The centurion in Jesus’ day was a man of great power. According to the Liberty University Online Website, this person was referred to as “captain of 100” soldiers in a legion. The centurion was loyal and courageous, beginning as a soldier in the army and working his way up the ranks. When he was noticed by the general for his skill and courage in battle, he was made an officer. The centurion received pay that amounted to more than 20 times the ordinary soldier’s pay, about 5,000 denarii per year.
Needless to say, the centurion was used to people responding to his words. Literally, when he gave a command his soldiers did it.
What is the reason for this background information?
Dr. Willard points to the centurion in Matthew who came to Jesus and asked in a humble manner for Jesus to help his paralyzed servant.
Jesus asked if he should come to the man.
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. 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.”
What is the significance of this?
The centurion understood the power of the word.
The centurion believed in the authority of Jesus.
How many Christians today have the same understanding? How many of us have the same faith?
Over the years have you found yourself speaking words to no effect?
My wife has commented about my telephone conversational behavior and one of the things she often says about me is I repeat myself too much. I have developed a habit of thinking my words have no effect.
One of the prime examples of this is when I speak on the phone to my 85 year-old mother. She has her way of doing things. That’s ok. We all develop habits. She also has a way of needing advice from me [or so she says]. When she asks for my advice I offer it because I think she wants it. When my dad passed away and she was left alone to make decisions she asked for my advice. Over and over, I gave it to her. Yet she seemed to ignore it. I repeated myself because I thought she did not understand it. To be honest, I got upset that she was not taking my advice. She was not listening to my words and taking action.
Then it hit me. She really does not want advice. She wants to tell me her problems and then do what she wants. She does not want her son [21 years younger] to tell her what to do. She just wants me to affirm that she has made the right decision and she is going to do what she wants. Today, I rarely tell her what is on my mind. I know my words have no effect.
This is just one specific example.
What if you feel your words have little effect in multiple settings? You are talking but no one is listening, no one is taking action. You might as well be in the room all alone, talking to yourself.
You lose faith in the power of your words.
That’s the edge the centurion had. He knew words are power. He knew that words can show authority. He had not lost faith in words. When Jesus realized 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”.
Wow what a compliment he paid that man.
It was based on the centurion’s faith in the power of words.
What does this story mean for us?
We need to realize that our words do have power and God has given us the ability to express ourselves because He wants us to utilize our ability to further His kingdom.
Yes, I may have no effect on my mother, but that does not mean that I need to hold back when I have a chance to invite someone to church. I ask them to come and they may or may not come. That does not mean that I need to hold back when I have a chance to show God’s love to someone who is hurting. I do that and they may wonder where I got inspired to show I care. That does not mean that I need to hold back when a man asks me about God. When I tell him, God may start working on him. All I have to do is tell him. God will do the rest.
I just need to have the faith of a centurion.