Matthew 8:5-13

 

The story in Luke is slightly different than the one in Matthew but those discrepencies are not that unusual. When Matthew makes it sound as if the Centurion came to Jesus himself and not through representatives that was a very common. Anyone that spoke for someone in command  would be taken as if the person themselves were speaking. So for Matthew to write it one way and Luke another does not show inconsistency but just the style of writing of the writers.

The Centurion: This guy was put over a hundred men but he was still a warrior because he went with his men into battle. He was a gentile as well as a Roman soldier which means the  Jews would have hated him for both because they hated both Gentiles and Rome.

The gospel of Luke gives this account as Elders of the Church coming to Jesus on behalf of the Centurion and some say this was because he did not feel worthy himself to approach Jesus. We know he was a humble man because although he was a leader he was still not willing for Jesus to step into his house, which for a Jew would have meant they would be declared unclean. Maybe he realized that and did not want Jesus to defile Himself or maybe he just knew that he was not worthy for Jesus. A man who was used to giving orders and demanding things knew his place when he approached Jesus that Jesus was the one who was in authority over him.

We also see that from the Luke account that he helped build a Temple for them which means he was more than likely a God fearing Gentile. So this man was not your usual Centurion although he was still a warrior and a man to be feared he had humility,  which was not typical for a person in his position.

His Appeal: The Centurion knew he was not worthy for a man like Jesus to even listen let alone grant his request, yet because of the love for his slave, he knew Jesus was his only hope. This man knew that if anyone was considered unclean it was him and he had the same attitude toward himself that Peter did when approaching Jesus.

Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, (A)“Depart from me, for (B)I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Too many in Christian circles today are approaching Jesus arrogantly demanding that Jesus answer their prayers because they prayed by faith. This is not the attitude we see in this man or the Leper from the Gospel of Matthew. What we do see is people repeatedly humbling themselves before Jesus appealing to Him to meet their need.

I hear stories of people that say that we must pray specifically for God to hear and answer our prayers. The Centurion only asked for healing and was not specific for what exactly needed to be healed. It is part of some false teachings that have slipped into the church where things about prayer have been twisted for reasons I do not know.  I even heard a story about a Chinese pastor who prayed repeatedly about a bycycle for his ministry and when the Lord did not grant it, he asked Him why. The response, as the story goes, is that Jesus did not know what color or what type of bike he wanted so Jesus could not fulfill his request because he did not pray specifically about it. So Jesus did not know the best kind of bike you needed? Of course I believe this is part of the arrogance of where Christianity has gone as we come up with special prayer formulas in order for Jesus to listen to us. Jesus knows what we need and He even says so in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:7-8 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as (C)the Gentiles do, for (D)they think that they will be heard (E)for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, (F)for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

These verses are clear that Jesus knows what we need and we need to approach Him with confidence as well as humbleness. I hear these phrases of “See it, believe it and then receive it” and I wander what happened to “not my will but yours“? If we think we know better than God about what we need or what direction in life we should go, then we are arrogant. If, according to the story mentioned ealier, believe Jesus is rendered useless unless we pray specifically then we have forgotten that He did not need our specific prayers when He created the world.  Our prayers should always be said humbly because we have faith not in our prayers or in our faith but in the God who is sovereign. We are to be humble servants who seek and pray for His will to be done.

The unselfish request:

“Lord my servant is lying paralyzed at home.”

The Roman writer Varro would say the difference between a donkey, a cart and a servant is that a servant could talk. For this Centurion to even care for a slave showed his concern for human life. He did not have to care for this slave anymore than he had to care for a cart.

The other thing I hear in many prayers is about God blessing our lives. When is the last time you ask God to bless others? When is the last time you prayed for someone else to be blessed? Many of the teachings today seem to be focused on what God can do for us personally. Has Christianity really come down to our best life now? What happened to Heaven and the best life that is to come? Is not our story about how Jesus redeemed mankind back to God through the cross?

This Centurion was coming to Jesus on the behalf of his servant and not for his own needs. Whoever God has placed in our care we should be concerned about their well being and pray for them as much, as if not more so, than our own prayer request. The blessing we should be praying for is not for some of us to be wealthier or even healthier but a prayer that others will come to know Jesus Christ and be put in a right relationship with God. The reason for this is because Jesus mentions in these verses what happens to those who do not have a relationship with God.

The Warning:

Jesus makes it clear that just because you are a Jew does not guarantee that you will go to  Heaven. The Jewish people looked forward to the day when they would celebrate eternity sitting around the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as predicted in the book of Joel and Isaiah. Jesus makes it clear in his statement that many will come all over the world and be accepted in but those who think they deserve to be there will be thrown out. We do not realize what a harsh statement this was by Jesus and some even try to make what Jesus said a little less harsh by changing the words to mean that they will be wiped out for eternity. Jesus was talking about being banished from heaven for eternity and for eternity living in a place where there would be unbelievable regret and pain. So our main focus needs to be on the life to come and not this life.

The Healing:

Jesus commended the faith of the centurion and saw it as unbelievable because the centurion knew Jesus was one of authority. Even though Jesus did some miracles many people did not see Jesus and God as being one. This centurion knew Jesus and God were one and said so when he talked about where Jesus recieved His power from. Just like the Centurion recieved his power from Rome, he knew Jesus’ power came from God. The Centurion trusted Jesus because he trusted God and knew that Jesus had the power to change things if He chose to do so.

The Centurion had faith that Jesus could heal his slave but it was Jesus willingness to heal, not the mans faith that brought healing.  Just because you have faith does not mean that every healing will take place. We have to trust God for what we are asking for and realize that if healing’s do not occur that God has a plan and a purpose for it. Just like when the apostle Paul, who was a man of faith and a man who did miracles, did not receive healing only a promise from God that

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

No one that has been healed on this earth is continuing to live on this earth. Everyone eventually dies whether or not they receive healing now or not. Remember, our faith is not to be placed on whether or not miracles are done but on Jesus who is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

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