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2) Matthew 8 - Jesus heals a centurion's servant
JESUS HEALS A CENTURION'S SERVANT - Matthew 8:5-13 (Parallel: Luke 7:1-10)

Matthew 8:5 - And when He was entered into Capernaum.  Luke 6:17-7:1 identifies the Sermon on the Mount as
immediately preceding Jesus' return to Capernaum.  Jesus had already moved to Capernaum earlier (John 2:12,
Matthew 4:13, Mark 2:1) and apparently shared a house there with His mother and brothers.  His sisters possibly
married lived at Nazareth  (Mark 6:1-5).  He lived with families of His Apostles, since many were of Bethsaida (see
Matthew 10:1).  But Capernaum (of which Bethsaida was but a small suburb) was Jesus' headquarters, "his own city"
 (Matthew 9:1, Mark 2), even though He could point to no fixed dwelling place (Matthew 8:20).

A centurion was an army officer roughly equivalent in rank to our captain.  This long-service, regular officers were
responsible for the discipline of 100 men, a "century".  These men were literally the moral fiber of the army, able to
command, having character that was unyielding in fight and reliable in peace-time operations.  This centurion was
possibly the captain of the century stationed in or near Capernaum for the maintenance of law and order on one of
the main East-West caravan routes from Egypt to Damascus.
Back to Matthew 8 Study Index Page

He had a more tender heart than was generally found in a mercenary occupying the land, for he occupied himself
with generous concern from the welfare of the Jews so often that their leaders could honestly affirm:  "He loves our
nation."  His goodwill had expressed itself intelligently when he paid for the building of the Capernaum synagogue.  
he understood the value of human life, be it slave or free.  Luke 7:2 informs us this "slave was dear to him."  He
possessed a humanity that authority had not spoiled and that accomplishments could not puff up.  Although he had
done much for the Jews that gave him real standing, he said not a word about it.

Luke states the man's actual social position, slave.  Here are some quotes that express how the ancient world
viewed slaves.
    Aristotle:  "There can be neither friendship nor justice towards inanimate things; indeed, not even towards a
                     horse or an ox, nor yet towards a slave as a slave.  For master and slave have nothing in common;
                     a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave."
    Gaius:  "We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over
                 the slave."
    Cato, on agriculture:  "Sell worn out ox, blemished cattle, blemished sheep, wool, hides, an old wagon, old
                                       tools, an old slave, a sickly slave and whatever else is superfluous."
    Peter Chrysologus:  "Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, in forgetfulness,
                                     after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice and law."

Matthew 8:8 - I am not worthy that thou should come under my roof.  This humble objection was brought to Jesus by
friends (Luke 7:6-8).  Whether he had expected Jesus to come to his house or not, he feels he must now confess
his unfitness, since He is actually coming to enter his house.  Either the centurion can now see the group
approaching his house, Jesus and the Jewish emissaries in the lead, or else perhaps a runner brought him the
joyful word of the success of the elders' intercession and Jesus' coming.  Now the centurion, aware of the Jewish
viewpoint concerning Gentile houses, must react decisively and rapidly to avert the possibility that Jesus
contaminate Himself by contact with Gentiles.
The Jewish elders (Luke 7:4) and the centurion were concerned; Jesus was a purely Jewish rabbi-prophet.  Neither
had glimpsed Jesus' universality, for they hoped He would set aside whatever anti-Gentile sentiments He might
possess, in order to respond to the centurion's need.

But only say the word and my servant shall be healed.  This is supreme confidence in the omnipotence of Jesus:  
Jesus' Word is to be the instrument by which the healing is to be effected.  The centurion's personal experience in
the military had taught him the axiom of authority:  a real authority needs only a word  (see Psalms 33:6-9.  contrast
John 4:49, John 11:21).  His physical presence is not needed to assure the carrying out of his wishes.

Matthew 8:9 - These expressions offered by the centurion from his own career illustrate but one point:  "I
understand the principal of authority.  YOU have but to give the command and the sickness will leave.
Matthew 8:10 - When Jesus heard, He marveled.  This verse shocks those who, having spent many hours arguing
the Deity of Jesus, have lost sight of His true humanity, for, how could Jesus marvel?  Does not marveling include
the element of surprise, and surprise requires the element of previous ignorance?  How is it possible for Jesus, who
could read the hearts of men as an open book (John 2:25), to be suddenly caught off guard by this sudden display
of strong, intelligent faith?

Vital faith always excited Jesus, probably because it was so rare.  This was a moment of great joy for Him.  He had
been looking for faith; but had not to that moment found any example so noteworthy.  Jesus is still looking for faith
(Luke 18:8), for He holds men responsible for what they trust as their real God.

Faith is a moral phenomenon for which the believer himself is responsible.