If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Genesis 8, Matthew 8, Ezra 8, Acts 8. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Matthew 8:1-13.
Here in the first half of Matthew 8 we have several stories about Jesus healing people. Each of these stories serves a purpose, but the one that always gets me thinking is the story of the centurion’s servant in verses 5-13.
The first thing that stands out about this story is the man’s humility. A centurion is a Roman soldier who is in charge of 100 other Roman soldiers. That is a very powerful man. He was certainly feared and, probably, deeply respected by everyone who met him or knew him. Of all the people Jesus was willing to visit at home, he was by far the most prestigious. But, no, he didn't want Jesus to come to his home because “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (v. 8). He has sized up Jesus and looks to him with great respect and probably some fear.
The next impressive thing about this man is his faith. That’s what impressed Jesus (v. 10). Consider why Jesus said that he had the greatest faith: Not only does the Centurion believe that Jesus can heal his servant, but he believes that Jesus can do it remotely. “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” he told Jesus in verse 8. This is the only passage I can think of where Jesus healed someone remotely. Am I wrong about that? Leave a comment… Anyway, it was unprecedented (or at least highly unusual) for Jesus to heal this way.
What’s even more interesting, to me, is the centurion's reason for believing that Jesus can heal remotely. He told us that reason in verse 9: “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.” That’s it! That’s all he says. So what is his point? His point is that he understands where Jesus ranks in the spiritual hierarchy. A centurion does not accomplish things by showing up anywhere there is an issue. No, a centurion gets things done through the soldiers that report to him. If he wants something done, he DOESN’T do it himself; he orders one of his soldiers to do it. That's the only efficient and effective way to lead 100 people.
What the Centurion is implying about Jesus is that Jesus is so powerful and so high-ranking spiritually that he can issue orders and stuff will get done. Does he think that angels do it? Who knows and it doesn’t matter. What he knows is that Christ can accomplish anything he wants merely by issuing orders. He doesn’t even need to know the servant's name, or his GPS coordinates, or anything. He can just speak and it will happen.
Jesus found his faith amazing. “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” he said in verse 10. What was so great about his faith? In order for Jesus to heal someone remotely without knowing who the person is or where he resides, Jesus must be God. He must know all things to know who the sick servant is and where he is. He must have God's authority to be able to accomplish things by issuing commands. Since all creation is under his authority, Jesus can use his authority to accomplish anything he wants. What amazed Jesus was the centurion’s faith in who Jesus was, not that he believed Jesus could heal. Tons of people believed Jesus could heal, but they were so focused on getting better that the missed what his healing power revealed about Jesus. Christ remarked on the implications of this in verses 11-12. This Gentile had greater faith than any of Christ’s other followers. He had greater faith than any of the 12 apostles. He had greater faith than Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, James, and John. To Christ, he was an example of what was to come. The “many [who] will come from the east and the west” are Gentiles. They will feast with “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 11). But many Jewish people who knew Messiah was coming, who were waiting for his kingdom, who saw Christ’s miracles and heard his words “will be thrown outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Why? Because they failed to recognize and believe that in that human body named Jesus resided the almighty God.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.