When Jesus heard this, He was astonished. Matthew 8:10
The closing rift to the Stevie Wonder song, You Met Your Match was my inspiration for this piece. Early in His ministry Jesus met His match. It wasn’t another messiah wannabe and in no way was it satan. This person wasn’t even Jewish. The man was a Roman centurion. As far as we know he was a pagan, perhaps a charming one, a heathen if you please. Their meeting is recorded in Matthew 8 and Luke 7.
What did Jesus and the centurion share in common? Jesus began his earthly ministry around the age of thirty, the same minimum age required for a man to be considered for a centurion. Only a soldier with extensive military experience who demonstrated skill in his profession was a potential candidate for this position of authority. Like the centurion, Jesus was a mature individual with a track record of excellence. Both were competent, disciplined men capable of decisive, deliberate action.
Second, both men were under authority. The centurion described himself as “a man under authority,” Matthew 8:9. Jesus freely admitted, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me,” John . The men were under the command of a higher ranked official. They were responsible to obey any order immediately without question.
Third, Jesus and the centurion were leaders. Besides expertise as a soldier, a centurion needed leadership skills. Here he had an advantage. Roman soldiers weren’t a sloppy lot. They wouldn’t survive if they were. Disciplined warriors, they obeyed orders without question and would lay down their lives for the success of their mission. We, the Body of Christ should be so dedicated.
Fourth, both men understood the power of spoken words. The centurion issued and obeyed orders without any hesitation. He recognized in Jesus the ability to speak and produce results. He knew authority when he saw it. Luke 7 says he had a soft spot in his heart for the Jewish people but it doesn’t say he was a proselyte or even someone who believed in God. Unhindered by any religious mumbo-jumbo, the centurion recognized the real deal when he met Jesus.
Fifth, they were both men of faith. Jesus marveled at the centurion’s great faith. The word used there occurs only one other time in reference to Jesus. In Mark 6:6 He marveled at the unbelief of the people. For Jesus to call anyone’s faith great is quite the compliment, especially for an unbeliever.
Finally, Jesus and the centurion assumed their positions with the knowledge that it could cost them their lives. Jesus’ active ministry lasted about three years. He knew from before the foundation of the world that His time here would be short. A centurion understood that his time in the job could be very brief. In battle the centurion led the charge. He was the first man over the wall in an attack and usually died in battle. Both were willing to lay down their lives if necessary.
If Jesus could find someone like himself outside of His faith; how about us? Can we look past the external trappings and find our own modern day centurions? Even more important, will they find the Jesus they’re looking for in us.