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"Such Great Faith" - Shepherd of Hope

“I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” – Luke 7:9

How’s your faith? How’s your faith holding up in this trying pandemical time we’re going through? Faith can test us and try us and even beat us down if we let it. But faith can bolster us through any storm if we will simply turn to Jesus.

In Luke 7:1-10 we see what Jesus referred to as, “such great faith.” “Faith” (Greek pistis) is alternately translated, faith, trust, trustworthiness, confidence, assurance, conviction, belief, and can refer to doctrine in terms of the faith. The adjective phrase translated “such great” (Greek tosauten from tosoutos) is an adjective of quality and quantity, and means alternately so much, so great, such great, so large, so far. So, when Jesus uses this adjective in regards to the centurion’s faith He’s commenting on the quality and quantity of his faith. Jesus is commenting on a faith that is so much, so great, so large, and so far along that He exclaims “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” What makes faith “such great faith”? Some have a little bit of faith. But others have “great faith.” The account of Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s son provides us a picture of great faith defined.

7 Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die.

A “centurion” was a Roman soldier in command of 80-100 soldiers. So, a centurion was a man entrusted with responsibility and authority. Centurions are mentioned four times in the New Testament. We have the Centurion mentioned here in Luke 7. At the cross a centurion exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). In Acts 10 a God-fearing centurion named Cornelius is instrumental in the gospel being shared beyond the Jewish community to the gentiles also. And in Acts 27 a centurion named Julius befriends Paul and helps him on his journey to Rome. So, whenever centurions, these military men, are mentioned, it is in a favorable way.

First, such great faith begins with cooperating with God and is evidenced by valuing others. The centurion valued His servant (Greek doulos ­­– slave, servant) who is described as “dear” to him. “Dear,” an adjective (Greek entimos) means held in honor, highly esteemed, valued, precious. This centurion valued this servant not merely as a property or commodity or resource, he valued him as a person. The first thing we see about “such great faith” then is, that it values people, it is compassionate, kind, empathetic, caring, loving. This centurion’s faith was great because it was involved with helping and caring for people.

God had been at work in him and he had been receptive. Now what makes this important to recognize is it is an indication that God has been working in this man and there is fruit evident in him from God’s work. The Apostle Paul states later in the New Testament that, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Faith, or the potential for it, is part of God’s created image in humanity (Gen. 1:26). Faith is not a work, or something that a person can boast about before God (Romans 3:21-27). Faith is the human response to God. And no one can come to God unless God draws him (John 6:44). God works in the sinner to draw him to Himself by prevenient grace or the grace that goes before. And for the centurion that was evidenced by compassion toward others.

Faith leads to works. The link between faith and works can be seen in two verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 2:12–13 – 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

God works in us to fulfill His will and for “His good pleasure.” We “work out” the salvation God works in us. We don’t work to get salvation. We work only once we have received God’s salvation by faith in Jesus as a gift of His grace. Faith receives salvation. Then faith in God leads to works in life.

Faith and works are not something we can or should boast about. The Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). That means the good relationship the centurion had with his servant, the compassion the centurion had toward him and his effort to find help for his servant are all products of God’s work in the situation. Faith is simply our response to God’s grace that works in us to draw us to Himself and work in us (e.g. John 16:8-11). The centurion exhibits what we might call love toward his servant. Love is something the Holy Spirit works in a person (e.g. Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24). Is this centurion “righteous” before God? Abraham believed God and was counted “righteous” before Him (Genesis 15:6). The centurion may have such a faith. We don’t have enough information to say definitively. But something is percolating inside him. God is doing something in this soldier.

The evidence of God’s influence and the centurion’s cooperation. The compassion the centurion had toward his servant is evidence of God’s work in him. This fruit would not have come unless the centurion had cooperated with what God was impressing upon him. God had prodded him to focus away from himself and toward others. A still small voice had directed the centurion’s eyes to his servant to consider their value. Looking at the servant and all he had done for him the centurion didn’t just see him as property. No. This slave had been made precious in his sight by God.

The point in all of this is that what we see here is the product of God’s gracious work in the centurion and the centurion’s receptivity to it. God is moving in this centurion. This centurion is receiving what God is doing in him.

How’s your faith? Do you care for those around you? Do you value people? Valuing people is the first thing we see about “such great faith.” Taking an interest in people and caring for them is at the beginning of a faith that can become “such great faith.”

So when he heard about,

Second, such great faith begins with hearing about Jesus. The centurion heard about Jesus. The Bible says faith “comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17). The centurion heard and was receptive to what he heard.

Is God speaking to you? Have you been listening? I guarantee God is speaking. The problem is we are not always listening for what He is saying. Listen up, God has something He wants to tell you. Will you listen?

he sent elders of the Jews to Him,

Third, such great faith acts on what it hears. What the centurion heard about Jesus did not go in one ear and out the other. What the centurion heard he acted on. He responded to what he heard with taking action.

What will you do with what you hear from Jesus today? Will you receive His message? Will you receive what Jesus is trying to say to you form His word today?

pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly,

Fourth, such great faith earnestly seeks Jesus help. The centurion “sent elders of the Jews,” messengers to ask Jesus for help concerning his servant. The centurion believed enough in Jesus to seek Him out and go to Him for help. And that the centurion earnestly wanted Jesus’ help is conveyed by the fact that the messengers he sent passed on his earnestness because “they begged Him earnestly.” They “begged” and kept begging is the sense of the verb in the original language (Greek parakaleo – Imperfect Active of the verb).

Jesus is in your neighborhood today. He’s working all around you. Will you send for Him? Will you earnestly seek His help? What will you do with Jesus today? What you decide will determine if you have faith, “such great faith.”

saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”

Fifth, such great faith has a good reputation for love and giving. The Jewish elders that came to Jesus on behalf of the centurion told Jesus he was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” In other words, he had a big heart filled with love and a giving spirit. Love is a product of the Holy Spirit working in someone (e.g. Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24). This centurion is responding in faith to Jesus. We see the evidence of the work of the Spirit in him by the love he shows to those around him. Interestingly, the word “love” here is translated from the Greek term agapao which means love, wish well to. This is the same word used to refer to God’s love toward us (e.g. John 3:16; 17:23-24; Eph. 5:2). More evidence that God is at work in this centurion.

Do you have a reputation as a person of faith? Do you have a reputation for being loving and kind toward others? Such great faith does. How’s your faith, great or mediocre?

Sixth, such great faith is impartial, unprejudicial. This also tells us the centurion was impartial. As a Roman soldier the centurion could have lorded his authority over the Jews. But here we are told that instead of taking advantage of or oppressing the Jews, he loved them and even invested in them by building them a synagogue. In doing this we see the centurion recognized there was a Higher Authority than the secular one in Rome. That they said he “loves our nation,” seems to indicate his actions were sincere and not just politically or militarily expedient. It also shows that the Jewish people appreciate what he has done for them. More evidence of God’s work in the situation.

How’s your faith, impartial, unprejudiced, or bigoted and prejudicial? The answer to that question will go along way in determining if your faith will impress Jesus.

Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.

Seventh, such great faith is humble. This centurion had a great respect for Jesus’ mission. He presented himself humbled, “not worthy” before Jesus. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Psalm 19:21, 78; Proverbs 15:25; 16:19; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The centurion didn’t even feel worthy to come to Jesus himself! He was not a proud centurion though he held a high position in the Roman military. This is a humble man.

How about you, are you humble, or proud? How’s your faith?

But say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Eighth, such great faith trusts in Jesus’ words. The centurion believed all Jesus had to do to heal his servant was “say the word.” This is not a name-it-claim-it or word of faith moment. This is simply a faith that trusts in the words of Jesus.

How’s your faith? Do you take Jesus at His word? Do you know what Jesus words are; what He has said?

For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Ninth, such great faith is faith that trusts in the authority and power of Jesus. He was a man aware of rank and authority, but he submitted himself and his servant to the authority of Jesus. He had faith in the authority of Jesus over the illness of his servant. This speaks of his faith! This also speaks to us of this soldier’s awareness of the spiritual element of this illness. Perhaps he had also heard of Jesus mission “to heal,” even if it was “the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). Maybe he had heard of the previous healings Jesus had done (e.g. Leper – Luke 5:12-15; Paralytic – Luke 5:17-26; man with a withered hand – Luke 6:6-11).

The centurion’s faith was such great faith because it didn’t put limits on Jesus. His servant was near death, it didn’t look good, but He called out to Jesus for help anyway.

How’s your faith? Does it put limits on Jesus? Or does it call out to Jesus no matter what? How’s your faith? Is it such great faith?

Tenth, such great faith believes that Jesus doesn’t have to be here physically in order to work. The centurion trusted that Jesus would and could work without coming physically to be with him and his servant.

Today Jesus is here by the Holy Spirit who is in us and He, as God, is near because He is omnipresent. But we can’t always see Jesus. Does that affect your faith? Do you believe Jesus can and will work in your life and the life of those around you even though you can’t see Him? Do you trust Jesus to work even though you can’t see Him?

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

When Jesus heard of the centurion’s interest, action, sincerity, love, giving heart, impartiality, humility and trusting words about Jesus authority, Jesus “marveled.”  “Marveled” (Greek thaumadzo) means amazed, astonished, admired. Jesus was impressed and admired the faith of this centurion. That is what such great faith is.

God was working in this centurion soldier and he was receiving what God was working in him. God was moving him to have compassion on those around him and he was receiving it. This centurion’s faith was “such great faith” because he received what God was doing in him. And that work in him was culminated in the centurion’s call to Jesus. When Jesus heard of the centurion’s request and what kind of a man he was, Jesus marveled at a man who He said had “such great faith.”

What kind of faith do you have? When Jesus hears of your faith, does He marvel? Does your faith impress Jesus? Do you have what Jesus would call, “such great faith”?

 

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