29 Jan 2022
The Gospel. St. Matthew viii. 1.
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
What is a Roman soldier coming to Jesus for? Why would he believe that Jesus could save his sick servant? What is in the makeup of a soldier that he would be confident that this could be effective? Well, he knew from his own military experience that the chain of command worked. His superiors could give him commands, and he and the men under him would do everything they could, even in danger of their lives, to fulfill them. He knows from that experience that Christ’s very words would command the healing without Jesus having actually to go to his house. He explains, ‘I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.’ He also knows from what he has heard that Jesus is capable of tremendous miracles even bringing the dead back to life! To perform such deeds, Jesus must surely command great powers in heaven and earth. We can see how this discipline of mind may eventually help recognize Jesus Christ as the true king in the ancient world and ultimately in our own. For us, the centurion is a reminder that, like true Christian soldiers, we must be ready to follow the Lord’s commands to demonstrate our love and devotion.
But we need also to remember that the centurion was from outside Israel. Regardless of that, Jesus responds to his request. If we find ourselves some distance from the Lord and His Church in these troublesome times, we should turn to Scripture and recognize that the prayers of the Samaritans and even the Roman centurion were received with blessings by our Lord. Jesus even seems to be surprised by the faith this man from outside of Israel as revealed by his statement. “I have not found”, Jesus says, “so great faith, no not in Israel”. The joy of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is seen in Jesus delight: this man has the seed of faith that will be a part of a great harvest of blessings! Our profession of faith can generate the same change in those whose lives we touch—both physically and through our prayers.
The centurion’s words are words of great faith and words that challenge us. Do we show such confidence in the power of our Lord? Do we recognize all that He does for us every day? The centurion’s words have a special meaning for us as a prayer at the time of receiving Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed”.
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Fr. David Curry
Christ Church in the Hall, January 22 AD 2006
The Healing of the Centurion's Servant
by Richard Chenevix Trench
Chapter 11 from The Miracles of our Lord
Bishop Ed Tompkins