November 11, 2015

Two Soldiers From the Life of Christ Who Exhibited Exemplary Faith

Jesus heals the centurion's servant

A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman Imperial Army. Most centurions commanded groups of centuries of around 80-100 men. Senior centurions commanded cohorts (the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion) or took senior staff roles in their legion. They were soldiers of renown, greatly respected by their fellow citizens.

Two centurions figured predominately in the life of Jesus. The gospels render them nameless. In one instance, a centurion beseeched Jesus to cure an ailing servant who was critically ill. The story is related in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke writes:
When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum.  A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, "He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us." And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. [Luke 7: 1-10]
Jesus is clearly impressed by the centurion's faith and humility. Not only does our Savior cure the centurion's servant, He commends the centurion demonstrably saying, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." For a thoughtful commentary on this Gospel miracle of Christ, read "A Centurion's Exemplary Faith".

Saint Longinus (pictured) is the Roman centurion who pierced Jesus in the side with a lance. He is the soldier present at the Crucifixion, who testified, "Truly, this man was the son of God." Longinus converted to Christianity after the Crucifixion and became a martyr. (Although he is anonymous in the Gospel accounts, popular piety ascribes to him the name Longinus.)

In medieval folklore (i.e. The Golden Legend) the touch of Jesus's blood cures Longinus' blindness:
Christian legend has it that Longinus was a blind Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Christ’s side at the crucifixion. Some of Jesus’s blood fell upon his eyes and he was healed. Upon this miracle Longinus believed in Jesus.
Whatever their origin, assertions that Longinus was blind are dubious at best. That Longius was accorded faith and martyrdom through his interaction with Christ incarnate is indisputable.

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