There are two interesting stories of faith in this passage that seem to be meant to contrast one another. The first one is the centurion – a Roman army officer who would have been in command of 100 men. He came to Jesus literally strongly encouraging Him to do something about his servant who was suffering from paralysis and in a tremendous amount of pain. In response to this man's urgent request for help, Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." You would have thought that this man would have been ecstatic at this news, but instead he says, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed!" (Vs 8 - NLT). This man seemed to understand that Jesus, as Lord, had authority to command the healing of his servant without even having to be in the same room with him. Jesus is blown away by this Gentile's faith and responds, "I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!" (Vs 10 - NLT). In the original Greek, Matthew records Jesus using an adjective to describe this man's faith. He refers to it as a "great" faith. That word in the Greek is tosoutos and it refers to the quantity or greatness of this man's faith. He had a lot of faith in Jesus and expressed it by saying that he knew Jesus had the power and authority to heal his servant just by commanding it to happen. His faith was coupled with his humility. As a Gentile, a centurion, and a sinner, he didn't feel worthy to have Jesus come into his home. That is what motivated his request that Jesus heal his servant from a distance. He knew he was undeserving of Jesus' help, but humbly made his request knowing that Jesus had the power and authority to heal his suffering servant. And that's exactly what Jesus did. Jesus tells him, "Go on home. What you have believed has happened." And the young servant was healed that same hour" (Vs 13 - NLT).
The second encounter with faith involves the disciples. It's the familiar story of the storm at sea and Jesus asleep in the boat as the disciples battle the waves. Now keep in mind that these guys had been present at the encounter with the centurion. They had heard Jesus' remarks about his faith and the lack of faith of the people of Israel. They had also just seen Jesus heal Peter's mother-in-law. They had been witnesses to him casting out demons and healing the sick. Now they find themselves in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, stuck in a storm and they wake Jesus up, shouting, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" (Vs 25 - NASB). Many of these guys are seasoned fishermen, but they are panicking and fearing for their lives. This isn't a case of NO faith, because they were calling out to Jesus to save them, to rescue them. They were turning to Jesus for salvation. But the problem that Jesus exposes is their faith mixed with fear. He asks them, "Why are you afraid?" Then He seems to immediately answer His own question when He says, "You have so little faith!" The Greek word is oligopistos and it means "people of little faith." Their trust in Jesus was small. They really didn't believe He was going to be able to do anything about their situation, so they were anticipating death. They were hopeful He could do something, but their hopes were being overwhelmed by the circumstances. Yet, in response to their "little" faith, Jesus rescues them by calming the wind and the waves. And they are amazed!
So what's the point? Both the centurion and the disciples had faith in Jesus. But the point seems to be the presence of fear that accompanied the disciples' faith. The centurion was not fearful that Jesus might not be able to heal his servant. If he had any fear at all, it was based on his unworthiness to expect Jesus to respond to his request. But he had no doubt or fear in Jesus ability to do what he was requesting. He was confident in the power of Jesus. The disciples on the other hand exhibited faith mixed with fear. They were not exactly sure that Jesus was going to be able to handle their request. Sure, they turned to Him in their time of need, but they still feared for their lives. They literally thought they were going to die right there and then. Their faith was being overwhelmed by their fear and their circumstances.
How often do I respond the same way? I turn to Jesus in my time of need. I make my request known to Him, but I really don't believe He is going to be able to do anything about it. My faith becomes overwhelmed by my fear. I turn to Him, but I don't trust Him. That is about little or weak faith. It is about trusting Jesus too little and believing our circumstances way too much. The centurion's faith was based on the power and authority he believed Jesus had. The disciples' faith was hampered by the power and authority they believed the storm had. What is our faith based on? Do we really believe Jesus is who He says He is, with the power to do what He says He can do? Or do we let our circumstances overwhelm our faith in Jesus, causing us to doubt His ability to deliver us from the storms of life? It reminds me of that often-quoted passage from Philippians. It has to do with fear, anxiety, and the peace that can come when we take our needs to God, trusting fully in His power and authority to meet all our needs completely.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Father, I want to learn to trust You more and more. Forgive me for letting my circumstances overwhelm my faith in You. May I have the faith of the centurion. May I humbly trust in your power and authority and not allow the storms of life to overwhelm my faith with fear. Amen