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O Come All Ye Faithful

The Centurion

Today's Reading

Matthew 8:5-13

Faith is a tricky thing, and blind faith is nearly impossible. Why? Because we live in a world of skepticism and broken promises.

Just think about how many times we have heard politicians promise to change the world for the better, and an election cycle later, nothing has really changed. Or the infomercials that describe the latest, greatest device to lose that belly fat, and yet months later, the belly fat still remains.

In the 1800s, the nation was replete with individuals selling whatever cure or treatment they could, all packaged in glass bottles and advertised as nerve tonics, cold treatments, kidney cures, and of course, the infamous snake oil. Snake oil arrived in the United States in the mid-1800s along with Chinese railroad workers who brought with them some medicine from home, including a salve made from the oil of certain snakes in China that helped to ease inflammation. When certain people in the states saw this, they sought to replicate the concept and made their own, taking it from a simple external treatment to an internal medicine that cured everything from hair loss to stomach ailment. Thus we have the idea of “Snake Oil Salesman”—people who promise healing but never deliver it.

While "Snake Oil Salesman" as a term only began in the late 1800s, the concept has been around forever, and it would have been familiar to a well-trained Roman soldier, whose job was to oversee 100 armed men. As the man in charge, he had to know whom he could trust and whom he could not. He had to know that when he gave a command that it would be carried out without his needing to confirm that the task was completed. Very little could get past these men, and they never fell for charlatans or hucksters. They dealt in the world of cold hard facts.

So why did this man of war come to Jesus? Because he believed.

As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him with a simple request: “Please heal my servant.”

This wasn’t the first time that Jesus had heard such a request. He had been bombarded during his ministry with those who needed healing. Just previously, in Matthew, we read that he was healing throughout the region, and people were bringing to him folks with every kind of disease—those suffering with severe pain and seizures, those who were paralyzed, and those who were demon possessed.

What makes the centurion’s request different is what the man didn’t bring with him. Every other person brought the one who needed healing. They believed that Jesus’ power only extended to the point of Him seeing the person or touching the person.

The centurion left his servant at home.

Don't you love Jesus’ responses in this exchange? The centurion left his servant at home, which meant a trip to the house for Jesus and His disciples. You can imagine some of the 12 were thinking, "We have no time to deviate from our course," and others would have thought, "why should we help a man so connected with the Roman oppression?" And yet Jesus doesn’t care. He is willing to go anywhere. “I will go and heal him,” Jesus replies.

The centurion stops that plan dead in its tracks. “No need to do that. First, I don’t deserve for you to come into my house. More importantly, you have authority over diseases, and all you have to do is say the word, and he will be healed.”

How does Matthew describe Jesus? He was astonished. Astonished!

Why? Because of what the centurion brought with him—faith. According to Jesus, this centurion provides for us an example of faith unlike anything seen in Israel.

Today, as you take the time to prepare your hearts for the coming celebration of the Christ child, take a look at what you are bringing to Jesus. Are you bringing faith like the centurion? Do you believe that regardless of your request, Jesus can bring you an answer? Do you acknowledge Him as having authority over not only disease, but also relationships, circumstances, and the future?

Or in your heart do you think of Jesus as some type of snake oil salesman—selling a false promise that couldn’t possibly be true?

If you were to ask the centurion, he never had a doubt. He didn’t know all of the mysteries of faith in Jesus, but he knew one thing—Jesus was who He said He was, and He can bring healing.

Jesus replied to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And right then and there, the servant was healed.

What do you think His reply will be to you when you approach Him with the faith of a centurion?

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