Humble Heroes: The Centurion

The Centurion’s story can be found in Mat. 8:5-13.

Often when we imagine a soldier, we imagine someone big and strong that you don’t want to mess with. Roman soldiers are especially formidable foes—I mean, Rome took over most of the known world with their military might. “Humble” is probably not the first word to come to mind with these guys. Yet, in Scripture we have a remarkable example of a Roman soldier who demonstrates humility when he meets Jesus.

This centurion doesn’t even have a proper name. What we can guess about him comes from his title—he’s an experienced military man who know is in charge of a large platoon of soldiers. He is not a Jew but is a gentile living and lording over the land of the Jews. But even a tough guy like him is not immune from suffering. He comes to Jesus and says, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly” (8:6).

Jesus offers to come heal the servant. This is normally the course of action. Jesus often heals by touch. However, the Centurion fully grasps the extent of Jesus’ power. So he replies, “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.” (8:8-9). The centurion recognizes that Jesus is greater than him. Jesus has the authority and the power. Which is wild to think when you realize that this centurion literally has authority and power in that society. Jesus is just a carpenter’s son, only a few rungs from the bottom of the societal ladder.

Jesus is amazed and says, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (8:10). Honestly, that’s a pretty big compliment especially considering that it is coming from Jesus and the centurion isn’t even a Jew! With just a word, Jesus heals the servant from afar. It’s an amazing short story that demonstrates Jesus’ power but also what an appropriate response is to Jesus.

Firstly, we learn that humility is largely about recognizing that God has the power and you don’t. The centurion understood that his earthly power, authority, and influence didn’t compare to the spiritual power that Jesus had. Secondly, he demonstrated humility just in the act of coming to Jesus, especially coming all by himself. We must likewise go to Jesus humbly when we have a problem. Thirdly, humility requires us to recognize that though we don’t “deserve” Jesus, Jesus nonetheless is glad to help with our lives. The centurion went to Jesus with the expectation that Jesus could heal his servant, but not with the expectation that Jesus had to heal his servant.
Even if you are a powerful person, Christ asks humility of us. We show these by giving up power and lifting up Jesus, who has true authority.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you admire most about the centurion’s character?
  • Why do powerful people often have a problem with humility?
  • Is it easy for you to come to Jesus with your problems or is it hard?
  • Which of the centurion’s best traits do you need to work on in yourself?
  • How is your character and spiritual life challenged by the centurion’s deed?
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