5 When Jesus went to Capernaum, a centurion approached, 6 pleading with him, “Lord, my servant is flat on his back at home, paralyzed, and his suffering is awful.”
7 Jesus responded, “I’ll come and heal him.”
8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was impressed and said to the people following him, “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this. 11 I say to you that there are many who will come from east and west and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.” 13 Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it will be done for you just as you have believed.” And his servant was healed that very moment.
Faith is a difficult thing. Jesus talks constantly about faith, about the need for it, about the power in it.
And yet, all of us have probably experienced times when we’ve prayed with faith, and yet the thing we feared happened anyway. We all know the sting of unanswered prayer. That’s what makes a miracle story like this difficult. When our prayers go unanswered, we can tend to blame ourselves, as though our faith wasn’t up to the task. Either that, or we begin to question God and the point of faith altogether.
But what if the point of faith isn’t to know that God always stands ready to deliver everything we ask for?
What’s remarkable about the centurion is that he doesn’t demand proof. He doesn’t need Jesus to show up at his house, lay hands on his servant, and see him get up out of the bed in order to believe. The centurion believed, regardless of what he saw. Perhaps he would have even believed had Jesus said no. The way the story is told confirms this. In verse 13, the actual healing event is described almost as an afterthought.
Contrast this with the way we often approach faith, which requires a lot of tangible proof before we can accept that God is actually present with us.
There is a line in the Christmas movie The Santa Clause, where one of the characters says, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Faith doesn’t mean that every prayer will be answered. Faith doesn’t guarantee that every person we lay hands on will be healed.
What it does mean is that when we look for God’s work in the world, we’re more likely to see it. When we trust in God’s presence, we’re more likely to experience it. When we believe in God’s power, it’s more likely to be available to us.
God may not heal every person we pray for, or give us every opportunity we hope in. But when we believe that things like healing and hope are possible — it keeps our eyes open to where it does show up.
Faith isn’t a guarantee. It’s a way of approaching life that looks for God to show up and do something.
“Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.”
by Joe & Kate Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How have your experiences of unanswered prayer shaped your life of faith?
Prayer: God, help us to trust your presence with us even when it’s difficult for us to see you working. Give us faith to continue in mercy, love, and kindness toward others even when it’s not returned to us. Enable us to be persistent and patient in our prayers today, believing that you can and will show up. Amen.