Pastor Mark’s Devotions #108

“Faith of a Soldier”

Jesus said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel” Luke 7:9

Tomorrow, November 11th, we celebrate, Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor and recognize those men and women who have put on a uniform and have been willing to fight for the freedom of our country and even be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. It has been stated many times, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” Faith is found and surfaces in many and various conditions and circumstances.

This devotion begins with a simple history of the origins of Veterans Day. Then I’d like to point to the Scriptures, to faith found in a solider, that surfaced in a surprising way, even to Jesus himself, from a Roman Centurion no less, that left our Savior virtually speechless.

THE ORIGINS OF VETERANS DAY

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor… These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day”….

Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of WW II and Korea, Congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day….

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date….

So, let it be at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, that we take time to give God thanks and pray for our veterans and our present military soldiers who are being put in harm’s way – that we might live in safety and enjoy the freedoms we all share.

I would also like to highlight one specific soldier. He is found in Luke chapter 7. Here, Luke describes Jesus having a surprise encounter with a Roman soldier. He is a Centurion, which means he is one who holds great responsibility and authority. Jesus arrives in the town of Capernaum, to be confronted by some Jewish elders. They approach him regarding a highly valued slave. He is the slave of the Centurion, and he is deathly ill. The elders plead for Jesus to come with them because this Roman soldier has a deep love for the Jewish nation – surprise, surprise. He even built their synagogue. An even greater surprise. So, Jesus goes with them. When Jesus is nearing the house, the centurion sends some friends to tell him not to trouble himself any further. They tell Jesus that he does not need to come to his house. He even told his friends to say, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. And that is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” His friends continued with these stunning words from the soldier, “I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this, and he does it. Say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was shocked! The Scripture says that when Jesus heard this, he was amazed! Then he turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel.”

His friends return home and find the servant completely healed.

Jesus was “amazed” at the centurion’s faith and understanding of God’s authority. Other ways to describe Jesus’ response is – he was astonished, marveled, surprised, in wonderment. It was such a surprise to experience this man with such humility, faith and understanding because not only was he a trained killing machine for the Roman emperor; this man was also in charge of one hundred killing machine soldiers. Yet, here we have the model of a man, while wielding great authority, humbling himself before a back-woods, itinerate unrecognized teacher with a motley crew of disciples. And he even goes so far as to declare himself unworthy to be in his presence.

Compare this to the amazement Jesus expresses in Mark chapter six in his own hometown. In Nazareth, on the Sabbath, Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach. Many were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. Yet others questioned his wisdom and his family heritage. They say, “Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us also? And they took offense at him.” The Scriptures state that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. Mark 6:6 states, “And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” Here again, we find Jesus “amazed”. He is astonished, marveled, surprised and in wonderment but not at amazing faith – but rather amazed at his friends and relatives lack of faith. Therefore, Jesus states, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

It is ironic, that while Jesus is traveling throughout Israel – while he is among his disciples, friends, relatives, hometown, religious and ill-religious and various nondescript crowds – that it would be a Roman warrior who would display the depth of spiritual acumen and understanding of Kingdom authority.

Tomorrow, may we also honor this ancient war veteran, who models being a warrior after God’s own heart! What a wonderful, amazing surprise and gift of faith!

May God bless ALL our Veterans!

God Bless You All!                                             Pastor Mark


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