And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” [Matthew 8:5-10 NASB]
This portion of Scripture is particularly memorable for me. It always reminds me of when I first “accepted Christ” and really began digging into the Bible for the first time. Being raised Catholic and staying a part of that church until my conversion at age 25, I remember my astonishment when I realized this was the verse we Catholics would utter as a response, when we would take communion. We were taught to say, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof (a reference to the roof of our mouth, as we took the communion wafer which was believed to be the body of Christ), but just speak the word and my soul will be healed.” I remember thinking, “That’s interesting. This verse has nothing to do with communion at all.” But, I do see the point they were making with that response, even if it might be a bit of a stretch to apply it in that way. Yes, we should confess our sins and be forgiven of them, before we take communion. That, I believe, is biblical.
But, what I want to focus in on, here, is two things. First, let’s look at the words of the centurion who basically said, “There is no need of You, Lord, to travel to my humble home to heal my servant. I am not worthy of that. It is enough that You just speak the words, right here and right now, and my servant will be fully healed.” That is pretty incredible, is it not? This centurion had never met Jesus before, but he believed in who Jesus was, so he trusted that just the words of Jesus, alone, were powerful enough to heal the servant, even though Jesus was not physically with the servant at the time. Pretty bold statement, I must say, and it certainly appears that Jesus was very impressed, as well.
Although, we should not be surprised. There were other instances, in Scripture, where just the words spoken by Jesus Christ caused miraculous results. In fact, a little later in the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we see another example of the power and authority of the spoken words of Jesus. Remember when He calmed the stormy sea?
When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He *said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” [Matthew 8:23-27 NASB]
Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea, and they obey His command, becoming “perfectly calm,” it says. Even His disciples asked, “What kind of man is this?” I would say the keyword, there, was “man.” Was He just a man, or something far greater? It seems that even the disciples, at this point, had not fully grasped who Jesus was.
Also, if we look back at the very first chapter of the Bible, we see yet another display of the power of words causing miraculous results. But, who was speaking this time?
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. [Genesis 1:3-4 NASB]
What is interesting in this passage, is that it says God was doing the talking here. God was “speaking the world into existence,” as we have been taught. He didn’t have to build it, or bake, or somehow glue it all together . No, He just commanded the light to “be” and it was. So the very Word of God was able to cause things that “were not” to “be,” just like that. Nothing more and nothing less. Is it any wonder, then, that people are skeptical of the biblical accounts of creation? Is it any less surprising that the disciples and people who heard Jesus speak with this kind of power, were equally skeptical? It just does not make logical sense, does it? Was He a magician or a sorcerer, or maybe even some kind of a scam artist, staging these events? It certainly would not have been the first time that someone tried to trick them into thinking they were god-like or had supernatural powers.
But, I think there is one more very important piece to this puzzle, one that we haven’t talked about yet. And we find it, interestingly enough, in the very first chapter of the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. [John 1:1-5 NASB]
Hold on a minute, now. The Apostle John is making two incredibly bold statements. He is saying Jesus Christ IS the Word of God and has been from the beginning. And secondly, he was saying Jesus was also God in the flesh. So Christ was both God’s Word and fully God, Himself. But how can that be? Wouldn’t He have to be either one or the other?
Well, let’s see, back in the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a Catholic school named “Incarnate Word.” The name implies that God sent His Word to Earth, with all the power and authority of God, Himself, and allowed it to take on human form in Jesus Christ, being born of a human mother and the seed of God, thusly making Him fully God and fully man. And if all that is true, then John’s claim that “the Word of God was God” makes perfect sense.
Aren’t the words a person speaks considered to be part of that person? Have you ever tried to disconnect yourself from something you said? Doesn’t work too well, does it? So, yeah, I do believe the name, “Incarnate Word,” explains it all quite well. A little later in John 1, he writes, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh (human) and dwelt (lived) among us.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Then comes the Apostle Paul, who adds yet another brick to the wall:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:15-17 NASB]
You got it. Paul is saying that not only is Jesus the Word of God, and God in the flesh, He is also the One who created everything and the “super-glue” that holds it all together. Well, that explains how God was able to say, “Let there be light,” and BAM, there it was. God created everything through the power of His Word and Jesus Christ is, in fact, His Word (which is every bit as much God as the one who spoke it). No wonder Jesus was able to rebuke the stormy sea and it obeyed Him. No wonder He was able to say, “Be healed” (from a distance), and the centurion’s servant was made well. He created it all.
Nothing is impossible with God, the Bible says, and what is even more incredible is that this centurion believed Jesus had the same power and authority, as well. He believed. Period. And that brings us around to the second thing I wanted to focus on from this story. I think it is called “faith.”
Jesus pointed this out at the end of the story by saying, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” And I believe it makes the words of Paul, from Romans 10, much more impactful now that we know that the “word of Christ” is actually the “Word of God,” Himself.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17 NASB]
The question that comes to my mind from this story should be an obvious one.
We have the Bible. Six thousand years of writings that were penned by men, believed to be speaking on behalf of God Almighty, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And as believers, we have been given that very same Spirit to teach all things and bring us remembrance of all that He said to us (John 14:26).
So, if God’s Word says it…why don’t we believe it?
Or, if we say we believe it, why don’t we apply it?
Does God have to actually appear to us and say, “O, ye of little faith,” as He did with the disciples (before they finally got it).
Lord, I hope not. I pray He would grant us all the faith of this centurion.
I would love to be so pure of heart, so full of faith, that I could say, “Just say the word, Lord. That’s good enough for me.”
May it be so….not just in my life, but in all of yours, as well.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.
And may GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!