The greatest person of faith: A Roman centurion?

Thirteenth in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.

Consider Matt. 8:10: Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith” (HCSB).

In Matt. 8:5-13, a Roman centurion appeals to Jesus on behalf of an ailing servant. The Lord offers to come with the soldier and heal the servant, but the centurion replies “only say the word, and my servant will be cured.”  Jesus’ response acknowledges the centurion’s great faith. In fact, He says, “I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith.” So the question arises: Is the Roman centurion the person of greatest faith Jesus ever met?

That’s probably not the point of Jesus’ statement. Rather, Jesus declares that this Gentile soldier has a more accurate understanding of Jesus’ identity and purpose than most of the Jews throughout Israel, even though He came to the Jews (John 1:11). At times, Jesus limits His miracles due to a lack of faith (Matt. 13:58). He weeps over Jerusalem because the city will soon suffer the consequences of the people’s rejection of Him (Luke 19:41). And He wonders out loud whether the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when He comes (Luke 18:8). No doubt this centurion’s faith was a great encouragement to the Messiah.

As for faith, the apostle Paul writes that God has given all of us a “measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3), and the writer of Hebrews provides an extensive list of great people of faith (Heb. 11). But as for who has the greatest faith … that’s a judgment best left to God, who knows every heart and will judge righteously one day.

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