My sister Leah wrote this story, based on Luke 7:1-10, for a history project. I don’t know whether history projects are usually so powerful, but I wanted to share this with you. (Leah said I could.) I hope it blesses you like it did me.
The Faith of a Gentile
I sat on a stool by the bed of Agapetus. We had been companions since boyhood; he had served as my body slave for many years; he had been my friend; and now he was dying. The physician said there was nothing more he could do, no hope left.
I had done many great things in my life, but the thing I longed to do now was not in my power. I could not save Agapetus. I had begged him, ordered him, not to die, but all to no avail. So I sat beside him now, trying to keep his companionship for as long as possible, but knowing that death would soon take him from me. I realized I had not before appreciated Agapetus fully.
As I sat there contemplating these things, my wife entered. I was not aware of her presence until she laid a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and was momentarily jolted out of my misery when I saw her face, full of breathless excitement and urgency.
“What is it?” I asked, somewhat alarmed.
“Oh, Justinius,” she gasped, “such wonderful news! Jesus is in Capernaum!”
I stared at her blankly. “Jesus?”
“Yes, the carpenter from Nazareth. Surely you’ve heard of him, I know you have, and they say he can perform miracles, heal the sick, and raise the dead.”
“Don’t be foolish, Pomponia,” I began. “You know–”
But she interrupted me with an impatient little gesture. “It’s not foolishness, Justinius; it’s true, and you know it.”
I sighed. “I just don’t understand all these stories.”
“And what you don’t understand, you scorn,” she continued for me, “but that’s no way to go about it.”
“You’re right, I suppose.” I looked up at her. “What do you suggest, my dear?”
“Let us send some of the Jewish elders, Mattathias and Simeon perhaps, to Jesus and plead with him to come and heal Agapetus.”
“But, Pomponia,” I protested, “how can we ask the carpenter to do this for us, supposing he even could? He is a Jew.”
“He is Jesus,” she answered, “and he refuses no man who truly believes. You must only believe that he can heal Agapetus, and he will.”
I was silent, thinking it over. Pomponia waited, and finally I turned and looked straight into her eyes. “Do you believe he can?”
She looked back at me steadily. “Yes, I do.” The conviction in her voice assured me that she spoke the truth.
“Then send for Simeon and Mattathias and see if they will do this thing for us.”
She smiled at me, a truly glorious smile. “Of course they will do it, Justinius. Have you not built them a synagogue?” She kissed me quickly and left the room.
I still sat by Agapetus, but suddenly I felt happier than I had in days. For once again there was hope. I remembered Pomponia’s words, ‘you must only believe,’ and I did believe. Why, I was not sure. Just a few moments before I had not believed, but Pomponia’s faith would rub off on anyone. She believed Jesus could and would heal Agapetus, and what my wife believed so firmly, I believed too.
An hour later the city elders had come and gone, and all there was left to do was wait while they accomplished their mission. Pomponia sat with me in Agapetus’ room since I refused to leave him. Neither of us spoke much. We were absorbed in our own thoughts. Mine were centered on Jesus and my sudden strange belief in him.
While I sat there an odd feeling came over me. I felt as if Jesus were walking toward me, looking at me, and I knew I couldn’t bear to have him look at me. I was unworthy of his gaze. I turned to my wife in great distress.
“Pomponia, Jesus cannot come here!”
Her eyes widened wonderingly.
“We are not worthy to have him in our house. We are Gentiles,” I said.
She nodded in comprehension. “You are right. I didn’t think of that.”
“We must send someone to stop him,” I exclaimed, jumping to my feet.
“But how do you know he is coming yet?” Pomponia asked, her confusion evident. I was spared an explanation when a servant entered followed closely by my good friend, and fellow centurion, Gaius Marullias.
“Gaius,” I said, “what brings you here?” I had not expected him, and he had not waited to be announced by the servant. That was his way, never waiting to be announced.
“I was passing through the area and thought I’d give you a surprise visit, but it seems you would have been surprised anyway, without my coming.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“On my way here, I passed some kind of procession that appeared to be headed this way. It should be very nearly here by now.”
“I told you he was coming,” I said to Pomponia. “We must hurry and stop him.”
“Stop who?” Gaius asked. “Are you expecting someone?”
“Gaius,” I said, ignoring his questions, “would you do something for me?”
“Of course, Justin,” he answered, “you know I would. What is it?”
“I need you to go back to that procession, find the man named Jesus, and give him a message for me. Can you do that?”
“Certainly. What’s the message?”
I thought for a moment, getting the words in order. “This is what I say to him,” I told Gaius. “Listen carefully.
“Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
I turned to look out the window, but continued dictating my message.
“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
I stopped and glanced at Gaius. His face showed intense concentration.
“This is what you must say to Jesus,” I said.
He nodded. “I will do it and come back.” With that he turned and walked out, and in the silence that followed, I could hear his footsteps retreating up the hallway. I sank down on the stool and drew Pomponia to me.
“Do you think I did right?”
“Yes,” she answered, “you did right.”
And again we waited.
I do not know how much time passed, but suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed. It was as if someone or something else had entered, bringing peace with it. I looked at Agapetus feeling somehow that the change was associated with him, and as I watched, he opened his eyes and saw me, really saw me, without the haze of fever from past days. There was a radiance on his face like nothing I had ever seen. I stared in awe.
Then Agapetus reached a hand toward me and whispered, “Master.”
Behind me, Pomponia gasped. I clasped Agapetus’ extended hand. “You are well?” I said, half-afraid to believe he was healed.
“Master,” he answered, “I have seen God. I am well.”
I dropped to my knees beside the bed and wept for joy as I never remembered weeping before. But under the joy, there was a feeling of utter humbleness. I had felt, witnessed, the presence of Jesus.
There was the sound of running feet in the corridor, and the next moment Gaius burst into the room, flushed and panting.
“Well?” he said.
“Agapetus is healed,” I told him.
He grinned at me. “I knew he was, as soon as Jesus spoke.”
“What did He say?” I questioned eagerly.
“Not much.” Gaius frowned slightly. “I’ve never seen anyone like Him. I gave Him your message, and He listened intently. When I finished, He turned to those with Him and said, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel,’ and I knew your servant would be healed.”
I bowed my head, overwhelmed with the enormousness of Jesus’ statement. If I had not felt humbled before, I certainly would have then.
“Thank you for going, Gaius. I am eternally indebted to you.”
He shook his head. “No, I am the one indebted. If it hadn’t been for you, I would not have seen Jesus.”
I stood up and grasped Gaius by the shoulders.
“My friend, you have seen Him, I have felt Him, and Agapetus has been healed by Him. This man Jesus has the presence of a god in Him, the one true God, the God of the Jews, and a God worth following.”
Then all four of us, Gaius, Pomponia, Agapetus, healed of all sickness, and myself, knelt and thanked God for the blessing of faith He had given us that day.
I believed in Jesus, and the God He served, and my life has not been the same since I witnessed the power of the living God.
Do you believe in Jesus? He alone can make you well.