Healing the Centurion's Servant (Part 1)
After Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "great multitudes followed Him" (Matt. 8:1). The multitudes were not wearied by His sermon, and so they continue to follow Him. They had just heard Him teach with great authority, in contrast to the religious leaders of that day. Perhaps the multitude wondered if He would exemplify His teachings in His actions. Would He demand action of them but not of Himself? They would soon learn that Jesus practiced what He preached; He was no hypocrite (cf. Matt. 23:13ff).

Matthew 8:5-13 reads - "Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.' And Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' The centurion answered and said, 'Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority; having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it.' When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.' And his servant was healed that same hour."

A centurion was a military officer who had authority over one hundred soldiers. The context indicates that this man was a Gentile (cf. 8:10). It is unknown whether or not he was employed by Herod Antipas or as an officer in the Roman army.

According to Luke's account, this centurion had a servant who "was dear to him" (7:2). This type of close relationship was likely uncommon in these circumstances. At first glance, it appears that the accounts of Matthew and Luke conflict. Matthew affirmed that the centurion came to Jesus, but Luke recorded that the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus. Is this a contradiction? No, since it is reasonable to suggest that the centurion stayed home and Matthew merely expressed what he did by means of the elders. In like manner, we are told that Christ preached peace to the Gentiles (Eph. 2:17). However, we know that He did so by means of the apostles.

Luke also mentions in 7:3 that the centurion had "heard about Jesus". Could he have heard about the Lord from the nobleman of John 4:46ff?

From the descriptions given, the servant was near to death being "paralyzed" and "dreadfully tormented" (Matt. 8:6). The elders pleaded their case before Jesus by telling Him that this centurion was "deserving" of having his servant healed (Luke 7:4,5). They believed this to be the case because he was a lover of the Jewish nation and had built a synagogue for them. Jesus was willing to come and heal the servant (Matt. 8:7).

A little while later, the centurion sent some friends to deliver this message to Jesus - "I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof" (Luke 7:6). Evidently, he had not sent elders of the Jews to Jesus with the intention of them declaring his worthiness, since he denies such at this time. No doubt the elders wanted to repay him for his kindness in building the synagogue, and they, of their own accord, decided to share this information with Jesus (information they believed would help convince Him to come and heal the servant). This centurion is certainly not unworthy in materialistic terms. Likely he considered himself unworthy since he was a Gentile. The Jews had strict traditions regarding contact with Gentiles, and this centurion, as a lover of Israel, would certainly be familiar with that fact. Perhaps he desired to spare Jesus any embarrassment relating to this tradition.

We will continue studying this narrative tomorrow.