Summary: This looks at Jesus healing the Centurion’s Servant and the lessons we can learn about people who need Jesus.
Jesus and his little band of followers had made their way down the hill and were arriving in Capernaum discussing some of the more radical concepts that Jesus had talked about earlier that morning. What had he meant when he said this? Did he really mean it when he said that? And Jesus just smiled as he listened to them processing and debating all that he had told them about the Kingdom of God.
And then they froze, coming toward them was a group of Roman Soldiers and all too often when the occupiers came out to meet those who were occupied it could only mean trouble. You know that sinking feeling you get when you crest a hill on the highway and there is a cruiser parked in the median? Even if you weren’t speeding, and I’m assuming that none of us here would be speeding, you automatically take your foot off the gas and pray that you weren’t inadvertently speeding. I call it black and white fever.
That’s not a new feeling, and I’m sure as the soldiers got closer the guys were asking themselves if it was it something they said? Something they had done? Maybe if they just ignored the soldiers they would pass by and not bother them.
But no such luck, the military men were heading right for them, obviously with a purpose of some kind that needed to be played out. But it wasn’t anything like they expected, the man in charge stepped up to them but instead of having the belligerent attitude that they were so accustomed to seeing in their occupiers the man’s face was pleading not commanding.
And as he came to Jesus the story came out, apparently the man’s servant was extremely ill and suffering but it’s interesting to note here that he did not come requesting that Jesus heal his servant, as a matter of fact he makes no request at all, he just tells Jesus what’s wrong. Matthew 8:6 “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” That’s it, doesn’t offer Jesus any suggestions on what he should do. Doesn’t make any demands, or any requests, instead he just tells him what the problem is. We could probably learn a lot from that one observation.
We don’t know what he expected Jesus to do if he expected Jesus to do anything. Maybe he was just looking for some sympathy or for some assurance that God was in control and that everything would work out. Instead if we continue along in our story Jesus responds by saying Matthew 8:7 Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
Sounds reasonable, the man was sick and Jesus was obviously able to do something and so he offered to do what he could. Now that might not seem like a big deal to us but it was actually enormous. As we progress in the story we discover that the man wasn’t a Jew he was a gentile which meant that according to Jewish law there would be certain restrictions on any interactions that Jesus might have with him. Under Jewish law Jesus would have been forbidden to enter the home of a gentile.
And yet there was no hesitation in Jesus at all. If your servant is sick then let’s go and take care of it. Seems simple enough. But the Soldier responds by saying Matthew 8:8-10 But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
Wow, gotta love that. Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. And his comments about the faith of the Roman soldier opens the door of the Kingdom of God to not only the Jews but also to Gentiles, that would be us. And as a bonus we read in Matthew 8:13 Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.
So just a little background here. The Roman Soldier is identified here as a Roman Officer but in the original language he is more accurately called a Centurion. And it was the Centurions who were the back bone of the Roman Army. The Roman army was divided into large groups called a Legion and it contained 6000 men, but each legion was made up of 60 smaller divisions which were called Centuries because they contained 100 men. And the person in charge of each century was called a centurion and they would be the equivalent of our Regimental Sergeant Major. These guys were long serving members of the army who were in charge of discipline. Greek Historian Polybius, described what a centurion should be: “They must not be so much venturesome seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable; they ought not to be over-anxious to rush into the fight, but when hard pressed, they must be ready to hold their ground, and die at their posts.”