Healing the Centurion’s Servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10)

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2008-01-02 09:42.

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During the time Jesus ministered in Galilee, Rome had a military presence in the region. Among the soldiers were men who retained their humanity and befriended the Jews. In Capernaum, one Roman centurion (a commander of 100 soldiers) came to be highly regarded among the elders of the city. He was a compassionate man who deeply cared about his ailing servant who appeared to be at the point of dying. (Luke 7:1, 2) Paralyzed, the servant suffered terribly. (Matthew 8:5, 6)

So, when Jesus was back in the city, this centurion, having heard about him, directed a request to Jewish elders of the city. Through them, he wanted to appeal to Jesus to cure his servant. (Luke 7:3)

The elders earnestly pleaded with Jesus, telling him that the centurion was deserving of having his request honored. “He loves our nation,” they said, “and built the synagogue for us.” (Luke 7:4, 5)

Jesus expressed his willingness to cure the servant and then left with them to go to the centurion’s home. As they approached, he sent friends to tell Jesus that he did not consider himself worthy of having him enter his house and that this was also the reason for his not having made his request personally. Believing that Jesus would not actually have to see his servant, the centurion had his friends convey the following message, “Say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man placed 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does [it.]” As far as the centurion was concerned, Jesus authoritative word would be sufficient to effect the cure. (Luke 7:6-8; compare Matthew 8:8, 9.)

Upon hearing these words expressive of a conviction supported by sound reasoning, Jesus marveled and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, I have not found faith this great in Israel.” The centurion’s remarkable faith gave evidence that many non-Jews would respond in faith, whereas Jesus’ own people would miss out on being part of the royal realm where God is recognized as Sovereign, losing out on all the blessings associated therewith. Speaking prophetically, Jesus said, “Many will come from east and west and recline [as when partaking of a meal] with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness. There the weeping and the gnashing of teeth will be.” (Matthew 8:10-12; Luke 7:9)

Jesus’ listeners would have understood Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to have been their illustrious ancestors to whom the divine promises were made. As their descendants, the Jews were in line for being sharers in the “kingdom of the heavens.” This, however, called for them to accept Jesus as the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God and the king by God’s appointment. Their failure to do so would result in great loss. From east and west, non-Jewish peoples would put faith in Jesus and come to share the benefits of being in the royal realm. Cast out for their rejection of God’s appointed king, the “sons of the kingdom,” heirs to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would weep and clench their teeth, trying vainly to hold back their bitter tears on account of their loss.

It appears that Jesus also expressed himself to the effect that the cure be accomplished according to the centurion’s faith. In that “hour,” the healing occurred. (Matthew 8:13) Upon their returning to the house, the ones whom the centurion had sent found the slave fully recovered. (Luke 7:10)


Matthew 8:5-13 reflects common usage, whereas Luke 7:1-10 provides the more specific details. Although conveyed through others, the words were those of the centurion, and the narrative in Matthew portrays the interchange as taking place between Jesus and the centurion. The account in Luke, however, relates how the centurion communicated with Jesus. Therefore, the words Jesus spoke to those who represented the centurion are referred to in Matthew 8:5-13 as having been directed to him.

The centurion must have known that Jews did not freely associate with non-Jews in their homes. (Compare Acts 10:28; 11:2, 3.) Possibly, therefore, thinking that entering the house of a non-Jewish stranger could be problematic for Jesus, the centurion may have humbly and considerately expressed his unworthiness to have him do so.