Faith Like the Centurion

Scriptures: Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

Guest speaker: Phillip Leipold

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is cautioning the people to only listen to and honor the Gospel of Christ. I think you and I usually think of the word “gospel” as referring to the record and the life and teachings of Jesus.

The gospel of Christ gives us the road of true salvation, preached by Jesus and by his apostles and by the preachers and teachers that have followed them. We usually don’t even consider that there might be or is any other gospel other than the gospel of Christ.

But a good dictionary tells us that the word “gospel” refers to any doctrine concerning human welfare which is considered of great importance. There are other gospels besides the gospel of Christ, and that is what Paul was telling us and what Paul was warning us about.

Paul strongly tells us to seek only the one true gospel of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us be wise, and recognize that it is Christ and his gospel and his teachings that we should follow, if we truly seek salvation and a relationship with our Creator God.

Regarding salvation and our relationship with God, we should accept no other words except those words given to us in Scripture, the teachings of Christ, and the actions of Paul and the other apostles.

The teachings as given to us in today’s Gospel reading strongly direct us to seek a faith like that of the centurion, whose emissaries confronted Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. A few sentences in today’s Gospel tell us a great deal about the kind of man that was the centurion and about the kind of life that he lived.

He was an army officer of considerable authority, who commanded a fairly large number of soldiers. He was also a person of some wealth, for he had at least one slave at his household, and he was able to give fairly generously to other members of the community.

As a Gentile, he nevertheless thought quite highly of the Jews in his community, and in his appreciation for this value and friendship, he built them a synagogue. The centurion had compassion, an affection for others, and that characteristic was demonstrated in his care and concern for his slave, who he valued highly.

Despite the wealth and power demonstrated by this centurion, the life that he lived also demonstrated the kind of life that you and I should seek to live every day of our lives. The centurion lived a life centered on others, and not upon himself.

Finally, the centurion’s actions demonstrated two additional characteristics all of us should seek to emulate. The actions of the centurion demonstrated great faith in Jesus, and great humility as well.

The faith of the centurion was demonstrated in his belief that Jesus could heal his slave, who was close to death. The centurion undoubtedly had heard about this person called Jesus, who preached with great wisdom of how we should live our lives, and he was also a person who was able to heal the sick.

I believe it would be fair for us to assume that the centurion believed that Jesus was an emissary of God, come to this world to heal our broken world. The humility of the centurion was well demonstrated in the words of his friends, who approached Jesus as Jesus was approaching the centurion’s home.

The centurion had sent his friends to Jesus with instructions, as we read in verses 6 and 7 of the seventh chapter of Luke. They were instructed to tell Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I also did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.”

The centurion demonstrated his humility by not personally going to Jesus, and he demonstrated his great faith in Jesus by asking to heal his slave from a distance. The centurion’s faith was so strong that he believed Jesus did not even need to touch his slave, or even be in his presence, in order to bring about the healing of his beloved slave.

Do we possess faith like the centurion? Do we live our lives with the humility demonstrated by this person of power and wealth, the centurion? In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul speaks of our need to live our lives in the manner worthy of our calling, worthy of our calling as the followers of Christ.

In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul said, “I, therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Is it with the faith of the centurion that we live our lives? Do our lives demonstrate the kind of faith that motivated the centurion to believe that Jesus could heal his beloved slave from afar? Do we believe that from afar, through faith and praying, we can find healing for ourselves and for those we love?

We should. We should believe that. Faith and prayer can do much, if we regularly and diligently, through prayer, seek a closer relationship with God and with our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we pray to God for guidance and help, we should always keep in mind that God is the Master of the Universe and the Master of our lives.

Even as Jesus faced his greatest trial, and even as he sought help from his heavenly Father, Jesus recognized his duty was to be obedient to God’s will. As we have read so often, shortly before his time of trial and suffering, Jesus sought solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane.

While there, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, saying, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not my will, but your will be done.” Jesus believed in the necessity of obedience to God, and Jesus believed in the necessity and the power of prayer.

If that were not so, why would there be nearly constant references in the Scripture of Jesus going off by himself to pray? The strongest reference I ever found, outside of Scripture, on the power of prayer, is a quote that I have used in the past. It is a quote by a medical doctor.

Dr. Alexis Carrel wrote, “Prayer is a force as real as terrestrial gravity. As a physician, I have seen people, after all therapy had failed, lifted out of disease and melancholy by the serene effort of prayer. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete and harmonious assembly of body, mind and spirit which gives the frail human its unshakable strength.”

Dr. Carrel’s words, and all of Scripture, should reinforce our faith and our belief in the power of Christ to heal this broken world, and to heal you, and me. As we offer our individual prayers to God, let us pray that God will help us to seek and to find the faith of the centurion in our prayers. May we seek a strong faith in the power of Jesus to heal our broken lives and the lives of our loved ones.

And may we pray that we will live our lives in keeping with God’s love and God’s forgiveness. May we live lives of humility. And may we live lives like that of the centurion. May we live lives that are other-centered, instead of self-centered. Amen.

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