Football, Centurions, and The Kingdom of God: Faith Is What It’s All About

Posted: December 30, 2014 in 99-Uncategorized

Luke 7:1-10 — As many of you know. I am a big Clemson Tiger football fan and have been so since I was a little kid. Tiger fan through thick and thin. I usually do not mix Clemson with these blogs but last night just taught me something about faith. It is faith that is the subject of today’s passage.

As an illustration, yesterday, prior to 5pm EST, no one gave Clemson much of a chance to beat Oklahoma given that we were going to be playing with our second string quarterback. A quarterback who had not given us much evidence of stellar play. Against Oklahoma, he was going to have to win the game with his arm, because Oklahoma has one of the best rush defenses in the country this year. Our second string QB (who had gotten a lot of playing time due to the injuries to our first string QB) had not proven to be an accurate passer all season. No one, including myself, gave us much of a chance. I knew Clemson’s defense would not let the game be an embarrassment to us but I thought we would lose regardless. Only the team itself and its coaches knew what was about to unfold. They had faith in themselves. The coaches had faith in them. That believed when all others said they could not do it. They believed and willed it to be so. Faith is believing what you cannot see but believing it to be true. Faith is trusting that something will happen.

Believing in what you cannot see. Believing when everything around you is screaming not to. This is faith. It is that full conviction to believe that it will be so. That is the amazing thing about this passage. Faith of a Roman soldier. We know from the text that this Roman soldier apparently had been in Palestine long enough to build relationships with the people in the area where he was assigned. He had become part of the local culture. We know from the text that he had built a synagogue for the local Jews. He knew he was not of God’s chosen people but he probably had come to believe in God. Because of this fact, we learn two things from this Roman centurion and Jesus’ reaction to him.

First, the centurion had become a man of faith in God. His illustration was perfect. He basically said that when he tells a soldier to go do something, he does not have to go check and see if it was done. He knew that it would be done. That is the nature of the military. A command is given and a command is executed in response to the command. Said. Done. The centurion tells Jesus that he has this kind of faith in Jesus. The centurion, by this time, with his connections in the Jewish community, had heard much about the growing ministry of Jesus Christ and the miracles that He had already performed. This centurion knew Jesus was what the Jews had been clamoring for, the Messiah. He probably did not know the Jewish scriptures with depth and level of knowledge of the people whom his armies were occupying but he got the point better than they did. He saw Jesus as more than a prophet. He saw Him as something far greater. He saw Him as a Healer. He had faith that Jesus was more. He had faith that Jesus was the Son of God. He may have not known what glories of what God is. He may have been wrestling with his past idol worship vs. the Jewish scriptures. He had though what ultimately we all need when it comes to Jesus, faith. Real faith.

Faith to believe that He is more than some radical rabbi. Faith that He is more than some non-violent philosopher along with the likes of Confucius, Gandhi, Buddha, etc. Faith that He is more. Faith that He is the Son of God. Faith that believing in Him will change everything. This is a perfect illustration of the Christian faith. You do not have to have a master’s degree in christian ministries or a master’s degree in theology to get what the centurion got. All it takes is the belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. All it takes is believing that we are sinners condemned by our own sins. All it takes is believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to cancel out our sin debt. All it takes is believing that we are reconciled as pure and clean and holy before God through our belief in Jesus Christ and what He did for us. All it takes is believing that Jesus arose from the dead and, as a result, sin no longer controls us and that we are born to new life. The centurion had faith that Jesus was who He said He was. That’s all it takes. All the maturity things about what the faith means and the deep understanding of scripture and how it all ties together in Jesus comes later. All it takes to begin is faith. Bottom line, that is all that is required.

The second thing we notice here is Jesus’ reaction to the centurion. Jesus’ response tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to anyone who has the faith of this centurion. You don’t have to be born with a special pedigree. It does not matter what your past is. Surely, this centurion before was an idol worshiper as most Romans were. Their “religion” was an amalgamation of Greek and other mystic beliefs. They had a pantheon of gods they worshiped. He was a military man, too, in one of the most efficient killing machines the world has ever known, the Roman Army. They were ruthless at times. Victory and control was their aim. Their justice for violating Roman rule was harsh and swift. Surely, this centurion had a past that he was not very proud of. This past, I am sure is the reason that he did not want Jesus to come to his home. He knew of the Jewish rules about defilement and he accepted that he was not worthy even with Jewish friends. Jesus though tells him that his faith has been rewarded. The centurion believed that if Jesus said it that it would happen. That is real faith. Jesus says that this man, a Gentile, a Roman soldier, had greater faith than could be found among all of God’s chosen people, Israel. Jesus says right there that the kingdom is for those who have faith in God through Jesus Christ. The kingdom is for those who believe. The kingdom is for those who have faith. It does not matter who you are or what you have done in your past. You are never too far away from grace. You can be a murderer, adulterer, thief, idol worshiper, prostitute, beggar, or whatever sins who have seeped yourself in, you are never crossed out of the kingdom. You are never too far from the grace of Jesus Christ. All you have to do is have faith in Jesus Christ that He is who He says He is, like the centurion, and you become part of the family of the kingdom of God. You do not have to have a certain last name. You do not have to have grown up in church. You can be the worst of the worst and the kingdom is yours through repentance and faith in Jesus.

Faith is believing in things unseen and believing them to be true. Faith is believing firmly in that which others are not willing to believe. Faith is a resolve to push on through and believe in victory when others don’t give you a chance. Faith gives you access to do things that others think you cannot do. Faith is a strong, core-felt understanding that something is real (even when others laugh at you and say it is not so).

Faith is believing in Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. Faith is our access to the kingdom of God. Faith of the centurion is the faith we need. Faith that Jesus is who He says He is. This faith is the keys to the kingdom. This faith is our victory. This faith is our trophy. This faith is all it takes. My faith secures my eternal victory. It secures yours. Believe it and it will be so. Take your victory.

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