St. Luke 7.vv.1-10

~ After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of all the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us". And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set 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 slave, "Do this", and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith". When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.~

Christians, agnostics and atheists all live by faith - faith in the ordered processes of nature, the "natural laws" that govern the universe, belief in things we can't prove, e.g. laws of gravity and the observed effects of things on people, but for religious people faith means trust, not in propositions and theories or things, but faith in a Person.

I read recently of a blazing house into which all who tried to enter were driven back. On a window sill high above the ground stood a little petrified girl who had escaped through the window. A crowd of distressed neighbours outside the house urged the little one to jump, but she refused until her father pushing to the front, opened his arms and called her name and shouted "jump!". She did and was saved, for she knew he was one to be relied on.

In Jeremiah 32.vv.6-15, we read of Jeremiah buying a field on which the besieging enemy was encamped, in the faith that God would in the future liberate the land.

In Galatians 3.vv.6-9, we have a reference to Abraham, the "Father of Faith", taking God at His word.

In Luke 7.vv.1-10, what a wonderful commendation the Centurion received from Jesus, "I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel" (where presumably he had grounds for expecting it).

What sort of man was this Centurion?

First he was a Roman, a Gentile not a Jew. His rank was roughly equivalent to that of Regimental Sergeant Major in the British Army probably a tough and hardened campaigner but he desired healing for his slave.

The Roman attitude to slaves was shown in the advice of Cato and Varro to farmers - "In the Spring look over your tools and slaves and discard any useless or badly worn" (slaves too!).

The Centurion was presumably a "God-fearer" with Jewish friends and attracted to Israel's God. He shows a humble respect for Jesus.

His faith was amazing, for he did not ask Jesus to come to his home but believed in Jesus' power and authority embodied in his "WORD".

The power of the divine "word" is described by Isaiah, "So shall my word be that goeth forth from my mouth ... It shall not return to me empty but shall accomplish that which I purpose and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55). St. John says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1.v.14).

The Centurion knew that distance was no object. The universe is vast, yet God cares for all individuals.

Despite the incredible vastness of time and space Christians know that Christ is nearer than thinking or breathing. They know too that "all things are possible to those who have faith".

We put our faith in a person as did the Centurion. That person is none other than Jesus who is one with the Father who gives to His people, healing, pardon and peace.

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