Mathew chapter 8:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Just how did a centurion come to have that kind of belief in Jesus Christ? The Romans were enemies of the Jews who had conquered and occupied Israel. So how did this enemy soldier come to have such great faith that, as the scripture tells us in the following verses, Jesus was amazed? Here’s one theory: You can be certain that whenever and wherever Jesus preached to large gatherings of people, Roman soldiers were nearby. It was their job to maintain order. There were probably some Roman soldiers who understood the Hebrew language, and if they didn’t speak Hebrew, they had translators. That stands to reason because it was also their job to make sure Jesus was not speaking out against Caesar or trying to incite some sort of insurrection. They needed to know what He was saying. And without a doubt, I believe some of the soldiers heard Jesus……….and came to believe in Him. Perhaps that was how the centurion at Capernaum came to believe in Jesus. Maybe he was watching over the crowds one day and as Jesus spoke, the words of our Lord God pierced his heart like a sword!
We’re not told the name of the centurion just we’re not told the name of a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus and asked Him to heal her daughter. That’s the story from Matthew 15 where Jesus answered her cries for help by telling her that He only came for the lost sheep of Israel, and that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. In her reply, she demonstrated her faith and her understanding of God’s plan of redemption for Gentiles and Jews alike by saying to Jesus, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” And there again, the scripture says that Jesus was amazed by her faith.
Paul wrote in the 10th chapter of Romans, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. So I think it’s very possible and even likely, that the Canaanite woman had been a face in one of the crowds of people that Jesus preached to, just like it’s possible that the centurion had, at some point, heard Jesus speak in person.
But it’s also possible that the centurion and the Canaanite woman came to believe after hearing about Jesus from one of His followers. They may have never seen Jesus in person prior to their encounters with Him. They may have become believers after overhearing someone talk about Jesus and of all the things He taught and all the miracles He had performed. But whether they were among the crowds of people listening to Jesus, or whether they just happened to overhear someone sharing the gospel, it doesn’t matter. Either way, they heard Jesus Christ preached……and believed!
Only God knows the names of those two. So here’s something to consider. When we share our faith with someone, we never know who might be listening. Remember, I said it’s possible they came to faith because someone told them about Jesus, and it’s also possible they came to believe after overhearing a conversation about Jesus.
So how does this apply to us? Suppose you’ve decided that this is the day you’re going to share your faith with a friend, or a neighbor, or a co-worker. You invite them to go have coffee with you. You tell that person what it means to be a follower of Christ. You tell your story. You share the love of Christ. Maybe your friend responds, and maybe not. But here’s something to think about, that friend of yours may not be the only one who’s listening. There may be someone sitting two tables over from you surfing the web on a laptop or looking down at a smartphone who heard every word you said. And a week later, a month later, a year later, God uses the words you spoke to your friend to bring that other person, some anonymous person you don’t even know, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We just never know how God is going work these things out. We should never be too embarrassed or too bashful or too ashamed or too afraid of what someone might think……to share the gospel. In the Bible, Christ was proclaimed publicly, and He was professed publicly. We need to do the same. You never know who’s listening, and the words you speak when you talk about Jesus Christ to a neighbor or a friend or co-worker may the words someone needs to hear!