Who in the Gospel stories had the greatest faith? The disciples were late starters. Jesus commended several people for their faith. But one man, a non-Jewish centurion, was singled out with this remarkable observation:
“Not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” (Luke 7:9)
Was Jesus on a faith hunt? Perhaps not, but He certainly commented on it when He saw its presence or absence. The story of the centurion teaches us a few things about faith—and humility.
Centurions were tough men, respected by the Romans and those who accepted Roman rule. This centurion had so won the hearts of the Jewish leaders in Capernaum that it was they who came to Jesus on his behalf. “He is worthy for you to grant this to him.” (Luke 7:4) The officer’s beloved servant was paralyzed and in agony, about to die.1 Jesus gladly set out for the centurion’s house.
That’s when we meet humility. “I am not worthy for you to come under my roof,” he said in verse six. He added that he considered himself unworthy to make his own request to Jesus. But don’t mistake humility for an unhealthy low self-esteem that feels disqualified to receive anything from God. The centurion’s humility was in his place in comparison to Jesus. At the same time he recognized that there was no need for, and no possibility of, special qualifications to release God’s favor. The centurion understood that miracles happen when the authoritative voice of God speaks them into action. He knew that the only requirement for healing was for Jesus to speak the word. Jesus saw his humility and faith and declared, “Let it be done to you as you have believed”.
Why did no Jews have that much faith? Their religion was steeped in the knowledge of God’s character and power, and His faithful care for His people. Yet somehow faith was stunted. Religion gently poisons faith. It doesn’t kill it; it just weakens it. Religious knowledge tends to pride and a sense of entitlement rather than humility. Religion tangles people in its own lists of conditions and formulae. Religion is the human substitute for real spiritual life.
Faith keeps our hearts in a posture to receive miracles from God.
- Luke 7:2-10 and Matthew 8:5-13 give slightly different, but not contradictory details. [↩]