HE UNDERSTOOD FAITH
"Jesus went with them. When He was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell Him, 'Master, you don't have to go to all this trouble. I'm not that good a person, you know. I'd be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I'm a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, 'Go,' and he goes; another, ‘Come,' and he comes; my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it.'
"Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd, 'I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how He works.' When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well." Luke 7:6-10 (The Message).
What an unusual man!
He was obviously a person of some authority who was used to giving orders and used to being obeyed. Twice in the story, he sent people to Jesus to carry messages for him. He dispatched a group of Jewish leaders to ask for help, and then he sent friends to tell Jesus that he did not expect Him to come to his home but just to give the command and his servant would be healed.
He recognised in Jesus a man who carried the same sort of authority over spiritual forces as he carried over his subordinates. Did that mean that he attributed his servant's illness to dark powers in the unseen realm? We who are "enlightened" with scientific knowledge would pooh-pooh that idea because we have a better understanding of where diseases come from and why human bodies malfunction.
But what lies behind these causes of imperfections and suffering in the natural world? Was it not the deception of the devil in the beginning that led the first pair into disobedience and all its consequences? However this man perceived Jesus' authority, he trusted Him enough to know that His word was to be obeyed in the unseen realm.
He was also a man who knew the Jews well enough to honour their scruples about hob-knobbing with Gentiles. He did not expect Jesus to enter his house because he was a despised Roman. It was enough for Jesus to use His authority over sickness to dismiss it from a distance.
To what did Jesus respond -- to the man's reluctance to invite Him into his home or to the expression of faith that revealed his understanding of authority?
It was undoubtedly the man's grasp of the meaning of faith that caught His attention. Jesus was not bothered by the scruples of His fellow Jews. He touched sick people; He embraced "unclean" people; He handled dead people, and none of these violations of taboos ever affected Him. The sick were healed; unclean people were made clean and the dead lived at the sound of His voice.
He marvelled that a pagan Roman soldier had a better understanding of faith than His own people who had a history of faithlessness and disobedience from the beginning. It seems that Jesus' response to the soldier's request was one better than his expectation. Luke doesn't tell us whether He even spoke to the sickness from afar. He only reports that when the messengers got back to the captain's home, the servant was up and well.
There is nothing that pleases the Lord more than the confidence we have in Him that doubts neither His ability nor His will to intervene when we cry for help. "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).
How can we have a faith like that? By soaking ourselves in God's Word. "So faith comes by hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ." Romans 10:17 (NLT).
Are you reading God's Word? It's the only way.
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