HG055 Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-17
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
Jesus comes back down the mountain and heads back to His base of operations in Capernaum.
We are immediately introduced to a Gentile, someone who is not a Jew; a Centurion. Centurions were commonplace in the Roman Empire. They were equivalent to a modern-day army captain and commanded up to 80 soldiers not 100 as is supposed by the name. In these days people rarely got beyond what we call middle-aged but there is something extraordinary in the centurion’s concern for his servant. The Greek word translated “valued highly” means the servant was honoured by the centurion. He was not just a slave to him but he cared for him as ‘someone’ rather than the usual ‘nobody’. And he wanted him to be get well.
What I find surprising is not that he asked the Jewish elders to ask Jesus for help—but that the elders went immediately! What Jew would take a Gentile’s word and go. I am sure that the synagogue leaders were not normally running errands for anyone, especially one such as an occupying enemy Gentile soldier. They must of held him in high esteem. Well, we don’t have to guess for when they came to Jesus they declared their love for this man;
‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue’ ”. Of course, the Centurion could have hoodwinked them into thinking he was benevolent and bribing them to maintain peace but surely he would have only done the minimum, however, this Centurion did not just contribute to their building fund but he built the whole Synagogue!
Were they right, though, to say ‘he deserves’ to have Jesus heal his servant? They were making judgements about him which were the outward show rather than of the inward heart. He deserves it for he has done all these good works. There have been many through the ages till this present day who think that if they do something for the Church and/or contribute to its running they can earn Heaven. But, we know that such works cannot get you forgiveness or eternal life from God. The Jews here could only see the outside of the cup in just the same way they judged their own lives. But the thing that matters is the heart; what it is like is revealed in Scripture:
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Jesus though starts on His way with them and, by then, the Centurion had heard He was on the way and so he sent his friends to stop Him in His tracks. Now we are to see not the external show but the inward heart: “Clearly” says the Centurion, “you are much more than I and I sent the elders for I was not worthy to come myself and I certainly am not worthy for you to come to my house.”
Right here we see humility and the recognition of his own unworthiness.
The Centurion was completely conscious of his own sin and had realised who he was in comparison to Jesus. When we take into account what we are, not only in our outward show but those things that we never show anyone else; such as those things which we desire with corrupt thoughts, we can never count ourselves of ever being worthy. We sometimes judge ourselves with others who perhaps we loathe in society thinking we would and could not do the things they do but actually we have all had murder in our hearts at some time.
We have to have a healthy view of our own sinfulness but let us not forget we are also forgiven. And when we look at the world that is mired in sin let us understand that Jesus did come for the worthy but the unworthy:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The centurion now showed his faith through his words: “But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it”.
The centurion understood that Jesus can heal up close as much as He can heal from a distance.
From the beginning it is clear that he believed that Jesus could heal his servant which means that the Centurion knew who He was. He must be divine to do the things He does. What soldier would show reverence to a Jewish leader? The answer is that he knew that He was more than this and greater than him in every way. Jesus really was of the Divinity, something that Jesus said to Peter could only be revealed by His Father.
As a result his faith had produced a load of activity:
He had called the elders and being unworthy himself to go he sent a delegation of elders to Jesus. Jesus had approached his home. A second delegation of friends had met Jesus, expressing the centurion’s faith. But now the officer’s faith rested. He knew his own limitations and unworthiness, and he knew who Christ was. He believed that Christ could heal his servant with a word. His faith had found a resting place.
What is amazing is that Jesus was amazed. Such faith had not ever be found before. There is only one other time when Jesus was amazed found in:
6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
Amazed at the amount of faith and amazed at the lack of faith. Thankfully, in this case, today, the Centurion had amazing faith.
Why was Jesus so amazed? He was a Gentile with none of the Jewish history and understanding of the Scriptures. He was a soldier who had come to oppress and use his power. But above all these things was the absolute certainty of his faith.
"say the word, and my servant will be healed” Wow! There was zero doubt Jesus could do it. He knew that if Jesus used His power it was like his in that a word is all it takes to get things done. This is reminiscent of what it says in:
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Then what he believed happened. The servant was healed. And the faith of the Centurion pleased Jesus. Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus will not be let down for it is the one thing we know that pleases God; our faith. And those whom we pray for can be the recipient of answers to those prayers.
A little time later He arrived in a city called Nain. Today the city is a village but recent archaeological digs show it was a city in Roman times. The journey from Capernaum would have taken 1 or 2 days as it is about 25 miles south west and Jesus had his disciples and a large crowd with Him.
They arrived at the city gates when another large crowd was coming out of the city to the burial grounds. A widow was mourning for her son, her only son. There would have been great noise and a melee with music and wailing and professional mourners. But she was alone in the universe. She would have been a pitiful sight. Desperate, weeping and crying, knowing that when she got home it would be empty and she would be destitute but these things still do not compare with the feeling of loss that she would see her son no more. After all it just does not seem right that the children die before the parents.
No wonder the words of Jesus to her was one of trying to comfort the comfortless and speaking from His heart he said: “Don’t cry”. But Jesus’ words are never empty gestures they give hope. No sooner had He said these words He approached the open casket and touched it. For a Jew to do this was a no no. It would make him unclean. But Jesus knew that mercy triumphs over rules. Those carrying the body stopped. I expect that did not know what to do for this had never happened before.
And certainly what happened next had not happened before either, He spoke the word: “Young man, get up”. You know. The dead body cannot hear. Why? Because he was not there anymore. Yet, wherever this man was, he heard the voice of Jesus and he had to immediately obey. And suddenly he is awake. This must have been quite a bit disorienting for him. And Jesus, it says, gave him back to his mothers. Wow, again, right!
The story is very similar to one that happened in the day of Elijah when he, in 1 Kings 17 was sent to a widow . The similarities here are not by mistake.
Elijah to the widow at the city gate
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”
Felt compassion for her dire situation
20 Then he cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?”
and raised to life her only son
22 Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.
And in Jesus who gave him back to his mother is an explicit allusion to the Elijah narrative:
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!”
Afterwards, the widow recognised Elijah as God’s messenger
24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.”
and the people of Nain recognised Jesus as a great prophet like Elijah and acknowledged that God had visited his people.
Let us also note that throughout Scripture widows, as well as orphans, have a special place in God’s heart:
5 A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.
This should be reflected in us, who are God’s people, who have the mind of Christ.
Jesus had compassion on the Centurion to heal his servant in response to his faith and then Jesus had compassion on this widow who probably, in her state, had no such hope or faith but Jesus responded anyway. In both cases He spoke the word.
How is our faith? What do we believe Him for? Jesus who walked around on earth 2000 years ago is still moving among us by His Spirit. Has the age of miracles gone? Is there no comfort to bring to people like this Centurion? like this widow? The time for miracles is still here. God is at work. He has not left us alone. With a word Jesus healed the servant and with a word He raised the dead. With a word He can speak into your situation to bring healing, comfort, and joy. It is not until something happens that our faith is tested: pray to Him for what you want Him to do for someone else, pray to Him for what you need and do it with thankfulness. You need a miracle? Pray! For there is only one who can do it. Just speak the word, Lord!
Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain so much so it drove Him to action; to raise her son from the dead. And Jesus has had compassion upon us. This was because He knew that there are things worse than death; that is, to die in our sins without faith in Him. It drove Him to action. The ultimate response of His compassion was that whilst we were sinners that Christ died for us. He went to the cruel cross. His love for us was greater than anyone else could possible show. Oh friends, if He loves us this much why o why do we worry and be concerned. Surely He will do all that we ask of Him for He has already done more that we could possibly of thought to of asked Him.
How do we forget so easily the sacrifice of Jesus, the cross, the pain that He paid for our sins? Jesus gave us this memorial here today of bread and wine representing his body and blood to remind us of His great love for you and me. Not only to save us from our sins but to give us a place in His family and cause us to reign with Him. What a Saviour! For the joy set before Him He endured the shame of the cross and even gave thanks for it - and we are His joy and crown. Thank you, Jesus!
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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Exported from Logos Bible Software, 06:40 21 January 2018.