Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Luke 7:6-9
I have often pondered what the centurion said that prompted Jesus to rank his faith as great. I have heard this account of Jesus healing of the centurion’s servant used to show how receiving healing by the word of God alone is greater than receiving healing by the laying on of hands or when the gifts of healing go in operation. While I totally agree with that statement, the Centurion seemed to have some behind the scenes information about healing that caught Jesus’ attention that day.
Let’s recap what the centurion said. First, he said he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof, nor that he should come unto Jesus. In Sunday School this week, the commentary went into great lengths to explain the meaning behind the centurion’s statement and the accolades given by the Jewish community on behalf of the centurion. The Jewish community was quite found of the centurion because he had built them a synagogue and thought that Jesus should pay him a house call to heal the servant that was so dear to him. Luke contrasted their sentiments with how the centurion thought himself not even be worthy of such a visit. While it is certainly helpful to know that any Gentile was deemed ceremonially unclean and not permitted to enter beyond a certain point in the Temple, I don’t think that is the point here. None of this stopped the centurion’s faith from working! I think the centurion recognized that Jesus was the Son of God and that a genuine humble approach to Jesus was the best place to start. Otherwise, the rest of what he had to say about authority would make absolutely no sense.
The remainder of what the centurion said is an amazing looking into what is actually going on when the word of faith is spoken. After he properly acknowledged the Son of God and approached him with proper respect, he said that it was not even necessary for him to pay him a house call. He knew all that was necessary was for Jesus to simply say the word, or issue the command, and his servant would be healed. Secondly, he said, I understand authority because I have servants under me. I tell them what to do and they do it. This is where the analogy usually broke down for me. The centurion’s authority structure seems to be a friendly one since he counted the sick servant so dear and valuable to him. Although, I don’t imagine he would have counted any servant so dear if they had not have carried out his orders so swiftly. Romans were known to be intolerant of such subordination.
On the other hand, when Jesus explains what actually goes on in the authority structure in the realm of the spirit, it doesn’t sound so friendly. In Luke 10, Jesus authorizes 70 disciples to go out heal the sick and announce that “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:11). The disciples return with this report: “Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name” (Luke 10:17). Do you see the difference? The centurion had servants on his team and the devils certainly are not on Jesus’ team. But the correlation is obviously not on the team but on the authority or the command being issued. This is made clear in account of the demon possessed man among the tombs in Matthew chapter 8. When Jesus came near, note what the devils requested: “If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Jesus said one word to them, “Go” (Matt. 8:31-32). That pretty much sums up what the centurion was saying, doesn’t it? Although the demons are not working for Jesus by any means, he still has authority over them. Jesus knew this, and the demons knew it.
Apparently, the centurion had heard enough about Jesus’ ministry or had observed it enough to make such a correlation between him issuing a command to his servants and Jesus exercising his authority over the culprits of sickness and disease telling them to go! The following scripture gives a clear explanation of Jesus’ healing ministry: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Ghost and power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). There are many others places where the same idea can be found if you follow Jesus through the pages of the Gospels. So great faith, as Jesus so defined it, is taking God solely at his word, but also it is knowing that sickness and disease, and the demons causing them, are subject to the name of Jesus. Let’s rise to great faith and put the devil on the run, for when the command is given in faith, he has no choice but to obey!