Matthew 8:5-13 (NIV) When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”
Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
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. 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.”
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many 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.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
This centurion did show an amazing level of faith in Jesus, especially considering that He was a gentile, albeit a God-fearer who loved the Jewish people. (Cf. Luke 7:4-5.)
His first act of faith was in asking Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant in the first place. You don’t ask for such a powerful miracle unless you know that the person you are asking can actually do it.
But it was his second act of faith that impressed Jesus – the man’s understanding that Jesus didn’t actually have to be present in his house to heal his servant. The centurion reasoned from his own experience as a powerful military leader, and from reports he had heard about Jesus, that Jesus could merely give the command, and it would be done. Of course the man was correct, and Jesus did speak the word, and his servant was healed. But Jesus was surprised that this gentile demonstrated a much more profound grasp of who He was and what He could do than the vast majority of the Jewish people who had been prepared for His coming.
Jesus saw in this situation a sad reality: many of the gentiles would end up being more open to who He was and what He was doing than His own people would be. And, sadly, He could see that many of those He had been sent to would end up outside of God’s kingdom, in “the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” because they would ultimately reject Him.
Father, I can see that this was a bittersweet moment for Jesus. Even though the centurion’s acceptance of who He was and what He could do presaged a great harvest to be had among the gentiles, the ultimate rejection by His own people that He could see looming on the horizon broke His heart. But He had to keep moving forward, because the task still had to be accomplished. Help me to have this same grit, no matter what opposition may raise itself against the gospel, because my job still has to be accomplished, too. Amen.