I never sit down to read God’s word without first asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate for me what I need to see and hear. Maybe you’re like me and feel like you’ve read a particular passage “dozens of times,” then suddenly you sit/stand amazed because you saw something you hadn’t seen before. Tucked in between the familiar lines of a familiar story lies a deep truth God has for you today. You can read multiple chapters of a book in the Bible and walk away with a good story and some content. But there are times when you desperately seek God’s understanding and He can reveal a deep truth in just one or two verses.
Today, the twinge of the Holy Spirit wasn’t experienced in the story of John’s disciples asking Jesus if he’s the Messiah…although I could write a whole study on that question. It wasn’t in the story of Jesus being anointed by the sinful woman. Instead, it was the testimony of the Jewish elders, sent to bring a message for a Roman Officer (Centurion).
The Faith of a Roman Officer (Quick Recap)
Kicking off Chapter 7 is an interesting story about a Roman Centurion and his need for Jesus to heal a “highly valued slave.”
Since the Centurion knows it’s not customary for a Gentile, let a lone a Roman solider to interact with a Jewish Rabbi, he sends a delegation of Jewish elders to meet with Jesus and bring his request. We’ll come back to this…
Upon hearing the request, Jesus decides to go to the Centurion’s house, but along the way the Centurion sends word, this time through some friends, that he he’s not worthy of this meeting. Showing great faith and understanding of authority, the Centurion believes that Jesus doesn’t have to be within proximity of his slave to heal them.
Jesus was amazed and declared, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel (7:9)!” Oh, and by the way, Jesus healed the Centurion’s slave.
More to the Story
Looking deeper into this story, you’ll find that there’s a lot of things, to a common observer, that doesn’t make sense. Here’s some examples:
- Roman law indicated that a master could kill his slave for a number of reasons. One reason being, if they became ill or injured and couldn’t perform their duties as a slave, in fact, it would be expected (7:2).
- Jewish elders wouldn’t typically be “buddy-buddy” with a Roman Officer and advocate on their behalf. To anyone Jewish, Rome represented oppression and hostility (7:4).
- Roman Officers don’t typically love Jewish people or build synagogues for them (7:5).
- Jesus was willing to go to the Officer’s house, even though it would have been against Jewish custom to enter the home of a Gentile (7:6). (We don’t know if Jesus would have physically went into the home, but knowing Jesus, he probably would have. It was against the Jewish Law, but it wasn’t against God’s Law.)
- The Roman Officer called Jesus, “Lord.” Roman Officers didn’t typically have a higher knowledge or understanding of God and who Jesus was in relation to God (7:6-8).
So you see, there’s more going on in this story than meets the eye. But then we get to my “ah ha” moment.
What Would They Say About You?
Advocating on behalf of the Centurion, the Jewish elders say to Jesus, “if anyone deserves your help, he does.” They said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us (7:4-5).”
I asked myself after reading that, “What would they about me?” I’m sure the Centurion didn’t tell them what to say before they left, maybe he did, but I think we can conclude that their testimony was under their own admission.
Their testimony of the Centurion was based on the character of who he was. Because of the way he lived, the love he showed, and the support he offered, the Jewish elders could speak highly of this man’s character.
How do I live? How do you live? Do we live in such a way that people, let alone a sworn enemy, could communicate the message, “if anyone deserves your help, he/she does?”
We don’t know this Officer’s name. We don’t know where he grew up or who his parents were. We do know: He showed great love and mercy to a slave, built a synagogue for people considered scum in his world, and had so much faith in the power of God it amazed Jesus and healed a person.
In their own way, I hope people could say the same about me. The bigger question we have to ask today: What would they say?