Matthew 8:5 begins this incredible story of the faith of the Centurion. It begins like this:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” – Matthew 8:5 – 7
Jesus, still in Galilee, in northern Israel, returns to His adopted hometown of Capernaum on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. He is approached by a Roman centurion. A centurion was an officer in charge of groups ranging from one hundred to several hundred soldiers; this was a powerful position in the Roman army. The Romans, of course, were occupying Israel as a conquered nation. Rome did not station soldiers in every town, necessarily, but Capernaum’s location gave it some importance in the region.
It is significant that such a powerful person would come to Jesus with a request for help. In Luke’s report on this exchange (Luke 7:1–10), the centurion does not come to see Jesus himself. Instead, he sends respected Jewish elders on his behalf. Matthew often shortens his accounts, and he leaves out the fact that the centurion spoke to Jesus through others.
The centurion calls Jesus “Lord,” meaning either that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah or indicating a respectful “sir.” In either case, he is absolutely convinced that Jesus could heal his servant. Even more impressive is his recognition that Jesus’ power to command the body to heal is just as potent as the centurion’s power to command his own men (Matthew 8:8–9). It is this faith that Jesus will find so remarkable, especially coming from one who is not an Israelite.
Jesus does not hesitate. He says He will come and heal the servant. Some translations take the Greek phrasing here as a question where Jesus asks if He should come and heal the servant. Luke tells us that Jesus set out in the direction of the centurion’s house.
Once again, Jesus seems willing to break from Jewish cultural conventions. Jewish people in that era had extended commands not to participate in certain activities with Gentiles. That even included not ever entering a Gentile person’s home. Jesus seems unconcerned with following this standard. Out of respect for Jesus, and in personal humility, it seems the Roman centurion had no intention of asking such a thing of Christ (Matthew 8:8)
One of the key facts in this account is that Jesus didn’t hesitate to go and heal this man. He actually started to head over to the guys house….yet the centurion stops him. But….I can’t help but get stuck on this immediate willingness on Jesus’ part to go and help.
Once again, he’s setting the example for all of us. How willing and ready are we to go? How willing and ready are we to immediately leave it all and go to someone’s aid?
Makes you think doesn’t it….