When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel”.
(Luke 7:9 NIV)
The story of the centurion and his beloved servant challenges us to faith. It is not difficult to see ourselves in the figure of this man. Anyone who has a sick relative could find himself experiencing the same drama as him. The centurion has in his heart a deep sorrow for his servant. It is not, therefore, a bond of kinship that prompts him to turn to Jesus, but a feeling of affection. Behind the figure of this individual it is possible to glimpse all those in the church who care for others. His words, steeped in sorrow, shine a bad light on our selfish being, focused exclusively on our own lives. We are so caught up in ourselves that the lives of others go unnoticed before our eyes. Instead, the Bible reminds us to smile with those who smile and to suffer with those who suffer (Romans 12:15). Each of us is unique, which is why we must learn to recognize the need of the other based on his or her specificity.
Jesus does not hesitate to agree to the Roman soldier's request, but disposes himself beyond expectation: "I will come and heal him" (Matthew 8:7). How we long to hear the same words. And that is why we seek to understand what produced them. I can assume that the request was not centered on a selfish need of the interlocutor, but was moved by the same suffering that that servant was going through and that had moved the heart of his master, internalizing it. May our spirit be driven again not by all that is carnal, but by what is, instead, spiritual. It is necessary that we nurture in us that sensitivity to feel the sufferings of those who slowly fade away without God's grace, that a "passion for souls" blossom in us. Let us then ask ourselves about our praying. What are we doing for the Gospel to break down the walls of indifference? What so that it will continue to save the lost? If it is true that it is the Spirit who convinces of sin, it is up to us to pray, intercede and fight against the bonds, for our combat is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
In Luke's account it is reported that the soldier appealed to the priests for them to talk with Jesus about the servant's condition. These emphasized how the centurion had done so many pious works for the Jewish people, as if pleading for due intervention. Their mentality was relegated to the Old Covenant, an intercession by merit. We tend to follow Christ according to our own thoughts and hopes, losing sight that our actions must take into account His centrality. For his part, the centurion, despite being a person in authority, is weak and shows humility. To Jesus' response, with unique modesty, he externalizes to Him his sense of unworthiness at the possibility of welcoming Him into his home. He also knows that he is a Roman while Jesus is a Jew, and that these did not enter the house of the Romans to avoid becoming unclean. He understands well that Jesus' word has power over good and evil, death and sickness, and he asks for just that. The centurion recognizes the power His word possesses, while we today doubt, closing the pages of the Gospel to a time long gone by us. Faith is something else, almost a leap in the dark, without fear of falling and getting hurt. Before a person who is humbly acknowledging the power of God's word, Jesus declares that he has not seen such faith in any other man in Israel. "Go and be done unto thee as thou hast believed". Matthew adds, And the servant was healed in that same hour (8:13). Jesus' words produced the expected effect. I want every day to declare that I am unworthy of the Master's visit and act in the certainty that He will not let my pleas fall on deaf ears.
Reading Plan #40
September 26, Isaiah 1-2; Galatians 5
September 27, Isaiah 3-4; Galatians 6
September 28, Isaiah 5-6; Ephesians 1
September 29, Isaiah 7-8; Ephesians 2
September 30, Isaiah 9-10; Ephesians 3
October 01, Isaiah 11-13; Ephesians 4
October 02, Isaiah 14-16; Ephesians 5:1-16