In Luke chapter 6 we find Jesus teaching about what a true disciple of His would look like: poor in spirit, humble and repentant, obeying the golden rule, loving his enemies, being generous, etc. Then in chapter 7, messengers arrive from a Centurion who is a living example of this very same kind of person.
The Centurion’s love for others is clearly shown. Notice the care and concern he has for a slave. (In this culture, slaves would be disposable property!) And see how this particular Centurion is so well respected that the Jewish elders even say “he is worthy”. The full impact of those words might be easily overlooked, so let me repeat: the Jewish elders are calling a non-Jewish person “WORTHY”! He must have done some remarkable things for them to have this attitude. Yet the humility of the Centurion is evidenced by his own response later in the story, “I am NOT worthy”.
We also see his generosity, having been responsible for building the Jewish synagogue. Some commentators feel that this man may have converted to Judaism and so he had the synagogue built so he could listen to teaching each Sabbath. The exact motive is not given here in Scripture, but his generosity shines through.
Again, this Gentile man has proved to be the example for the lesson taught by Jesus in the previous chapter – THIS is what a true disciple of His is like. And this was completely turned around for the Jews; Centurions were Roman soldiers, the enforcement agency for the tax collectors! Being outsiders, they were generally despised. But Jesus, on the other hand, gives the man praise for having such exemplary faith.
Things haven’t changed much in our day. A lot of folks still think that powerful religious leaders are obviously blessed by God, or that those with great wealth are blessed. We are just as blind sometimes to what a true disciple looks like, and we often fail to BE one because of our blindness. Here are those qualities again: poor in spirit, humble and repentant, obeying the golden rule, loving our enemies, and being generous.