For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. – Matthew 8:9,10
Being in the Marine’s, I know what it is to take orders. From the moment I stepped off the bus at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot for Boot Camp, we learn the correct response to an order is, “Yes Sir!” followed by the appropriate action. We learn to take orders, and follow them through. The point of following orders in the Marines was not to create robots, but to save our lives in battle. You see, when bombs and bullets start flying, it gets mighty confusing and it sure helps having an experienced leader calling the shots. That’s why Marines are trained to follow orders from the beginning of Boot Camp, so that following orders becomes automatic in a high stress, life or death situation.
Let me set the context for today’s verse. Jesus had just entered the city of Capernaum, and he was approached by a Roman Centurion. We must understand the culture of this day. The Romans had invaded Israel and were really occupying the country. Culturally, Jews were not supposed to have dealings with Gentiles at all, let alone the Romans who were occupying the Holy Land. Now we have a leader of the occupying force approaching a well known Rabbi, Jesus, this was very audacious. So the centurion asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant. Jesus said that he would go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant; but the centurion basically told Jesus, “I’m not worthy to have you in my house, but if you command my servant to be healed, he will be.” Then Jesus turned around to the crowd and told them that this Gentile centurion has more faith than anyone in Israel.
So what’s so different about the faith of the centurion? I believe that it is the centurion’s understanding of the authority of Jesus is the answer. The centurions were disciplined and trained soldiers, they knew how to give orders and follow orders unquestionably. So, it would seem that obedience is a part of faith and Jesus confirms this, read Luke 17:5-10.“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Understand that chapters numbers, verse numbers, and headings are helpful, but not inspired. Even though most Bibles have a heading between the two paragraphs, this is one complete narrative. The apostles came to Jesus asking for Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus answers with teaching about servanthood.
Faith is a verb, an action. If I have faith that Jesus can heal the sick, I should pray to Jesus that He would heal the sick. If I have faith that Jesus will provide for a financial need, I should ask Jesus to provide for the financial need, and I must align my finances accordingly by being a good steward. To have faith in someone means that you trust them because they are looking out for your best. A good commander should look out for the best of their troops, and knowing that the commander is looking out for them, the troops should trust the commander’s orders. God always has our best in mind and there is no reason not to trust Him and follow Him.