When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”
(Matthew 8:5-13 ESV)
Matthew records another of Jesus’ miracles in today’s passage. This one involves a centurion, who was a Roman (Gentile) soldier in charge of 100 men (hence the title “centurion”). The centurion came to Jesus and simply told Him that he had a servant who was suffering terribly from an unknown disease.
Interestingly the centurion never asks Jesus to come to his home or to even heal the servant. But Jesus offers to do so despite the fact that it was against the man-made Jewish law (but not God’s law) for a Jew, especially a teacher, to enter the home of a Gentile. The centurion apparently knew this and therefore dissuades Jesus from going to his home. Instead the centurion asks Jesus to only say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus does and the servant was healed at that very moment.
Here we see a couple of things. First, Jesus’ actions were not magic or manipulation. They were miracles. It’s one thing to heal someone right in front of you. One could always be accused of faking it, as many modern-day healers are. It’s a completely different thing to heal someone who is miles away with nothing more than a thought.
Second, whereas human authority, such as the centurion’s, is only over other human beings, Jesus has authority over all of creation, even things not in His immediate presence. The centurion knew this, perhaps from hearing Jesus speak. We know that the people who heard Jesus speak recognized that He had an authority that their own teachers did not have [Matthew 7:28-29].
As noted by Jesus no one in Israel (no Jew) had such faith as the centurion. Jesus marveled at this. A Gentile, not to mention a suppressor of the Jewish people, understood more about Jesus than the sons of the kingdom (the Jews) who should have known who Jesus was because their scriptures (our Old Testament) foretold His coming. As a result, many Jews who thought they would go to heaven simply because they were Jewish would end up in outer darkness (hell).
This statement of Jesus would have been a shock and an insult to the Jews who heard it. The idea of a Gentile in heaven and a Jew in hell was 180° opposed to what they had been taught. But human understanding, especially about eternity, is more often than not incorrect. Of course, such misunderstanding exists today as many people think they will go to heaven because they are more “good” than “bad”. Jesus, who was God, sets the record straight.
In hell there will be two kinds of people. One group will understand the enormity of the mistake they made on earth in rejecting Jesus and will spend eternity weeping over their irrevocable decision. The other group will be forever mistakenly angry at God (gnashing of teeth) for rejecting them despite the fact that it was really they who rejected Him [Matthew 10:33].
Neither group had to end up this way. All they needed was the faith of the centurion, who believed what he saw and heard about Jesus. The centurion will be in heaven. Those who don’t believe won’t.
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