God made Israel His chosen people—they were (and still are) told to represent Him; to be a holy nation to a holy God.
We see throughout the bible that there were times when Israel’s rulers and it’s people took this seriously. But we also see times when rulers and people took this for granted.
It’s always been perplexing to me that people on the outside could at times see and understand more than His chosen people could. This is true not only of biblical times, but this is also occasionally true today.
One example is found in the book of Matthew:
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:5-13
This Roman officer was not Jewish. He did not live a life of waiting for a Messiah to come and free his people.
He held a fearsome position. When he came to town, people moved out of the way. He likely did not serve the Creator of heaven and earth.
Yet he understood three things most of Israel at that time did not. Even Jesus himself states in verse 10 that He had not yet met anyone in all Israel like this.
Sometimes we can learn from those on the outside what we are missing on the inside as true children of God.
This Roman soldier understood not only the heart of intercession, but also who to ask.
In verse 5, the soldier goes to Jesus. He doesn’t ask for this “Jew” to be brought to him, he seeks Him out. And in verse 6, he tells Jesus what’s troubling him.
Note, this is only his servant. He could have got rid of him, and possibly got another servant. But he didn’t. He wanted his servant to be well. He doesn’t just say, “Can you heal my servant?” or even say, “He is ill.” He gives a compassionate statement. “My servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly” (emphasis mine).
Whatever the situation was, this soldier had compassion for his servant, and the suffering he was going through. He didn’t ask Jesus to heal the man so he could get up and serve him again. He started right at the heart of what was bothering him, his servant was suffering.
And verse 5 doesn’t say he took his servant to see a doctor. It says he went to Jesus.
When we are really ill, where do we go first? The doctor? Our vitamin bottle? The internet? Or is Jesus the first place we go?
When we get a prayer request for someone who is ill, or going through an unfortunate situation, do we talk to Jesus about that person’s suffering? Or do we just ask for healing?
This soldier understood that Jesus was the first place to go. And he understood that his servant was more than just a problem, or a “condition.” He understood what was the real problem—that he was suffering terribly.
This Roman soldier understood how worthy Jesus was—and he was not
Most of us have heard the expression “holier than thou” at some point. We use it to describe someone who acts like they are better than everyone else—and in essence, does not understand God’s holiness.
Understanding His holiness means that we understand our unworthiness.
At least 2 people (and likely many more) were following Jesus (verse 10). Those following Jesus were most likely not people of authority. Usually, it meant tax collectors, prostitutes, and other lowly people.
There was great humility in this Roman soldier to come to Jesus publicly in the presence of those considered lowly and ask for a servant’s suffering to be over.
This soldier understood Jesus had power. And he understood, as he stated in verse 8, that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home.
Do we take this for granted? None of us deserve to have Jesus come to our home. It is only through His cleansing that we are made righteous and He does come seeking relationship with us. But do we often forget just how lowly we really are compared to a holy God? Do we ever forget that there is nothing we could ever do or say or think to make us deserve to have Him in our homes?
This Roman soldier understood authority
Verses 8 and 9 paint the picture that he fully understand what it means to have and be under authority.
Amazingly, he knew how to respond when he was under authority, but also that it should go the same way when he handed down orders.
So many times, we miss this.
We, as humans, want authority figures in our lives to ask nicely, and be gentle with us, and then we bark down orders to those under our authority or supervision.
How would we change our parenting, if we corrected our children the same way we wanted our heavenly Father to correct us? Likely we would not yell at them, as we certainly would not want Jesus to yell at us every time we messed up.
The New Testament gives many examples of Jesus healing many different people. Each one has wisdom to share with us.
But this one in particular is an excellent reminder to all of us of some of the things that we can become blind to over time. And it’s always good for me to read through slowly and appreciate just how small I am, just how big He is.