At some level, faith is perfectly normal. Even Gentiles have no excuse for not believing: “What can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them” (Rom 1:19). This is why in Charles Peguy’s work,The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, faith leaves God disaffected: “Faith doesn’t surprise me,” God says. “It’s not surprising.” Apart from this scene with the centurion, in fact, the only time Jesus is “amazed” in the Gospels is at Nazareth when he faces boggling unbelief: “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk 6:6).
What then is so special about the centurion? Mechtilde of Hackeborn once heard these words: “I tell you the truth that I am very pleased when men trustingly expect great things from me.” The centurion expects great things—and as a pagan he expects more than he deserves. This is what fills Jesus with joy. The Gentile trusts in God’s boundless goodness. He thus becomes the Son’s first taste of his unbounded universal mission. Jesus saves all by faith, apart from works of the Law. This includes us. We too make Christ wonder in gladness by expecting of him much more than we deserve: “Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word…”