4th Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 8:5-13) – short remarks
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 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. “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.” 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! …  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 is an important Gospel Lesson about true authority, power and faith.
The centurion was a commander over about 80 soldiers. This centurion was part of the Roman army which had conquered and occupied the Jewish homeland. He commanded 80 Roman soldiers.
The centurion requesting Jesus to heal his servant may have represented some threat to Jesus himself. The centurion could rightfully order Jesus to show up at the centurion’s home. The centurion might have easily demanded that Jesus heal his servant under penalty of death if Jesus failed.
However, the centurion humbly recognizes his helplessness before the disease, respects authority and is extremely respectful to Jesus, addressing him as “lord” (Greek: kyrios. Could mean “sir”). The centurion pays respect to the authority to whom the respect belongs. He understands the concept of authority being aware that as a soldier he is both, subject to the higher military authority, and is himself authority to others.
Jesus tells him that he will come to his home. Nevertheless, he does so only to force an even clearer confession and greater faith from the centurion. The centurion then confesses his faith not only in Jesus’ authority over the disease, but also his unworthiness for Jesus to come under his roof. Thus, the centurion gives full recognition to Jesus’ authority, and expresses faith that Jesus, rather than powerful Roman Empire, has sovereignty over disease which he can order by a word, just as easily as the centurion orders about slaves and servants!
Such great faith, Jesus said, he could not find, not even in Israel. It is not recorded in the Gospels that Jesus marveled at many things, but he did marvel at the centurion’s faith.
In the end of the story it is Jesus who commands the centurion: “Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And the centurion obeys, not doubting that Jesus has the power even over the disease.
In today’s Gospel reading, we are faced with the following questions: Wherein lay the centurion’s power and authority? In Caesar whom he served, or in God in whom he believed? In his office of centurion, or in his faith in God?
The Gospel makes it clear that the centurion’s faith was in God whose word has power over disease. The centurion believed, and his faith bore fruit.