Luke 7:1-10; Matthew 8:5-13; John 4:46b-54 JESUS HEALS THE CENTURIAN'S SERVANT/SON
A centurion, a Roman officer, an official (John 4:46b) came to Jesus appealing to Him for his servant (in John it is his son) who was paralyzed and suffering at home, at the point of death (John 4:47). Jesus's simple words, "I will come and heal him," are a comfort to read. The centurion replied that he was not worthy to have Jesus in his house and that Jesus had the authority over this suffering from where his current location (about 20 miles distance) by use of word alone. No physical touch or presence is necessary. The centurion indicates he is familiar with authority, the right to give orders and make things happen by only speaking the words. Jesus "marveled" at the man's faith! I want Jesus to marvel at my faith! [Mark 6:6, "He marveled because of their unbelief."] Jesus spoke, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed” and that very moment the servant was healed. The servant learned of this when he returned home, but he must have had faith to leave Jesus to make the long journey home. I wonder what was going through his mind that entire trip back. I am sure he made his way as fast as he could.
With the authority the centurion already had, it may have been an embarrassment for him to submit to the authority of another. He may have been expected by those under him to keep his pride, have no doubt in his own abilities, utilize his money, and make his own orders with his own powers to fix the problem. The Jews under Roman occupation hated the Roman soldiers, so to submit to a Jew might risk mockery. In society, once you give up authority, you lose the respect of others. The centurion gave up his authority under man and earned the respect of Jesus!
I like the use of the word "appeal" for intercessory prayer (prayer for another). I can pray, "Lord, I appeal to you for … " To appeal is to make a serious or urgent request, typically in public. We think of the "appeals court" that can turn over the decision of lower authority.
In Matthew 8:11,12, Jesus reminds the centurion and all that are listening that people will come from all over, indicating that the Kingdom of God is for all races (gentiles), and yet the sons, the Jews, will be thrown into the outer darkness. Just because they are a Jew does not guarantee them the Kingdom of heaven.
Luke 7:2 mentions that the servant is highly valued to the centurion. I wonder, was he valued for his skills and abilities or did the centurion love him? Normally if a servant/slave became ill, the Roman officer has the authority to kill him, just as one might kill an injured horse to save it from misery.
Luke's version is different in that the centurion did not come himself, but rather sent elders of the Jews as messengers. Communicating with a messenger was considered the same as communicating with the one who had sent him. The Jews indicate that the centurion is worthy because he loves the Jewish nation and helped build the synagogue. It is interesting to ponder what they felt made someone worthy because I am certain none of us are worthy. That is why we need Jesus. In Luke's writing, Jesus begins to travel to the centurion's home, which shows his willingness to disregard the customs of the Jews not to associate with the Romans by entering their homes. It turns out the Jews were not really speaking for the centurion because the centurion sends friends to meet Jesus on the road and to tell Jesus he is not worthy.
John 4:48, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." Jesus shows the centurion that we do not need to see something dramatic to believe. Jesus has no need to impress us. Church does not need to be stirring or theatrical or exciting. We do not need to feel good to know of our faith. Jesus often works through the ordinary, normal, and unexciting means. In this way, ironically, He is more impressive.
John 4:53, "he himself believed, and all his household." We see that the centurion had faith that Jesus would heal, but now he had 100% faith in Jesus. His faith grew. What we do can be utilized by Jesus to reach others. In this case, the centurions faith rubbed off on his household.
Jesus uses many ways to bring people to Himself. Why did the royal official come to Jesus? What was his attitude? He came because of a family tragedy. He was desperate.