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An Unexpected Friend

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him…

Matthew 8:5a ESV

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they surprise us. People we have nothing in common with many times become our best friends. The chemistry of closeness is a mystery. Friendship seems to transcend culture, age and gender. I worked with two ladies, years ago, who very different. One was a Bulldog fan, while the other was a Gator. Sally was a liberal democrat, while Christi was a conservative republican. Christi chatted none-stop. Sally was quiet. For all their apparent differences they were joined at the hip, you rarely saw one without the other.

One of the strange friendships found in the Bible was between a Roman centurion and his servant in Matthew chapter 8. A centurion was a battle-hardened soldier, in command of one-hundred men. This man had seen much death and suffering, and yet, he did not allow that fact to empty his heart of love. The servant was probably a slave taken in one his campaigns who could have become bitter over his enslavement. Cast together by fate, the two had formed a bond. In fact, they became so close that when the servant became sick, his master went to Jesus in order to help him. Love certainly can make strange bed-fellows.

An exciting dynamic of friendships is the effect it has, not only on the two parties, but others as well. When the centurion came to Jesus it gave the Master an opportunity to display, before His disciples, the love He had toward the Gentiles. Jesus, in amazement at the faith of this Roman officer, remarked that He had not seen such faith, even in Israel. The rebuke was no doubt heard loud and clear to His Jewish audience. He was also teaching His men that those who enter the Kingdom must do so by faith. The idea that the sons of the Kingdom (being Jews) would be cast out into outer darkness, while many from the east and west would be included at the great feast must have set them all back on their heels.

But the greatest benefit of this friendship between soldier and slave is that the centurion came to Jesus as a result of it. The highest thing that can happen in any relationship is that it brings us face-to-face with the Son of God. Are you open to the possibility that the next person you meet might be someone who points you to Jesus in a way you never imagined? Perhaps your new friendship with someone this year will teach you something you didn’t know about the Savior. God has built us for relationships. It’s not just a perk of life; it’s life’s ultimate goal. The centurion could have been cold-hearted, but he was not. The servant could have allowed his bitterness toward the Romans to fester, but he didn’t. Make no excuses. It does not matter how many times people have hurt you. You need them and they need you and we all need Jesus.

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