When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this 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 it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (Matthew 8:5-13)
We trust what we can hold, what we can see, what we can taste. Food on our plate today is worth more to us than the promise of food on tomorrow’s plate. That’s why idolatry is so common: people like to see who they are praying to. But one day, a person raised in idolatry and only lately come to God, approached Jesus about his sick servant.
Why was this Centurion’s faith, according to Jesus, greater than the faith of anyone else he had ever found? Because he believed without seeing. He believed, even though his whole idolatrous culture was based on sight. The Roman Centurion was able to step beyond the confines of his upbringing and the norms of his society. He marched beyond his cultural horizon.
The Jewish people had the law and the prophets. They had long experience with God’s power, like a rich man with a lot of money in the bank. The Centurion had nothing, like a pauper begging in the street. It was the context of the Centurion’s belief—the sort of man he was and where he’d come from—that made his faith so striking. How big your faith is depends on who you are.