Scriptures

Jesus Heals The Centurion’s Servant

Introduction

There are only two, possibly three people who were ever commended for their faith by Jesus, which incidentally were two, possibly three Gentiles, one or two Roman Centurions, Matthew 8:5-13 / Luke 7:1-10, and a Syro-Phoenician woman, Mark 7:24-30.

You may wonder why I wrote one, possibly two, Roman Centurions, the answer is simple, there are some who believe that the account in Matthew of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:5-13, is a totally different story from the one we find in Luke’s account, Luke 7:1-10. In other words, some believe that these are two accounts of two separate miracles.

Similarities

1. They both record that the event happened took place while Jesus was in Capernaum, Matthew 8:5 / Luke 7:1.

2. They both record the centurion, Matthew 8:5 / Luke 7:2.

3. They both record the centurion’s servant who was seriously ill, Matthew 8:6 / Luke 7:2.

4. The centurion’s unworthiness is recorded in both accounts, Mathew 8:8 / Luke 7:6-7.

5. The centurion recognises his own authority and the authority of Jesus in both account, Mathew 8:9 / Luke 7:8.

6. The centurion’s faith is recorded as great and Jesus’ response of amazement is recorded in both accounts, Matthew 8:10 / Luke 7:9-10.

Differences

1. The Greek words ‘pais’, translated ‘my servant’, Matthew 8:6, literally means ‘a boy’ or ‘the boy of me’, in other words, this could be referring to the centurion’s own son.

The Greek words, ‘doulos’, translated ‘my servant’, Luke 7:2, literally means ‘slave’ or ‘bond servant’, in other words, this could be referring to the centurion’s slave.

2. Jesus has just finished his sermon on a level place, Luke 6:17, this isn’t the same place as the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:1, as one is delivered on a level place and the other is delivered on a mount. These are two different sermons, delivered in two separated places, to two different audiences.

3. The main reason some think these are two different miracles is because Matthew records that the Centurion himself went to see Jesus, Matthew 8:5, while Luke records that the centurion sent some elders, Luke 7:3-5.

Answers in Genesis, gives the following reason for believing that they are the same account.

‘When looking at the two texts in total, Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, it seems quite likely that when Jesus came near to the centurion’s house, Luke 7:6, He was probably within shouting distance. Consequently, when Jesus was talking to the centurion’s friends, He either spoke loudly enough that the centurion could hear, and was thus addressing him directly, or he spoke to the friends as people who were direct mouthpieces for the centurion.

Luke 7:9 states that while talking to the centurion’s friends Jesus marvelled at him, i.e., the centurion, so it is quite possible that Jesus was talking to the friends of the centurion, but looking directly at and addressing the thoughts and intentions of the centurion. The centurion may have been mindful that Jesus would be considered ceremonially impure if He came into a Gentile’s house (as mentioned in a different context in Acts 10:28, and therefore stood outside the house, so that if Jesus persisted in coming to the centurion, He would not be defiled. Remember that on another later occasion, Matthew 16:23, Jesus addressed someone directly who was the controlling force behind another, even though they were not present, ‘get behind me Satan’ to Peter.’

MacKnight, in his commentary, gives the following reason for believing that they are not the same account.

‘There might have been two centurions. Both made the same speech to Jesus, one through his friends, and the other in person; but this circumstance may be accounted for. As the faith of the first centurion, who was a heathen, took its rise from the extraordinary cure wrought on the nobleman’s son, John 4:46-54, the faith of the second centurion might have taken its rise from the success of the first, which could not fail to be well known both in the town and in the country. To conclude that two centurions should have had, the one his son, the other his slave, cured in Capernaum with like circumstances, is no more improbable than that the temple should have been twice purged, the multitude twice fed, and the fishes twice caught by miracle, and with the same circumstances.’

In the grand scheme of things, it matters very little if they are or are not the same account.

It’s certainly possible that Matthew and Luke wrote about two different accounts, and it’s certainly possible that Jesus had a very similar situation arise in the same town with another centurion, or the same centurion with another servant.

We’re going to look at Luke’s account, where we read that the faith of the centurion is incredible. This man, who was a Gentile and a Roman soldier, should have been one of the last people to trust Jesus, but yet, we read about him putting all of his trust in Jesus.

The Centurion

‘When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. ‘The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.’ Luke 7:1-3

Capernaum was a large Galilean fishing village and busy trading centre and it appears that word got out that Jesus was in Capernaum because a Roman centurion sent Jewish elders to find Jesus. It’s possible the centurion didn’t come to Jesus himself because he would be classed as unclean, Acts 10:14 / Acts 10:28.

A centurion was a Roman officer who was in charge of one hundred men and there are a number of centurions mentioned in the Scriptures and most of them appear to have more than the Jews did, Matthew 27:54 / Acts 10:1 / Acts 27:3 / Acts 23:17-18 / Acts 27:43 / Acts 21:32. It appears that many of these Roman centurions showed more faith in God than the Jews did.

The Centurions Love For His Servant

Under normal circumstances if a slave died, they would simply replace them because they were seen as a piece of property. But notice his love for his servant, he is highly valued in his eyes and he’s about to die. He probably already spent lots of money with the locals doctors but he’s desperate and he comes to Jesus for help.

We don’t know exactly how he came to trust God, but no doubt his Jewish friends must have influenced him to some degree. When the Jewish leaders meet Jesus, they beg Him to come to heal a servant on behalf of the centurion.

The Centurion’s Love For God’s People

‘When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue. So Jesus went with them.’ Luke 7:4-6

Not only did he love his servant, but he also loves God’s people and even built a synagogue for them. A Gentile building a Jewish synagogue, who would have thought it. The Jews saw the Gentiles as unclean, but here, they are friends with a Gentile. It’s certainly possible the centurion used to be Jewish.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In this appears one of the differences in the two similar miracles. The first centurion was a heathen, this one was evidently some kind of proselyte to Judaism, for it is hard to believe that he would have built the Jews a synagogue unless he was a follower of Judaism. This officer enlisted the elders of the people to convey his request to the Lord, in the case in Matthew, the centurion himself went to Jesus and made the request.’

The synagogue he built was probably the same synagogue where Jesus was confronted by a demon while He was teaching, Mark 1:21-27, and probably the same synagogue where Jesus gave His sermon on the bread of life, John 6:35-59.

It appears that the centurion’s love for his servant and his love for the Jews, motivated Jesus to follow them.

The Centurion’s Unworthiness

‘He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ Luke 7:6-7

The centurion says that he was the least worthy of people in the eyes of the Jews. Instead of going on about his own worthiness or achievements, the centurion acknowledges Jesus as worthy and all-powerful.

He knows that Jesus has the power to speak things into being, just as He spoke the world into creation, Psalms 148:5 / Colossians 1:16.

The Centurion Recognises Authority

‘For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”. Luke 7:8

The centurion not only recognises his own unworthiness and how worthy Jesus is but he also recognises that Jesus has supreme authority.

Remember, this centurion had 100 soldiers under his command, he knows all about giving commands, he knows all about people obeying his commands.

He was wealthy enough to own at least one slave, he was wealthy enough to build a synagogue and so, like other in Jesus’ day, he may have tried to threaten Jesus, but he didn’t.

He believes that Jesus is who He says He is, and the centurion sees the authority he has as a gift from God, Daniel 2:21 / Romans 13:1, the One who is above all things, even above Roman officers.

Jesus’ Response

‘When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.’ Luke 7:9-10

When Jesus heard what the centurion said, he was amazed. Why? In all of Israel, the people who should have known better, the people who have read and heard all about God’s wondrous works, Jesus couldn’t find anyone with such great faith.

Notice that Jesus declared His amazement of the centurion’s faith to the crowd, just as He was amazed at the other centurion’s faith, Matthew 8:10, and just as He was amazed with the Syro-Phoenician woman’s faith, Matthew 15:28.

Remember the only other time Jesus was amazed in the Bible, was when He saw the lack of faith in his hometown, Mark 6:5-6.

Notice that Jesus didn’t even have to go to the servants house for the miracle to happen. Many so called ‘faith healers’ today tell us that they can’t heal anyone unless they come to their services, distance was no problem for Jesus.

Many so called ‘faith healers’ today claim if a person doesn’t get healed, it’s because of a lack of faith on the persona’s part, however, the Bible doesn’t even tell us if the servant had any faith.

When the disciples couldn’t drive out a demon from a young boy, Jesus didn’t say it was because the young boy didn’t have any faith or enough faith but they would do it because the disciples didn’t have enough faith, Matthew 17:19-20.

The Centurion’s Faith

Essentially, the Centurion had the same kind of faith as Abraham had, Genesis 15:6, because he believed Jesus and took Him at His word, It was accredited to him as righteousness. A Roman centurion, who wasn’t even a Jew, had more faith than the people who grew up with Jesus and saw Him live a perfect life.

Taylor, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This centurion placed Jesus on the throne of the universe, regarding him as the ruler of the world, and as having all things under his command. He saw him, not merely as Messiah, but as God Incarnate, and therein lay the superiority of his faith to that of any of the Israelites. Not even any of the apostles, at that time, had reached the lofty altitude on which this Gentile soldier stood.’

The centurion came to Jesus with humility, acknowledging His authority by faith, Hebrews 11:1. Jesus proved the centurion’s faith was real and proved His own Deity when He miraculously healed the servant. Jesus didn’t need to prove anything to anyone but He still chose to heal the centurion’s servant, who was highly valued and deeply loved.

As someone once said, ‘Faith honours God, and God honours faith!’

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Hebrews 11:6

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