Just say the word!

The Centurion of great faith (Matthew 8:5-13) – an imaginary rendering and important point

With armour glistening in the Galilean sun, a Roman Centurion strode boldly towards Jesus. He removed his helmet and said, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Peter and Andrew flashed their eyes at each other. They knew this soldier; he worshipped the God of Israel and had built a synagogue for the Jews in Capernaum (Lk 7:5). But Jesus didn’t need to know; he could see the Roman’s heart. “I will go and heal him,” he said. The Centurion’s eyes dropped to the ground for a moment as he scanned his mind for a solution. They both knew that a Jew entering a Gentile’s home would create unnecessary problems. The Centurion cleared his throat and said, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” Then putting his helmet back on, he looked directly into Jesus’ eyes as only a military man would and said, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He paused to see if Jesus was understanding. Then said, “I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one ‘Go’, and he goes.” Jesus raised his eyebrows. He was astonished! He turned to his Jewish followers, and said, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith!” Then confronting the Centurion, he said, “Go! It will be done just as you believed.” The Centurion gave a small bow, turned on his heels and went. His servant was healed that very moment.
Jesus identified this Centurion as a man of ‘great faith,’ so it’s worth looking at what we can learn from him. And the thing that stands out most is his request that Jesus “Just say the word.” This is interesting; the Centurion came to get God’s word on his servant’s situation. His servant needed a miracle, but he knew that it could only happen if God said yes. Notice that although he was a man of great faith he did not stay home thinking ‘If I just believe enough it will happen.’ He did not assume that he could get a miracle just because scripture declared that God was our Healer. He approached Jesus to get God’s word for his specific situation. As a military man the Centurion was used to getting permission from high ranking commanders and giving it to lower ranking soldiers. And he understood that when you go to get permission from someone of higher rank you give that person the right to say no. And if the answer is no, you trust that they have made that decision for the good of all. When we seek God’s word, we seek God’s will. Yes, scripture says God is our Healer and that healing is available through the cross, but that doesn’t mean you will be healed today, or tomorrow, or even in this life time. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of all the gifts, including healing, and he gives healing in his time and in his way. Sometimes withholding healing in one area of a person’s life brings healing in another. In every situation we need a fresh word from God to know exactly what he wants to do. Once know we can apply our faith to what he says.
Here is an important observation: Jesus used the written word for truth and the spoken word for power. He never used the written word for power. Go through the gospels and check this out. Whenever Jesus quoted scripture he did it to establish truth. A good example is the way in which he rebuked Satan saying, “It is written. Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Mt 4:10). Satan was trying to deceive him, so he quoted scripture to in force the truth. But whenever Jesus did a miracle he followed the Father’s voice. He said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (Jn 5:19). Never do we find Jesus standing on scripture to get a miracle. This pattern continues with the disciples and the early church in the book of Acts.
Why would Jesus and his disciples never stand on scripture to get a miracle? Because scripture is God’s general word to all, while miracles are specific in each situation. So miracles require specific permission, specific empowerment and specific direction. The Centurion got specific permission; Jesus gave the Father’s word for his servant. When Jesus said, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ (Jn 11:43); his words were specifically empowered for that moment. When Jesus healed the blind man by putting mud in his eyes (Jn 9:6), or healed one invalid among many at the pool of Bethesda, he was following the Father’s specific direction (Jn 5:3).
In recent times the church has often made the mistake of standing on the written word to get miracles. This has led to all sorts of problems. Ministers have told the sick that they don’t need permission for healing because the Bible already promises it. All they need to do is apply enough faith and the healing will happen. If no healing occurs the person is told that their faith was simply not enough. This can cause people to become disillusioned, and to even give up their faith.
But miracles are not a case of scripture plus faith; they involve God’s specific will and direction for each situation. And like Jesus and his disciples we can only know God’s will by learning to hear his voice. The evangelical church desperately needs to be empowered, but to be empowered evangelicals we must not only preach what is written, we must also say what the Father is saying, and do what the Father is doing. Then we will see the kind of power that the early church had. May the Lord bless you as you seek his will and word for your situation.

Other Illustrations used: Marriage – trusting our partners ‘no’ | A Healing Meeting goes wrong |When text becomes a live link| Faith is Sky Diving without a chute (video).

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