Matthew 8:5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
Centurions were Roman officers who commanded about a hundred soldiers. They were the backbone of the military, and were so highly valued that their pay could be several times what an ordinary soldier earned. This man was sympathetic to Judaism, and even helped pay for a synagogue (Luke 7:5). He was also a man of compassion.
Lord, he said, my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly (Matthew 8:6). This man was not interceding for his wife or child, but for his servant. With all the battle and bloodshed he had known, we might expect him to be more calloused. But when he saw his servant’s misery, he was compelled to do what he could.
Some have argued that God does not exist because a good God would not allow pain. But without pain, there can be no compassion, and we’d never know that part of God’s character. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him (Psalm 103:3), wrote David.
An American soldier was wounded in battle, and when the nurse washed the dirt from his face, she saw he was still a boy. Moved by compassion, she began to weep, and the tears rolled off her face onto his lips. He opened his eyes and was so deeply touched that he called it the most tender moment of his life. Through giving and receiving compassion, we experience divine compassion.
Matthew 8:7 Jesus said to him, Shall I come and heal him?
Gentile homes were considered unclean by Jews, so Jesus’ offer must have shocked those around him—including this centurion. For a rising Rabbi to tarnish his reputation by going to a Gentile’s home was unheard of. But Jesus cared more about the needs of others than his own reputation. Above all, he wanted to please his heavenly Father.
Likewise, we will never follow Christ unless we are more concerned for God’s approval, than for the applause of those around us. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44), said Jesus. If we care what others think, more than what God thinks, we will never follow Jesus Christ.
Matthew 8:8 The centurion replied, Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
The centurion understood how authority works. If he needed something done twenty miles away, he could give the command and it would be done. All authority belonged to the emperor, and because he was under the emperor’s authority, distance made no difference. Since Jesus was under God’s authority, the centurion knew that Jesus could give the command and it would be done.
We don’t understand authority as well as the centurion, because our culture is democratic, and we prefer to vote. And if we do not get our way, we simply bend the rules, or break them. We even do this with God.
But Jesus submitted to God perfectly, so he had great authority. [H]e taught as one who had authority (Matthew 7:29). He had authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). He had authority to judge (John 5:27). He had authority over all people (John 17:2). And, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18), he said. The centurion knew that Jesus had authority to make things happen because Jesus was submitted to God.
Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
Most of the people present were Israelites, so this was a strong rebuke. They had the Bible, the temple, and other spiritual benefits, but they still lacked faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6), says Hebrews. All the religion in the world will not please God if we do not have genuine faith.
Matthew 8:11-12 [M]any will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Jews were subjects of the kingdom in the sense that they believed the Bible, went to synagogue, and considered themselves to be God’s people. But unless they believed in God’s Messiah, they would be thrown outside in the age to come. You cannot be part of God’s eternal kingdom, if you do not believe in God’s eternal king.
Matthew 8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would. And his servant was healed at that moment.
We do not know how many people Jesus healed, since most of his miracles were not recorded (John 21:25). But an important purpose of his miracles was to demonstrate that he was the Promised One. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy (Isaiah 35:5-6), wrote Isaiah. But if Jesus healed so many back then, why doesn’t he heal more today?
It is not an easy question, but we seem to be living between the times. Jesus healed many when he came the first time, and he will heal many more when he returns. Now we are living between the times, when some are healed and some are not. The kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ, but it will not come in its fullness until Jesus Christ returns. Then our prayers will be answered before we even ask. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:24), said God.
Reflection and Review
What are some benefits of suffering?
Should we care what other people think?
Why doesn’t Jesus heal everyone?