "from the east and the west." Let us hold on to the certain faith that one day, knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Lord, help me when I doubt, when I am afraid to trust you. Hold me close and send your Holy Spirit to guide and direct me. Amen.