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The Miracles of Jesus Part 8: A Centurion’s Servant is Healed
Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10. Jesus has authority over illness and uses a Centurion’s faith to talk about Heaven and hell.
“And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.”
Matthew 8:5-13 NASB1995
“When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.”
Luke 7:1-10 NASB1995
Our next miracle expands the sphere of influence of Jesus and His signs and wonders to the Gentile world. Documented in Matthew 8 and Luke 7, this involves a distance healing of a servant (or slave) of a Roman Centurion. Jesus has returned to Capernaum and is approached by this man directly in the Matthew account; the Jewish elders (who admired this Centurion for his charity to the Jews) come on his behalf to Jesus in the Luke version. As the master of this person who was ill, the Centurion was well within his rights to allow that person to die or even kill a disabled slave and not care about their illness, but obviously this Centurion is different.
So who or what was a Roman Centurion? According to the Bible answer group Got Questions, a Centurion had the following attributes:
During the New Testament era, a Roman centurion was a professional military officer commanding a platoon of troops called a “century.” This could be anywhere from nearly one hundred to several hundred men. Each Roman legion was composed of nearly 5,000 men, divided into multiple cohorts, each cohort composed of multiple centuries. As a result, a legion could contain as many as sixty centurions. Their importance was based on seniority, with the senior centurion in a legion being in a position of great prestige. Some historians have compared the top-level centurions to medieval knights. Roman centurions represented the bridge between enlisted troops and commissioned officers, in much the same way as warrant officers do in the modern U.S. military.
Soldiers were appointed as centurions by virtue of their bravery, loyalty, character, and prowess in battle. Centurions were held to high standards of conduct and were expected to fight on the front lines with their men. In fact, the centurion’s designated place in formation was at the end of the very front row. As a result, Roman centurions were well paid and held in high esteem, and they experienced high rates of injury and death during war. The combination of wealth, power, and prestige made them influential in society.
Centurions were mentioned several times in the New Testament, almost always in a positive or good way, like this humble Centurion who approaches Jesus or the Centurion Cornelius; Cornelius and his whole family comes to belief when visited by Peter in Acts 10 after he and Peter both have important visions.
I happen to enjoy the current streaming Biblical series “The Chosen” (I know that’s controversial with many folks), because of the interesting stories that have been created about the disciples and other people of that era when Jesus walked the Earth. The series has a recurring character named Gaius, who is a Roman Centurion. He guarded the tax booth that Matthew occupied before being called as a disciple and guards Matthew’s home (and he knows and likes Matthew), he gets to know Peter, and he listens in amazement many times to the words of Jesus, obviously pondering those words. It is pretty apparent in the last episode of season 3 that Gaius is this very centurion, who asks for healing of a beloved servant (I’m not giving anything away as the series follows the Gospel accounts very closely when Jesus is involved).
The photo above is called the “Entrance to Heaven” from Unsplash, so I thought it was appropriate for this next part of this devotional. In the Matthew account, Jesus responds to the humble faith of the Centurion, who recognizes the ultimate authority of Jesus even at His word, marveling at the Centurion’s unquestioning faith and then speaking a key passage directed at the Jewish leaders who were in the vicinity. He openly declares that the Great Banquet in Heaven will have many from East and West sit down with the Patriarchs (telling us that all people who believe are in the Kingdom), but then says that many sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness because of their disbelief. Here’s what David Guzik from Enduring Word has to say about these passages in Matthew 8 (fairly lengthy excerpt, but I had to include some great references that Guzik includes and Guzik’s comments on Heaven):
Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham: The fact that such faith was present in a Gentile caused Jesus to announce that there would be Gentiles in the kingdom of heaven. They will even sit down to dinner with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
This was a radical idea to many of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day; they assumed that this great Messianic Banquet would have no Gentiles, and that all Jews would be there. Jesus corrected both mistaken ideas.
These few words of Jesus tell us a little something of what heaven is like.
It is a place of rest; we sit down in heaven.
It is a place of good company to sit with; we enjoy the friendship of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven.
It is a place with many people; Jesus said that many will come into heaven.
It is a place with people from all over the earth; from east and west they will come to heaven.
It is a certain place; Jesus said many will come, and when Jesus says it will happen, it will happen.
“But ye shall hear those loved voices again; ye shall hear those sweet voices once more, ye shall yet know that those whom ye loved have been loved by God. Would not that be a dreary heaven for us to inhabit, where we should be alike unknowing and unknown? I would not care to go to such a heaven as that. I believe that heaven is a fellowship of the saints, and that we shall know one another there.” (Charles Spurgeon)
But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness: As well, Jesus reminded his Jewish listeners that just as the Gentile’s racial identity was no automatic barrier to the kingdom, their racial identity was no guarantee of the kingdom. Though Jews were sons of the kingdom, they might end up in hell.
“There could hardly be a more radical statement of the change in God’s plan of salvation inaugurated by the mission of Jesus.” (R.T. France)
[John] Trapp on outer darkness: “Into a darkness beyond a darkness; into a dungeon beyond and beneath the prison.”
“What is it that the lost are doing? They are ‘weeping and gnashing their teeth.’ Do you gnash your teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth.” (Charles Spurgeon)
We see that Jesus was unafraid to speak of hell, and in fact did so more than any other in the Bible. “There are some ministers who never mention anything about hell. I heard of a minister who once said to his congregation – ‘If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ you will be sent to that place which it is not polite to mention.’ He ought not to have been allowed to preach again, I am sure, if he could not use plain words.” (Spurgeon)
The Kingdom of Heaven is in my thoughts quite often these days, as I grow in my faith and get older and closer to that glorious reunion of the Saints and being under the loving gaze of my Lord. I want to walk on that path! It is so fearful to know that so many will end up in the outer darkness. We all should be praying for the unreached billions in this world daily that they come to the Lord, become a disciple and have that beautiful promise. A great resource that identifies the lost is the Joshua Project (they also have an app with a daily group to pray for).
Adding to the list below, here is what I gleaned from this miracle:
Jesus came so that anyone who believes on His name is saved, Jew or Gentile. One of the most humble and devout persons that He encounters during His ministry is a Roman Centurion who cares and loves a servant who is sick or paralyzed. Jesus has instant authority over this illness, again eliminating space (distance) as a barrier to healing; He also marvels at this man’s faith.
My next devotional examines a miracle where Jesus heals a paralytic who is lowered through a roof by his friends to get near Jesus; He also forgives his sins, causing a commotion with the listeners. This miracle is documented in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord, may my faith be like the Centurion’s faith, who knew you had authority over the illness of his servant and humbly beseeched you to heal him and knew it would happen. May my path to your eternal kingdom be clearly in front of me and may I be grateful, always, for your abiding love. Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The Miracle List:
Water to wine: Jesus can overcome time, He creates beauty and abundance, and He shares in our joy.
Healing of the official’s son: Jesus can overcome space (distance), He does not need to see the person He heals, He has infinite power, but He also wants us to believe without signs and wonders.
Casting out of the evil spirit in the synagogue: The authority of Jesus is recognized by the demons and He triumphs over evil and silences it.
Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law: Jesus does not need crowds to demonstrate His power and He has compassion about the needs of one person, even if those needs seem smaller and only worthy of a couple of verses of scripture.
Healing and casting out demons of many in Capernaum (at Peter’s house): Jesus has compassion on all who come to Him and has no conditions that He places on giving them His mercy. He can heal instantly with a light touch and again demonstrates authority over demons and silences them.
Miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee: Jesus demonstrates His powers over His creation, He once again brings abundance, and He teaches humble fishermen that their task of bringing souls to Him is the most important thing they can do. They must follow Him.
Cleansing of the Leper: Jesus is willing to heal us, is compassionate towards those who suffer and can instantly cure a dreadful and feared disease. We must have faith when circumstances seem hopeless.
Healing of the Centurion’s Servant: Jesus came so that anyone who believes on His name is saved, Jew or Gentile. One of the most humble and devout persons that He encounters during His ministry is a Roman Centurion who cares and loves a servant who is sick or paralyzed. Jesus has instant authority over this illness, again eliminating space (distance) as a barrier to healing; He also marvels at this man’s faith.