Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Faith of the Centurion

Matthew 8

Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant

5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented."

7 And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."
8 The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour.

[This story is found in Matthew 8, and Luke 7 and represent two eyewitness accounts of these events. Matthew 8 is more of a summary just giving the significant parts of the story; who were the key players, what was said, and what happened as a result. Luke gives a little more detail, more of the how and why. Now some skeptics have looked at these accounts, and said there are enough differences to prove the Bible is not inspired and infallible as we believe. But I hope to show you why that is not the case, and as such not only teach this story of faith, but increase your confidence in the word of God, to strengthen your faith. To understand Luke's perspective I want to read his introduction to the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 1

 1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

So Luke is not only an eyewitness, but he is also aware of the other narratives written about the ministry of Jesus Christ. What will distinguish his work from the others will be the careful order, the chronology if you will. He will provide insights that others thought less significant.]

Luke 7

Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant

 1 Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.

[Some of the teachings Luke is referring to here are the beatitudes. Hard teachings like love your enemy, turn the other cheek, don't be quick to judge others, and remove the beam from your eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother's. He mentions also that there were many witnesses to these teachings, so that they are reliable. Jesus has disciples from Capernaum so it was a familiar place, a place he visited often, sort of a 2nd home.]

2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.

[A centurion is of course a Roman soldier, as officer commanding 100 men. But unlike many Roman officers this fellow does not have disdain for the Jews. It seems that he has friends among the Jews in Capernaum, and he chose some of the elders that he knew to help plead for Jesus to heal his sick servant. Matthew 8 tells us that this sickness included paralysis and torment so this was something serious like polio. Also here we have one of the supposed differences between Matthew and Luke. Luke 7 says "sent unto him" (apostello pros autos) apostello means set apart , Matthew 8 "came to Him" (pros-erchomai autos) erchomai means accompany or go with. So both gospels tell us others went to Jesus. Luke focuses on who those others were, and Matthew points out that the centurion also went with them, so there is no contradiction. What is clearly in both accounts is that this servant was important to the centurion, not just a piece of property, but more than likely a friend, and certainly also a Jew. And the centurion's compassion is such that he makes a great effort to reach out to the Jewish Rabbi called Jesus to come and heal his friend.]

4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 "for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue."

[As the elders are speaking with Jesus they tell him this centurion is a friend, and he used his authority with Rome to build them a synagogue for their worship. They say this in hope that Jesus will respond to their request.]

6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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."

[So Jesus agrees to go to the centurion's home, and the centurion apparently goes on ahead probably on a horse, while Jesus walks with the elders. And at some point the centurion realizes either who Jesus was, or that entering a gentiles house would render Jesus unclean for ritual worship. Maybe even his own servant told him it was asking too much for Jesus to enter his house. So feeling unworthy but still wanting his servant healed, the centurion has another idea. Send word to Jesus that if he would just say the word his servant could be healed, and Jesus would not have to enter the gentile's home. So Luke tells us friends brought the centurion's message, Matthew in summary fashion, just tells us what his words were, but the message is the same "Lord I, and my house are not worthy". He goes on to explain, that is why he didn't come alone in the beginning, but had the elders to ask for him, "But if you just say the word, my servant will be healed." The centurion understood authority, and he was convinced Jesus had the authority to heal, even with a word.]

9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

[Jesus was not easily impressed, but here was a gentile soldier, and Roman officer he had never met, that had full confidence in the power, authority, and word of the Lord. Jesus said this was greater faith than he had seen in all the people of Israel. Matthew tells us Jesus said - "as you have believed, so let it be done for you". Jew or gentile Jesus always responds to faith. While many believed after seeing miracles, this man believed before. And those who returned to the centurion's house found his servant healed.

Isaiah 49:6 says "I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
      That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth."

That day Jesus showed he was the light and salvation to all people, just as the prophet foretold.

Isn't it ironic that the story of one man's faith in the word of Jesus, is used by skeptics to tell people they should have no confidence in the Bible, God's word. As it was in the Garden of Eden, so it is today. Satan twists the words God has given, and deceives people to sin. But the children of God know his word, we read it, study it, and lead by his Spirit we use it to overcome the world, by faith, just like the centurion.]

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