Summary: A marvellous faith was not the only virtue possessed by the Centurion whose slave was healed by Christ.
Jesus has just spent the better portion of His day healing the multitudes that flocked to him and, on a plain in the countryside near Capernaum, He had delivered a long sermon.
We find our chapter beginning with the close of that sermon. Verse 1, “He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.”
We have seen that Jesus had made the fishing village of Capernaum His home-base, if you will. This is the place He stays at while ministering in Galilee.
Verse 3 tells us that, upon Jesus’ arrival in Capernaum, He was met by “some Jewish elders.” Now, the term “elders” does not refer to a group of senior citizens. Luke is referring to the religious leaders of the local synagogue. (The office of elder or overseer in the Church is patterned after the office of elder in the old Jewish synagogue.)
These “Jewish elders” of the Capernaum synagogue are on a mission as they confront Jesus. They have been sent to Jesus to persuade Him to perform an act of compassion. They want Jesus to save the life of a person who is near death.
We have here the beginning of a marvelous tale.
You see, the story begins with “a certain centurion.” A centurion is a military officer of the Roman Army, corresponding to our captain. All of Palestine - including Galilee and Judea - was under Roman military government at this time. The Roman headquarters was in Caesarea but there were bands of soldiers stationed in every town of significant size. The reason why there were soldiers stationed throughout the cities is to maintain Roman control. To make sure that the Jews would not rebel.
Our centurion probably commanded a company of soldiers here at Capernaum or just outside Capernaum on the road to the nearby city of Tiberius, where Herod Antipas had his palace.
This centurion owned at least one slave. His slave “was sick and about to die.” Matthew 8:6 tells us that the slave was “lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain."
Now according to Roman law, a master had complete control of the life of their slave. A slave-owner had the right to kill his slave. Moreover, it was pretty much expected that a slave master would kill his slave if the slave became seriously ill or injured to the point where the slave could not perform their responsibilities. A slave was of no more value than a mule or an ox.
But, the centurion in our story was unusual.
Our centurion shows himself to be different than the average Roman in his attitude toward his slave. It says that this slave “was highly regarded” by the master. The Greek word rendered “highly regarded” means to be held in honor, to be prized, to be considered precious or dear.” This word is used, in 1 Peter 2:4, to describe how precious the Father considers Jesus.
Even though he was a slave, he was dear to the centurion. Even though there was a huge gap in social status, the centurion held his slave in honor.
As Christians, Philippians 2:3 directs us to be different than the average individual. It says, “with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”
I want you to notice that it does not say regard others as you regard yourself. See others as your equal. You know, if we did that alone, there would be a great change in our behavior. If we considered the rights and needs of others as we consider our own, there would be a social revolution in this world. The problems in this world stem from the fact that we do not have the same consideration for others as we do for ourselves or demand that others have for us.
Paul tells the Christian to not just have the same consideration toward others as you do yourself but, he says consider others more highly than yourselves. The Greek means to think of others as more superior to yourself, better than yourself, surpassing yourself!
What does that mean in tangible terms? In conduct? Romans 12:10 answers that: “give preference to one another in honor.” That is, we defer to the rights and needs of others before our own. They come first. We defer to them. We treat them as if they were of higher rank or status.
In the kingdom of Christ, our greatness is measured by how willing we are to humble ourselves and exalt others in the way we treat them and serve them. Mark 10:43-45, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."