In this episode, an honest fighting man, in charge of up to one hundred men, seems to grasp the ways of God more quickly than some of God’s own people! Whereas they approach Jesus and ask him to help the centurion on the grounds that “…he has built our synagogue” (v5), he realises that it is mercy rather than a reward that he needs. He also understands the concept of ‘chain of command’: Jesus is under the authority of his Heavenly Father, whilst on earth, and because of his willing submission, he is given authority over all creation.
The centurion draws an analogy with his own position in the army, knowing that he only carries authority if he continues to submit to Caesar. Such a clear grasp of the situation also draws a gasp of amazement from Jesus, who is astounded by such a huge measure of faith in a man. This is one of only two recorded occasions when Jesus is ‘amazed’ (see also Mark 6:6) and demonstrates that he had ‘put aside’ his divine omniscience and had chosen to walk with the Holy Spirit – as we all should.
It did seem that Jesus could not walk near a dead body without bringing it back to life! Compassion for the poor widow – totally alone in the world now – mixed with the sheer life of God that was in him, resulted in an awesome resurrection of her boy that brought such glory to God. And we are called to do greater things than these!
John the Baptist just wanted to check: “You are the Messiah, aren’t you?” “Look around you”, laughed Jesus, “…no more blindness, no more lameness, no more leprosy, no more deafness, no more death – and plenty of hope! What do you think?”
In each gospel there is a story of a woman who poured expensive perfume over Jesus at a private dinner party (Matt 26; Mark 14; Luke 7; and John 12). But Luke’s story is different! It occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry; it involved a woman of sinful repute, rather than a godly lady like Mary. Jesus was criticised for not realising this woman’s sinfulness; and then he recognised her great love for him and forgave her. (In the other three gospels, a reputable lady is criticised for ‘wasting’ expensive perfume on Jesus, but Jesus commends her.)
How many sinners have wept over us recently? How many of them have spent a small fortune on a gift for us, just because they have seen God at work in our hearts. And do we attract sinners by our goodness?