As we explore more fully the recorded ministry of Jesus Christ, we come upon a man—a Roman army officer—who had “great faith.” Let’s find out why.
According to the biblical record, as Jesus was traveling throughout Judea a Roman Centurion (equivalent to a captain in our army having command of 100 men) approached Jesus, and pleading with him said, “My servant lies in bed paralyzed and racked with pain.”
Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I know because I am under authority to my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say ‘go’ and they go, or ‘come’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves ‘do this or that,’ they do it” (Matt. 8:5-9, NLT.)
We read that Jesus was amazed at what he had heard and told the crowd that he had not encountered such great faith in all the land of Israel (Matt 8:10.) Then Jesus spoke a word of healing and the servant was healed at that very moment.
Let’s dig deeper into this remarkable encounter. This officer represented the most powerful empire on earth. Roman legions had subjugated every Mediterranean nation. The Roman Empire stood like a giant colossus, spanning territory from the old Babylonian and Assyrian Empires all the way across France and Germany to England. Palestine was merely a minor province of the empire.
Yet here was a seasoned warrior, representing mighty Rome, humbling himself before a penniless itinerant Jewish teacher, even calling him Lord. Imagine what that act entailed. From ancient times until now, conquering armies have despised and humiliated conquered people. Some were killed, some were made slaves, and all were subjugated and demeaned.
…Rome’s armies were certainly no less abusive than those of contemporary history.
So it was a matter of great significance when a Roman conqueror, in front of his men, would call any Jewish resident of Palestine “Lord.” This one who had “great faith” humbled himself. The Bible tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. In order for anyone to have faith, he or she must be profoundly aware of weakness and inability. One who is self-sufficient will receive nothing from the Lord. Not only does God not cooperate with the proud and arrogant, he actually becomes their enemy. He “resists” the proud. So if you want miracles from God, beware lest you be filled with a sense of your own ability, your own strength, your own wealth, your own position. God’s power comes to those who are empty of self, who truly are dead to self but alive to God in Christ.