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The Savior of the pagans

January 26, 2012

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment”.

Mt 8:5-13

A few days ago I saw a movie on television about the time of the Romans. I told my wife that I did not think that the Roman world was as violent and ruthless as it was depicted in that movie. The movie was more of a Hollywood production than a documentary, and we know that, unfortunately, films which include extreme violence, nudity and coarse language are viewed the most and hence are the best-selling. And to this end, even in the daily news, we are always shown these same things. Unfortunately, this is what attracts our attention. On top of that, we can say that most of the information being transmitted is exaggerated truth or sensationalism (of the bad news) or simply half of the truth. There is another truth that is missing; the truth of the positive and good things that happen every day. These good things are rarely shown, at least not on television or newspapers. My wife replied: but perhaps this is because the Roman world was a society without God, the true and living God that we know today. This got me thinking. When I began preparing my sermon for today, I found this text concerning a centurion of which the Bible speaks. And then I realized that there were people of faith among the Roman people that were better than those who said they were believers.

Then I realized that God’s infinite power is always present and even reaches the non-religious who are in fact believers.

Who were the centurions? They were officers with tactical and administrative control. They were chosen for their qualities of strength, moderation and control. This one who came before Jesus was probably a senior centurion recognized by the Jewish society of that time.
Why do we differentiate between the religious and people of faith? What is the difference? Many of the Jews who did not accept Jesus, were of themselves pious people who believed in God, but were bound to strict societal and human rules that had nothing to do with the true spirit of God of which Jesus preached. They believed that the fulfillment of certain human standards would cause God to love them more. Jesus instead came with a different message that wanted to abolish all religion. He said that the most important thing is to accept that he is the Son of God. His message is of a loving God who wants us to love our neighbor as the most fundamental law. Accepting his message is going to give us the acceptance and salvation of God. That’s the difference between religion and faith.
Even today, there are many religious people that have more faith in their religion than in God. People that still think that it is more important to follow human rules than to do what Christ says to do.

Suddenly, out of the crowd, there comes this Roman centurion. To the Jews, he was an enemy occupier of the land, not a believer in the God of the Jews. In the eyes of religious Jews, he was assumed to be evil. He came to ask a favor of Jesus, just like anyone might ask a healer a favor. However, the fundamental difference is when we hear his words: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” This centurion admits his lack of dignity in Christ. And while he shows respect for the word of Jesus, he shows a full and almost naïve faith in the power of Jesus Christ.
Jesus himself is astonished at this, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” And then he says that there will be many people who demonstrate their faith in Christ in such a way that will surpass even those who are thought to be religious, as was the case with the religious Jews who did not accept Jesus as the son of God.
How is our faith today? Or is it merely a religious belief? Are we tied to customs and traditions, even within our church? Or do you leave room for Christ to manifest with all His power in our lives. When we are religious, we are restricting, blocking the power of God.
The religious person is a person who maintains their faith through habit. He or she believes that by repeating certain rites and customs, out of fear and not love for God, God will love him/her. And the more sacrifices and works that are done, the more they please God. This is impossible, because the only way to please God is by saying, “Lord, I repent my sins, forgive me. I want to believe and trust you blindly, like a child,” and to praise and honor God out of love, because he gives us eternal life.
God is present when you love Him first and then your neighbor. But to love him, we should show our respect and faith in Him. Those who do not trust in God cannot love him.

Why does God respond favorably to this Roman centurion? It is because he realizes that the Holy Spirit did miraculous work in him. He allowed him to show naïve faith, the almost childlike faith that it takes to let God work miracles and because that faith was grounded in Christ alone and no one else.

Do we have a living and true faith like that of the centurion? Or rather: do we want Jesus Christ to be revealed in our lives with all His power as he manifested in the life of the Roman centurion? Then we can look to the centurion as an example. Let us re-read his words for they show us what it means to believe in Christ and respect him. All over the world people want to tell us and deceive us into living a life without faith: So listen to his words: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

We can summarize in a few words: come to Christ, go to Him. If the centurion had not come, he would not have achieved anything of Christ. Seek Christ by reading the Bible, attending church on Sundays, attending other activities where the word of God will be preached and of course by approaching Him every morning and night through prayer. That is what it is to show our love and respect for God. Are we doing it?
Trust in God. Come to him daily. Believe that he has the power to change things, unlike the world, which does not believe miracles are possible. We’re talking about supernatural things. That is to say, the things that go beyond the physical, beyond the five senses. For God is not only in the physical: in what I can see, I can hear, in what I can smell, what I can feel, or what I can taste. For God, there is still another dimension, which is spiritual. And do you know what? Religious people do not believe in that dimension. In this they are almost comparable to the atheists, who do not believe in God directly.
If you really need help from God, then do not simply be religious. Look for God and begin to believe that God can get involved in your life. It is not enough to come to church out of habit. If I do not see God working supernaturally in my life, then all these rituals do not serve me. That is mere religion and mere religion does not save me and does not heal me. We need a change of 180 degrees; we need to turn to God through simple, innocent, naive faith, like the faith of the Roman centurion, a supposed atheist. He has given us a lesson in how our faith in God should be. That’s why God gave him what he asked for; he certainly showed His healing power and also showed him His salvation.

God came to save those who were lost, and if the lost come to God and believe and trust in Him, they are saved. If we maintain love and respect for God, through our faith and trust in him, the anointing of God comes to dwell in our lives and our church. And how good it can be to receive the words of Jesus, on every day of our days, when at the end of every prayer, we feel that Jesus tells us: “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” Amen

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