THE UNEXPECTED BOW
Like a freight train coming to a stop to let a kitten cross the tracks, humility surprises us with its restraint.
The Centurion was a powerful man that everyone obeyed without question. It was a strange mystery when he approached Jesus with an unexpected bow to His Lordship.
Military organization gives us a powerful picture of authority. The Centurion was well acquainted with the nature and distribution of power. You do not have an army unless you have unity, communication and obedience.
As a powerful man in the Roman army, he knew that his word carried weight with those under him. Their obedience was fully expected. He was also humble enough to bow in obedience to those who ruled above him.
He speaks to Jesus with recognition that He is Lord and has the power to heal. The soldier confesses that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his house. This is very gutsy and extremely humble for a Centurion. They had an image of power to uphold and this conversation shows his vulnerability.
This enforcer surprises us with his humility, but also with his compassion. He genuinely cares about his slave with an incurable disease. This man defied the stereotypes attributed to his kind.
Jesus is not satisfied by our treating an enemy respectfully; he demands that we actually love that enemy. No one challenges our prejudices-and sometimes provokes our antagonism-more than a "good" member of a group that has unjustly treated people we love. This narrative challenges prejudice in a number of ways[i].