Centurions in the N. T. were officers in either the Roman army or Herod’s army and each commanded around 100 men. These officers had power, authority from their governments, leadership abilities, and were often called upon to make important decisions. They were men in charge. The Bible speaks of at least five or six centurions and we can learn great lessons from each of them.
1-The Centurion from Capernaum – As Jesus came into Capernaum and Galilee, he went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. As His fame spread more and more people came to be healed of Him. A centurion from Herod’s army had a beloved servant who was paralyzed and tormented in pain. He came to Jesus pleading with Him for help. Jesus told the Centurion that He would come heal the servant. However, “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”. (Matt 8:8). This officer understood AUTHORITY first hand, but he had never seen AUTHORITY like Jesus held. It was an AUTHORITY Too Great to Question or Oppose. Jesus observed that the Centurion’s faith led him to recognize the Lord for who and what He was. Christ marveled and said to his followers, “Assuredly I say to you, I have not found such GREAT FAITH, not even in Israel”. (Matt 8:10). We also need GREAT FAITH in our Lord based on the AUTHORITY given to Him by the Father. When without question or opposition, we demonstrate the GREAT FAITH and trust this Centurion possessed, Jesus Will Recognize it in us also.
2-The Centurion at the Cross – This Roman soldier witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Our Lord and His teachings and miracles were known throughout Palestine, so the Centurion knew of Jesus the Christ. He may have also witnessed the illegal trails that a wearied Savior went through. The Centurion witnessed and probably participated in, the mocking and cruel punishment of the soldiers. (Matt 27:27-31). But he also witnessed some amazing events the moment Christ died on the cross. “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised”. (Matt 27:51-52). When the Soldier considered the horrendous scourging and crucifixion Jesus had endured, then saw the miracles that occurred when He breathed His last, the Centurion cried out, “Truly this Man was the Son of God”. (Mark 15:39).
This man of military training, high intelligence, and great authority had witnessed the cruel death of an obviously innocent man, and the signs and wonders that followed. The Centurion did not want to believe in Jesus and certainly did not want to confess Him, but he was fair-minded. He studied the situation, weighed the evidence, and came to his conclusion. The Son of God had been crucified. His reasoning was simple. The EVIDENCE was Too Strong to Deny. We need to be fair-minded as we consider all the EVIDENCE presented by revelation in the Scriptures. Then as we examine our own faith and personal relationship with Christ, may we always fine the Evidence Too Strong to Deny.
3-The Gentile Centurion – “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a Centurion of what was called the Italian regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always”. (Acts 10:1-2). Cornelius was the first Centurion identified by name and the first Gentile noted in that position. (10:25-28; 11:17-18). His faith, prayers, and good deeds had been heard and remembered by God. In a vision an angel appeared to Cornelius saying, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God”. (10:4). He was told to send for Peter and Cornelius did exactly what the angel said. Through God’s workings and providence, along with a powerful vision, Peter learned that the saving Gospel was for all men and that he needed to go immediately to Caesarea to preach to Cornelius, a Gentile.
The Centurion had called together his relatives and friends to hear Peter’s message. Upon the apostle’s arrival, he immediately began his preaching, In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him”. (10:34-35). After proclaiming Christ from O. T. prophecy and eyewitness accounts of the apostles, Peter closed his sermon with a question and a command. “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord”. (10:47-48a).
Cornelius knew God, believed in Him, and prayed to Him. But he was not familiar with the saving message of the Gospel. However, on first hearing the Good News, Cornelius noted the events that brought him in touch with the Truth, listened to the evidence Peter presented, and the plea he made for obedience and obeyed A Gospel Too Powerful to Ignore. The Bible is the revealed and inspired Word of God. His Word, His GOSPEL is POWERFUL. “For the Word of God is living and POWERFUL, and sharper than any two-edged sword..” (Heb 4:12). In our daily walk with the Father and our Savior, do we consider the GOSPEL to be as POWERFUL as His Word says it is? Are there some passages we allow to motivate us to greater service to Him and others where we convince ourselves that are not so important? As we open our Bibles each day, may God help us to grasp how POWERFUL every WORD really is and what a Difference those WORDS can make in our lives.
Scriptures mention other Centurions, all in the book of Acts and associated with Paul’s preaching and suffering. These Centurions: Rescued Paul from a violent mob; Saved Paul from a deadly scourging; Stopped the Jew’s plot to kill him; Accompanied the apostle on his trip to Caesarea; Kept him in custody but gave Paul some liberties; Learned to respect Paul due to his faith and courage during shipwreck, and brought Paul safely to Rome and saw that he was allowed to live by himself with a soldier guarding him. (Julius – Acts 21-28). These instances combined teach us that: Real Authority is recognizable; Proper Authority must be established in all things; Consideration must be given to the actual Evidence in any question or decision; Following that Evidence is the only way to end up with the correct answer; The Gospel Message has Influence and Power wherever it was preached; And we must make sure that we do not Ignore the real Facts and Evidence.
May God help us all strive to: Listen to our God’s Authority That is Too Great to Question or Oppose; Believe the Evidence of Jesus’ Death, Burial, and Resurrection That is Too Strong to Deny; and Obey the Saving Gospel of Christ That is Too Powerful to Ignore. Let us continue to study, work, and pray!