After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studied the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. In our previous post on this miracle, we ventured into harmonizing the two passages, and informed my readers that this post will continue with the format we have used previously.
With that said, let’s return to the passages of the centurions servant.
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And 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.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and 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.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
We resolved a seeming problem with how this miracle harmonized in our last post. With this post we will return to our common format to respond to this mighty work of Christ with a dirty Roman, and religious Jews!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Neither text records the miracle actually occurring. This is a moot point, since we can assume the slave recovered as many others did upon hearing and obeying the Lord’s voice. When the slave recovered, we may safely imagine that at least the house of the centurion would have witnessed it.
The audience for the discussion is much more interesting! Were crowds following the Master as He entered the city of Capernaum? If we follow Matthews gospel as chronological, (which at times does not provide this luxury) we may understand that large crowds were following Him after His sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 8:1)
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
As mentioned in many of our previous posts, the motivation, the exact reason for a specific miracle may be difficult to determine. With this miracle, the teaching that pours out from the Master’s lips provides reason enough. Of course, the preliminary motivating factor for this miracle includes faith. A Roman centurion’s faith!
Initially, I want to assign the compassion of the Lord as the reason for the miracle, in response to the centurions faith. This is definitely an underlying motivation. Yet, there seems to be a deeper reason within this discussion between the centurion (and those representing him) and the Master Himself. Matthew especially labors to explain the contradictions of what occurred to produce this discourse, and the resultant surprising outcomes! Matthew, the apostle who wrote specifically for the Jewish people, provides a message to fellow readers of the gospel, comparing the faith of a Jewish religious population with a “dirty gentile”.
What was the message for the original audience?
If we accept that the original audience included the great crowd that followed Him, we must remember that this crowd consisted of religious Jews, primarily from the region surrounding Capernaum, a city that later would become the topic of condemnation from the Master.
Jesus introduces His disappointment with the occupants of the region, comparing them with a “dirty gentile”. He often refers to those outside of the nation of Israel as examples of a faith that should have been exemplified by God’s people. (Old Testament examples of non Israeli faith include Caleb, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah, the widow of Zarapeth, Naaman, the Ninevites and Nebuchadnezzar.)
Referring to the faith of “dirty gentiles”, the Master intended to bring a realization to those who would listen, and also to shame those of the chosen nation who refused to hear. Jesus sought to break down religious pride, to even shock the religious elite into a repentance bringing true faith.
This miracle provides an opportunity for the Lord to teach those who thought they were in good standing that they may not be! No one in Israel had the faith of this Roman – a “dirty gentile”, need I remind you. No one!
This response of the Lord comes directly after the centurion speaks of authority. The centurion never mentions the term faith, only speaking of authority! This is instructive, since it is the Lord who equates authority and faith. Turns out, authority and faith go hand in hand. All faith is associated with authority, but true living faith has to be associated with the true living One of all authority. Faith in a false God, whatever that may be, is faith, but based on a non-authority.
Consider your choices during the last two years, during which we had many “authorities” telling each of us to perform certain duties. Where did you turn to for direction, when multiple voices were demanding your allegiance? Which authority did you look to for direction?
What is the message for us today?
This centurion who commands Roman soldiers compares his authority over men with the Lord’s authority over sickness, and this comparison provides the topic of faith in the Lord’s response. This centurions authority over his soldiers was used by the Master Teacher to set an an example of the One who has the greater authority.
But notice that the gospels speak of the centurion’s “highly valued” slave. This is also somewhat surprising for in the first century, slaves were simply pieces of property, even tools for the owner to do with as he pleased. When Luke refers to the slave as “highly valued” by the centurion, he used a Greek word that may also be translated as precious, dear, even honored. It appears Luke may be telling us that the slave was more than merely utilitarian to the centurion. He loved this slave.
In my imagination, this is a great mini-gospel within the story.
- The centurion (as the Father) acted out of love for a sick slave (us).
- The centurion (as the Father) loved the nation of Israel.
- The centurion (as the Father) was beyond the religious life of the nation of Israel, yet ruled over the nation.
- The centurion (as the Father) made multiple efforts to “cure” the slave, using various methods.
- The centurion (as the Father) humbled himself in order to attain his goal.
In turn, the nation despised him.
There are multiple gospel parallels within this accounting of the centurion. Take a few moments to consider if I may have missed any.
Or better yet, consider who you identify with? The slave, the religious, or the dirty gentile?
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