One of my favorite stories in the entire Bible tells about a soldier who came asking Jesus to heal one of his servants. It is found in the seventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel. What is interesting to me is how the Centurion captures in just a few words the essence of faithful obedience. It is one of the most important events in Jesus’ earthly ministry because of how Jesus characterizes the Centurion’s understanding of faith and obedience.
6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with 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.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:6-9 ESV)
The Centurion, as a soldier, had been trained to follow orders. To hear the commands given by his superiors in the chain of command and to follow them. He had also been trained to give orders and expect them to be obeyed. There are several implicit realities here.
- The personal cost of the soldier was not a consideration when given a task to complete.
- The task to be accomplished was to become the most important reality for the soldier, and nothing else should deter the soldier from completing the objective.
- The soldier does not need to know why the given task is important. The soldier is only responsible to doing everything within their power to see it done.
The Centurion was speaking in military terms. He was making a reference to the fact that in the same that he was a soldier who would give and take orders and expect them to be done, he expected Jesus’s words to have the same power over disease! Jesus was a man both under and with authority. And Jesus responds to this by describing a soldiers obedience to commands and faith. It truly is an amazing story.
What makes this exchange even more impressive is that it is, as far as I can remember, the only place where Jesus commends the faith of a Gentile as being greater than all those who were a part of Israel. This is high praise indeed for this man.
What this means is that God is looking for a people who learn and know how to obey. In our obedience there is power because it is one of the simplest and greatest evidences of our faith. Without obedience, any discussion of faith is mere lip service.