I’ve got about 100 people who are required to respond to my authority. When I say “jump”, …well, you know the rest. I’d like to believe they obey because they want to, that it is an action born out of a fierce loyalty to my unquestioned love for each of the men that I oversee. Something tells me otherwise. While I do have their best in mind, this isn’t my first rodeo.
I’ve been in their shoes. I know what it’s like just to put food on the table. Yet, I hope they know I’m not like all the other centurions.
Being a Roman soldier in Israel is not the assignment I wanted. I’d much rather be closer to home. Transplanting my family to Capernaum hasn’t been an easy task for any of us. Thankfully Caesar has provided a servant to support our families during our long hours of patrolling the provinces of Judah.
These are interesting times.
While I’ve been here the last seven years, I’ve never heard or seen quite the buzz that is stirring up these Jews. A man known as Jesus of Nazareth is doing and saying things that are both wonderful and threatening. Wonderful to the common people, and threatening to the status quo.
I’ve had the chance to see him. Albeit briefly. The people throng after him. Hang on his words. Pursue him. Beg him for miracles. Bring people to him to touch. I must confess, there is something about him. Even from a distance as he crisscrosses through Israel, I find myself drawn to him as well. Yet, I am thankful to not be in need of his power like the masses.
I never want to be in such desperation.
But I am.
Our faithful and trusted servant, Alexander, was in a terrible accident. While leading our children through the rugged hillside of Judea, he pushed our children away from a stampeding herd of goats that had broken free from the their shepherd. Now being pursued by ravenous wolves, there frantic path had intersected with that of my children. Alexander’s fearless heroism had saved my children’s lives, but also left him in the way of a panic-stricken flock. He lay paralyzed in our house.
I determined that asking Jesus of Nazareth for help was more important than looking weak in the eyes of my soldiers and the Jewish people. My commitment to maintaining the facade of independence, self-reliance and autonomy cracked. I imagined how sacrificial my servant had been for my family.
Giving up my pride was a small price to pay.
As he passed through Capernaum, I made my move. I could feel all the eyes of the people on me. I made my pitch. I didn’t need Jesus to even come to my house. I know how to give directions, but I also know how to take them. If Jesus said it, I’d believe it.
Inexplicably, I felt faith welling up in my heart, and leaving through my lips.
What was I thinking? What was I saying? I felt so foolish. Weak. Vulnerable. The complete opposite of how I think of myself, and how I want others to see me. Before I could retract my statement or pull the words out of the air, Jesus did the unexpected.
He applauded my faith!
Said he had never seen anything like it before! Me! Who knew?
Then he told me to go home. Alexander was healed.
I have to confess that put my faith to the test. I really did believe that Jesus could my friend from a distance. That he didn’t need to actually touch him to raise him. But now that he told me to go, taking me at my word…I was being challenged to take him at his word!
I stood there. Frozen for what seemed like an eternity. No one said anything. Silence. All eyes on me. Jesus’ expression compelled action. His words. His eyes. They spoke to me. They inspired more faith.
The first step was the hardest.
Each one become easier as I journeyed home. I played out every possible scenario. He would still be paralyzed, and I would be utterly humiliated. That I should have brought Jesus with me. Then, he heard the words and remembered the face. I kept going.
As I rounded the corner towards home, my children greeted my with shouts of joy and tears of gratitude! Had I heard, they screamed in delight! Alexander was healed! Up on his feet, like nothing had ever happened!
I collapsed into their arms and rejoiced with them. And told them about Jesus.
We have seen his power, and it is marvelous in our eyes.