By Nathan C. Vance
My son is twenty months old. He is the most adorable, frustratingly intelligent, wonderful person I have ever met— not that I’m biased in any way. He spends his days trying to figure out the world around him and has an obsessive curiosity about everything. In our house there is one question that plays on repeat over and over again: ”What’s that?” And when an answer comes, we’re on to wondering about the next curiosity, and I absolutely love it!
Amazingly, he reminds me so much of myself. Not the distant recollections I have of my infant version, but of me, the 32-year-old man. I listen to him and I think of myself and I realize that I am a very curious person and that is what dictates my relationship with God. The Bible is so vast and so unique that there is at least one new truth to be gleaned from it every single day, and I want to find all of the truths, like, now. Patience was not a virtue that I was blessed with.
And even more than searching for truth in the text, I look around at the world and I’m so confused. Why is there so much pain around us? Why are some healed and others are not? Why are some blessed while others are not? Why is the world filled with so much darkness, suffering, addiction, disease, abuse, anger, confusion, and on and on? (I really hope the saying “curiosity killed the cat” doesn’t ring true or my son and I would both be goners for sure.)
I’ll go ahead and confess that in spite of my great thirst for knowledge, I do not have all the answers, but occasionally, when my biblical questions and my wonderings about the world intersect each other, I feel like I am able to find answers. So, I was recently reading Matthew Chapter 8 as I wrote my latest blog entry, “A Small Spark.” I was looking for the story of Jesus and the leper. As I continued reading the chapter, I came across something so powerful I couldn’t help but share it. Starting in Verse 5, I found the story of Jesus and the centurion soldier.
I’ll give just a bit of context. Jesus’ life came during the time of the Roman Empire, when Rome controlled much of the known world including Israel. Romans were not Jewish either in ethnicity or in religious practice. They had their own beliefs about religion and gods. Furthermore, as the occupying military in the region, they had no reason to be impressed by or to respond to, or frankly, even to know, a humble Jewish rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth. In their culture, he would have been considered an annoyance at best and a heretic at worst.
So, this Roman centurion soldier approached this rabbi, Jesus, and referred to him as Lord, a term denoting both power and status. Then he tells Jesus his problem, saying “my servant lies home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus, being Jesus, offered to go to the man and heal him, but the centurion refused this. He replied, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” The soldier went on to tell Jesus that he understood how great his authority was because he himself was a man of authority who was under authority.
Jesus is amazed by the incredible faith of the soldier. “I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Later he tells the soldier, “Go! Let it be done as you have believed it would.”
Spoiler, the servant was healed.
My son has developed a habit of climbing up on the back of our couch at home, and if I am anywhere near him, he jumps off the couch, laughing hysterically as he goes. He takes these leaps of faith only when he knows Daddy is around to catch him. And while my heart sinks, I haven’t dropped him yet. That may not be the best way to teach him about safety but it does teach him about having faith in his father and I believe that will serve him well.
Throughout the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus performs many miracles where he heals blind, lame, and even raises the dead. And he almost always mentions that their faith has made them well. What’s the point? Jesus says in Matthew Chapter 17, Verse 20, “Truly I tell you, if you have the faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Why does he make such a bold claim? Was it a trick? Was it a lie? Was it meant only for those listening that day? Was it metaphorical? In John Chapter 14, Verse 12, Jesus tells his disciples, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus was telling his followers how to impact the world around them. He was telling all that believed in him where the power to make change was. Jesus was giving the answer to the question that was burning inside of me. He was saying, if you believe in him, like the centurion Soldier did, and you have faith, like the centurion soldier did, you could heal the sick, raise the dead, move mountains, and change the world in Jesus’ name.