One hundred. The number of runs a cricketer scores when he hits a century. The number of years in a century. The age of Abraham when his son Isaac was born. The number of blogs I’ve now written. What was meant to be a few blogs, written until Covid eased off, has now continued for a year, and Covid is still with us, so I’ll continue writing until there’s no longer a need. One hundred is also meant to be the number of men under the command of a Roman centurion, but that’s not true, well sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t, it varies at different times. When I visited a display at Chester Museum a number of years ago, a well known Roman town, a century was 80 men. However many men were in a century, it makes little difference to this blog which is more concerned with centurions who met Jesus.

 

The first one visited Jesus when he was at a town called Capernaum. He said to Jesus, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly.” (1) Centurions would be tough men, hardened by the trials of war, the many deaths they would have seen and the many men they would have killed. Despite this, the centurion had a heart of compassion. He had a suffering servant and he did what he could to help him. He did the very best thing he could, he went to Jesus.

 

Jesus asked him, “Shall I come and heal him?” (2) but the centurion said, “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.” (3) The Bible tells us that Jesus was amazed. He said, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (4) What a great commendation. Jesus had grown up in Israel and knew many Jewish people, including people of faith. Think about his disciples, or John the Baptist, but Jesus put the centurion’s faith above them all. Jesus then said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” (5) and his servant was healed at that very moment.

 

The second centurion was, I suspect, an even harder man. He was in charge of the soldiers who beat Jesus to within an inch of his life before having him crucified. He would have watched on with indifference, no concern for Jesus at all. He was just a troublesome Jew and good riddance to him. The sooner he dies the better. Something happened to the centurion though. He stood near the cross watching what happened and the way Jesus responded. He would have heard Jesus say ‘Father forgive them’, a prayer for the soldiers including himself. He would have seen how Jesus arranged care for Mary, thinking more of her needs than his own. He would have seen the eyes of love that focussed on those who came to mock and ridicule Jesus, and the hope he offered one of the criminals crucified with him.

 

Something stirred within him. All he had ever heard or thought about Jesus was being challenged. Is this man really so bad? Is he a danger to society? He just speaks words of love and forgiveness. His eyes just constantly show love. Perhaps those eyes focused on the centurion more than once? We’re not told, but it’s not beyond possibility. When Jesus died that was it for the centurion. Jesus should not have died so quickly but he chose the time of his death by dismissing his spirit. The centurion heard him do it, saw him die, and said, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (6) That’s what happens when men turn to Jesus. Even hardened men who seek his help and see him die can come to faith. When you look at Jesus objectively that’s what you do. Praise God.

 

Bible References:

  • Matthew 8:6
  • Matthew 8:7
  • Matthew 8:8,9
  • Matthew 8:10
  • Matthew 8:13
  • Matthew 27:54