Jesus and the Roman Centurion Mt. 8:5 - 13
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 8:5–8:13
Mt. 8:5-13 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” 7Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9“For I also am a man under authority, with 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.” 10Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
When you asked me to fill this pulpit, few of you knew anything what-so-ever about the beliefs that drive my spiritual world view. I could have been the man in the moon.
But if you've listened at all in the last 10 months you've discovered that I have a deep belief in an unseen world that surrounds us. A spiritual world. A world at war.
Two kingdoms in a grave battle. Two kings who reign over myriad subjects, both human being and spirit being.
This earth, lost at the fall in Genesis 3 is controlled by Satan, and his armies. Demons working in tandem with Evil men who are duped. They don't understand the drama that is playing out unseen.
There is a battle over this planet. When Jesus rose from the grave, He put the current tenant on notice. Satan and his demons know their days are numbered. Even before the resurrection the demons would say things to Jesus like; "Why have you come to torment us before the time?"
I'm just over half way through a book by Ravi Zacharias. It's about Secularism. How rationalism and reason have died at the hands of autonomy and secularism.
If you're a secularist and you've read what I've just written, you think I'm a case for the men in white jackets. Talking about worlds and beings that cannot be seen, or touched. A spiritual world we know very little about. What we do know comes from this book which they summarily reject.
I get that. I don't much care about that, and I'm in good company.
Because in this story we're going to look at this morning we have a dialog between 2 people speaking about the seen and unseen worlds of created beings in a way that would make secularist peoples skin crawl.
And what makes that even more highly irregular is that the man talking with Jesus is not from the people whom God chose and blessed with revealed truth.
God chose the jews and throughout their history steadily revealed Himself and His laws to them. They are the ones who should understand the most about spiritual things. They are the ones entrusted with revelation attested to by miracles.
And yet, in these first 3 miracles, Jesus is interacting with people outside the commonwealth of religious Israel. A leper. A Roman citizen. A woman of Galilee.
If we wrote the book we'd have Him arriving at the temple in a fierry chariot and immediately he'd win over the Council of 70 and begin plotting the glorious future of Israel.
As it turns out, Israel, religious Israel had moved so far away from what a kingdom ruled by God should look like and be, that Jesus is a better fit outside. Outcasts receive Him. The movers and shakers of religious Israel shun and hate him.
And so, we shouldn't be surprised that a Roman gets it, and His own people don't have a clue.
We know from history outside the Bible that the Roman occupiers would actually not import Romans local to Rome, or Italy. In a case like Israel, they would use locals who were not of the nationality. In this case we know they preferred to recruit the people of Samaria as soldiers for Rome in Israel.
The religious jews pretty much hated everybody. They really hated Rome for occupying their land, and they really REALLY hated the half breed inter-married half jewish race that once was the Northern Kingdom.
Assyria had hauled the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom into captivity, left a few, and forced those few to inter-marry with non-jews that they implanted into that land, thus forming a mongrel race.
It was despicable to the jews. A bunch of low life half breed mongrel dogs. And now they were the soldiers. With the authority of Rome backing them up.
So when Jesus stopped to listen to the pleas of this centurion, that was the background that was in the minds of the multitudes as this drama begins.
Again, we'll use Luke's account for background information that Matthew doesn't give us.
Matthew and Luke come at this from different angles. Luke is presenting Jesus, the suffering servant. Matthew is presenting Jesus, the King of Kings who has authority over everything.
Luke tells us that the centurion sent a delegation of jews ahead to the King. They want Jesus to know that this centurion isn't the usual kind. He's a friend of the jews. He loves their nation. And he built them their Synagogue
I visited Capernaum in 1971 and saw the very stones that were the foundations and paving of this synagogue. Very likely there because of this man. He was indeed a good man, as we'll see. A remarkable man.
So Matthew only recounts the part that illustrates the King's authority over disease, and how that authority exhibits not just the attributes of men, even the most remarkable of men ever.
In this miracle we see the attributes of God. Omnipotence. Omniscience. Omnipresence. This roman was the only person in Israel who understood that Jesus possessed those attributes. God attributes.
And in our little drama, if we fold in what Luke tells us, Jesus and the crowd have already started closing the distance to this man's house. They're on their way.
And I believe a panic similar to what the disciples experience later at the calming of the sea is playing itself out in his heart. The disciples were more afraid after the waves and wind ceased. Why? Because they're sharing a boat with God.
We're so unworthy that the first thought is, oops, maybe we should have taken our chances with the waves swallowing the boat. Now we've got utter silence, and God is sitting here, in the boat, with us.
This centurion is having similar thoughts. God is coming to MY house??? It's the same thing that made Adam and Eve hide in the garden, after the fall. We're not worthy to be in His presence. He should consume us! I really believe this man was experiencing what I'm describing, and his conversation bears that out. So, lets look at it.
5And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”
We've covered the background of vs. 5 pretty well in the introduction, so we'll go immediately to the conversation between Jesus and the centurion.
He says; Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented
Lord. kýrios. It means absolute ownership of rights. Absolute authority. The opposite is doulos. Slave. The kyrios has all authority over the doulos.
Now it had a broadness of usage, then as now. We use similar terms. Sir. Your honor. And we only mean them on a very thin surface. It's a formality that neither of us expects to honor.
"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Lk. 6:46
But reading on into what this man shows us about himself, I believe he meant this at the highest possible level, and was living it out in this very conversation. He understands that Jesus has the very attributes of God. And his own unworthiness has driven him to come out on the road and meet Jesus before he gets to his house.
Lord, my servant Here, we don't have the word for slave that most of the Bibles translate into servant. The word here is pais which is the word we would translate for boy. A young boy. But in Luke's account Luke uses the word doulos, which is a slave.
So, I believe what we have here is what political correctness now forbids on all kinds of levels. This is a house boy. A young slave boy who works not in the fields, but is a personal assistant to this centurion. He works in the centurions house.
Now, in that land at that time, slave boys had all the respect of any other animal performing a burden. You use them up, and when they die, you get another one. Inhuman. We see it in all the history books just that way.
But one thing I learned, reading hundreds of manuscripts that our government took the time and cost to record for history in our own nations dealing with slavery.
Slavery is always a reflection of the slave owner. It could be the hopeless pitiable drudgery that gets most of the press these days. But what I learned reading through hundreds of first hand accounts recorded in the 1930's by the remaining living people who had been actual slaves is that very often, at least far more than you would think with all the current sympathies and re-writing of history, very often the slaves enjoyed a certain grace and dignity because they were lucky enough to be owned by just such a master.
It's very obvious that is what we're seeing here. This man loved this little boy the same as a father would a son. He's distraught.
Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented
The disease is some form of paralysis. We don't really know exactly what the problem is. But we do know in ancient times they were pretty helpless to do much about any of the diseases. Either the body's mechanisms would repair, or, like in this case, it would advance and the person would lose the battle and die.
This little boy is losing the battle. He's dying. And the pain is tormenting him and everyone around him. This would be a heartbraking scene.
And Jesus answer is almost like, I know! Why are we standing here talking about it? I'm coming to take care of it!
7Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” I get the sense there of momentum stalled. Like, why did you come out and inhibit the momentum. We were on our way. Come on, let's go. “I will come and heal him.”
One of the fellows I listened to while studying this tried to make a case that the grammar here could be formed into a question. Like why would I come and heal him? And he based that on Jesus reaction to the Syrophoenician woman. We don't give the childrens bread to the dogs, lady. And since this is a non jew, that should be Jesus reaction.
I went and looked the best I can with my feeble language skills, and I think that's a stretch at best. I don't see that possibility at all in the language. And I totally believe that Jesus approached each person differently from the next. So I have no expectation that He would treat this centurion one way based on how He treated a non Israelite somewhere else.
And certainly with Luke's testimony, this centurion was more of an Israelite than the israelites surrounding him. And we'll see that.
No, I think rather the man is in a dilemma. God! Under my humble roof! How could that happen? And it's bourne out in what he says next.
Vs. 8 But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
We talk endlessly about worth these days. I'm shocked how often I hear or read the atheistic secularism expressing that God is not worthy of us. Why would you worship an old fashioned God who rages and anihilates men. God isn't worthy of men. The view of a planet nearing it's collapse. Given by people who abort and euthanize other people. Who murder the helpless in their next breath.
Yet this man understood just the opposite. What did he know about Jesus? Where had he learned it? We simply don't know where this gigantic faith had come from. But it's there. He gets it.
Now in Israel, there was really no one who this centurion was not worthy of. He had authority over them. If a pushing match happened, all he has to do is call on Rome. Such was his authority over every other human in that land. But not this one. Why? Where did that come from? Some day in heaven it will be fun to ask him. What led up to this mountainous faith.
We sort of know the answer. There are clues in the bible. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Ro. 10:17 We can guess that he was a man of the book. He loved their nation. He built them their place of worship. And Paul gives us another clue.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Eph. 2:8 His faith was the gift of the God he loved. Still, it is remarkable.
How happy are the spiritually bankrupt. How happy are they that mourn over their position before a Holy God. How happy are the meek. Those that have their power under control. How happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
This centurion is a perfect fit. “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my laddie will be healed.
And then it only gets better from there. Vs. 9“For I also am a man under authority, with 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.”
And now he puts his cards on the table and we understand his dilemma. He uses the parallel of human authority to explain the belief in his heart about this Jesus.
You'll recall in the introduction I was throwing around the three big "O" words. Omnipotence. Omniscience. Omnipresence.
Preachers aren't supposed to use 4 syllable words these days. We're supposed to dumb it down. Too bad. Not going to do that.
Those words are what theologians use to describe attributes of God.
He is omnipotent. All powerful. Can He make a rock so big he can't lift it. Of course He can. And the fact that your brain is too small to understand how He'd do that isn't His problem. All powerful. He can accomplish anything. With a word!
He is Omnipresent. Unlike Satan, who rules this world and can only be in one place at one time, God is everywhere, present, always, at the same time. He is all-seeing.
And He is Omniscient. He knows everything. At all times. He knows how many hairs are on my head. And it's getting easier for Him to count them all the time. He is All knowing.
And what the Centurion lays on the table here, is that he understands and believes that in the spiritual realm, Jesus has the same command, of everything, that the centurion has on his limited scale of human authority.
Therefore, he believes that Jesus can do what only God can do. Just utter the command, Jesus, and disease will obey you. Omnipotence.
Not only that, but be selective. If Jesus just said, "disease, leave" all the disease on earth would depart. But this man believes Jesus is Omniscient and Omnipresent. Say the word and my servant will be healed.
All powerful. Able to command disease. All present. Able to heal my servant even though he's there, and you're here. And all knowing. You won't inadvertantly heal the servant next door. You'll heal my house boy.
He says, just like I have authority on a human level, and people come and go and do my bidding, I believe you have authority on a God level. just say the word, and my servant will be healed
That's remarkable. Astounding, really. How astounding? Stopped Jesus dead in His tracks astounding.
10Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
Jesus marveled. thaumazó The word not only encompasses astonishment but there is a component of admiration in it. Jesus was blown away. In a good way.
Put blindfolds on someone and take them up to the edge of the Grand Canyon for the first time and pull the string so the blindfolds drop. Whoa! Wow! That's the kind of marvel we're talking about.
“Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel
This is shocking, really. The whole point of God choosing a nation to be His own was for there to be a people on earth who are conditioned for this very visitation. And God comes to earth, to His own, and they don't get it. They received Him not.
Jesus is astonished! The people who should get it, are clueless. And some Samaritan centurion, some nobody from nowhere, totally gets it! And he's the only one that does, except for the demons! It really was jaw droppingly remarkable. Astonishing! Really!
And then Jesus further endears all those onlooking Israelites by what He says next. NOT.
Vss. 11“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Is Jesus unnecessarily harsh here? Really?
No. This is the proper response.
You realize that before Jesus left Palestine, disease was vanished. He healed everybody. He did thousands of miracles as these people followed and watched. That in itself, in spite of the words He said, demanded a response that never came.
Some Samaritan Roman? Really? The only guy that's caught on?
Listen to the heart of God in Isaiah 5. The parable of the vineyard;
1Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
3“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6“I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Do you hear that line? What more could I do? Thousands of miracles. Disease virtually vanquished in the land of Palestine in those 3 years. Demons obeying His authority. Multitudes fed. And nothing! A guy from Samaria, a roman centurion is the only one who gets it.
At the end, He says something devastating. More devastating than what he just said; 43"For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." Lk. 19:43 - 44
Because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
Centurions from Samaria are going to sit at banquet with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and you're going to be cast into outer darkness and experience eternal torment forever.
The sons of the kingdom. The crowd of 20,000 that should have been bowing down with the leper, and panicking at the thought of God coming under their roof like this centurion.
This is shocking. Disturbing. So disturbing, no one wants to talk about it. Whatever you do, don't empty the place talking about hell. Avoid talking about hell like it's a real place.
Well, in fact, Jesus says this same thing over and over and over. Matthew 13:42 wailing and gnashing of teeth 13:50 wailing and gnashing of teeth 22:13 wailing and gnashing of teeth 24:51 wailing and gnashing of teeth 25:30 wailing and gnashing of teeth
I'll never preach a sermon as harsh as Jesus. He's seen this place. I haven't. And what gets you there is exactly what got Israel there. Complacence. Disbelief. We're all in a drunken stupor.
Talking to my boss this week about a car he wants to sell. He knows I'm a gear head. We enjoyed watching one of the car auctions on TV. But he says he can't have a hobby right now. I said, it's now or never. These ARE the good old days.
Everybody seems to be in a stupor. We just keep adding up the days, and then, it's over. One day added to the next, added to the next, to the next to the next. And then you go to hell. Never a wake up call. We're dull of hearing. Dull of seeing. Dull of sensation. Like the dead walking.
Jesus was trying to jolt these folks awake! Time is closing in. You watch the news and you know God is about to enter the stage.
OK, back to our other drama. The centurion that we'll meet in heaven.
13And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
That centurion was right. Jesus ordered that disease to leave that little lad and it left. When Jesus said the word "Go" the disease went. Omnipotence. Omniscience. Omnipresence.
Everyone on earth who reads this account should bow the knee to this Jesus.
We've talked a lot about miracles these past weeks, and will continue to talk about miracles as we move forward in this study.
The real miracle here that no one talks about is that this centurion woke up one morning and found himself in possession of a transfromative faith.
In Matthew 16, very quickly because I'm out of time;
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
God reveals Himself to men. And they believe. And when that happens, it's a miracle.
I'm in this for the miracles. I believe before we've finished in Tonopah Nevada, if God is gracious to us, we'll see many miracles. The miracle of God, quickening someone from the dead, and changing their life forever.
That rock of revelatory faith, that quickening from the dead and becoming alive together with Christ is still the church being built today.
Carmen was asking me the other night about what Jesus meant when He said, Greater things than these shall ye do.
This miracle of eternal life that the centurion received was greater than the miracle of his slave boy being healed.
Everyone in Israel that was healed, eventually died. The normal way. Those were temporal miracles. This miracle that God still does, in our time, where people are made alive spiritually. That's an eternal miracle. I hope we get to see it over and over.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2