Earlier this week, we focused on a story found in Matthew 8, where the disciples awoke a sleeping Jesus because of a terrifying storm. While he rebuked the wind and the waves, he spoke kindly to the disciples, clearly identifying their faith level. To me, this story is incredibly encouraging—Jesus is still in the boat with us, even if our faith is small, weak, or weary.
This story is beautiful and encouraging on its face, but becomes even more interesting when viewed within the context of the entire chapter. In a story just a few verses earlier, Jesus commended the faith of an unlikely man, an action that probably sent shockwaves through the Jewish community.
“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
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.”
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.” Matthew 8:5-10 (NIV)
The humility, honor, and submission that this centurion man displays is incredible! I am both encouraged and challenged by this story to become more like him.
But if you were a Jewish person hanging around Jesus, his commendation of a centurion might have taken you by surprise—I’m sure it spurred some town gossip. A centurion was an officer in the Roman army who led 100 men. He was an agent of the Roman government that had been oppressing the Jewish nation for years. The Jewish people were waiting for their King to come and overthrow this outside force, and yet Jesus, the Messiah, commended this man’s faith.
Being a person of faith might not always look the way we expect it to.
This centurion was commended for his immense faith in God, but his disciples, who had been following Jesus around Israel, are described as having “little faith.” I find this a little surprising. You would think that the men who had been traveling with him all around the countryside would’ve been the ones with immense faith. Instead, Jesus marveled at the faith of a man whose name we will never know, but whose precious faith is an encouragement and example to us all.
I’m learning that living a life of faith is often different than we might think. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing the lie that “having faith” will magically cancel out all problems. Or that if we have enough faith, then nothing bad will ever happen to us. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both the disciples and the centurion had faith and they were in dire and desperate circumstances. Our faith helps guide us through those storms of life because storms will come.
Faith also doesn’t mean that everything is great all the time. For some of us, getting out of bed today was an act of faith. Reaching out to someone instead of isolating is a sign of faith. Cracking open a Bible or uttering a few hushed prayers requires immense faith. I wonder if, during difficult times, Jesus marvels at the faith that we display in those little moments as we go about our days.
Whether we feel more like the disciples or the centurion today, I’m grateful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us no matter our faith level. His grace and kindness toward us are not conditional. Both the disciples and this centurion have something in common: despite their differing faith levels, they called out to Jesus and he answered. And I believe he answers us when we come to him today. While the answers might not always look the way we want them to, we can trust his character in the process. I pray that we each extend whatever measure of faith we have today to reach out to him.
What does “having faith” mean to you?
How has your view of faith changed over the years?