While reading Matthew 8, I began to ponder the story of the centurion – a man with an important and powerful position, who was granted considerable authority by the Roman Empire to serve in a foreign land. What caused this man, who served an Empire hated by so many, to not only build a synagogue, but to also demonstrate love to the Jewish people that was so evident to those around him that they sought to help him.
I wondered what his background was, whether he was born a Roman or was raised as one, taken from his homeland as a child or a youth, as was the case with so many others at that time, and recruited into the military to serve the empire. What sparked his love for Israel and, especially, what led to his acknowlegement of the Lord Yeshua and to the recognition of His authority? He undoubtedly heard of Yeshua’s miracles and how the religious leadership opposed Him. Did the centurion’s love for Israel spring from a study of the Hebrew scriptures? Was he curious about the national hope of Israel that anticipated the coming of a Messiah? Not much was said about this man, apart from his exceptional behavior that led the Jewish religious leadership to want to help him because they thought he was worthy. The point that stood out for me was that the centurion didn’t see himself as worthy. His behavior was certainly contrary to the behavior of most of the Roman cohort, especially when they were vested with such authority and power. From a human point of view, he could have commanded that that the Lord Yeshua come to him and heal his servant. He could have sent soldiers to forcibly bring Yeshua to him. He could have exerted his position and imposed on Yeshua to do as he said. But the centurion did none of that. He viewed himself as unworthy and undeserving for Yeshua to even enter his house. When one considers the pride that evidenced much of the doings of the Roman Empire, this Centurion’s behavior towards the Jewish people and His attitude and esteem towards the Lord Yeshua were nothing short of amazing.
Yeshua returned the honor, acknowledging the greatness of the man’s, which also recognized the Lord’s authority. May it be that we would be the possessors of such faith! There is much to learn from this Centurion. We all have a role in society. Some have a job that comes with a grand title, some have degrees, others serve in certain ways. Most people see themselves as worthy of honor because of the role and position they have in society. Some actually seek recognition for it, like those who donate to various causes, who seek a sense of perpetuity by having their names inscribed on the cornerstones buildings or hospitals or other public places, so everyone would know who was behind its establishment. I doubt if the centurion was interested in having his name written on the cornerstone of the synagogue he built, or in having a plaque with his name on it that would be placed prominantly on one of its walls. There are others, of course, who also don’t consider themselves deserving of all attention and glamour, even though they might be the ones responsible for very helpful and meaningful things. This is not intended to say that credit should not be given when it is due. There is a time and place for everything. Yet the attitude with which one does things is critically important. The centurion didn’t help the Jews because he wanted credit and wanted to be patted on the back. He did it selflessly, seeing the need and doing what he can to meet that need.
As we serve in the fellowship, our attitude is also very important. Do we serve to be seen and heard and to receive the praise of men, or selflessly to serve the King? It is natural to want to be in the limelight. But, what about serving when others don’t see us and don’t know how hard you worked?
What is our attitude when we come to God in prayer? Do we list all the things we “did for Him” so He will answer our prayers because we are deserving? Or do we submit ourselves to Him because He is in authority and His will should be done, regardless and despite all we do or did?
The Lord Yeshua alone is worthy to receive honor, glory and praise. He has put us here so that we would acknowledge His authority and submit to it. He alone is the One Who will bestow honor on His servants at the proper time.