As we move on in Matthew’s Gospel, we find ourselves reading of the time where Jesus heals a young boy who is on the request of a Roman Officer. (Matthew 8:5-13.) This miracle is unique for several reasons. First of all the boy is not present. Next, the miracle is done for someone who is not Jewish at the request of a non-Jew. Also, Jesus takes particular note of the Officer’s comment and commends him for his faith. Finally, Jesus uses this instance to chide Jewish people for their lack of faith.
And if all that is not enough, this is Matthew’s Gospel, which is the most Jewish of all the Gospels.
The first thing to note is that the Officer is called a Centurion. This is a Commander of 100 men, which is about the equivalent of a Captain in a modern Army. He was probably in charge of the Roman Garrison at Capernaum, and therefore, hated by the population for what he represented. The Servant was a young boy and some think it may have been his own child.
The Centurion was reluctant to call Jesus to the boy’s side. Perhaps he considered that this would harm the reputation of Jesus. However, he also knew that if Jesus was who He said He was, then all that was needed was His word. After all, He was a Roman officer, and if He wanted someone arrested, or a building knocked down, all he needed to do was give the order. He could do this from His desk back at the Garrison and his soldiers would travel miles to execute his order.
The Centurion, therefore, reasoned that if Jesus was the Son of God, then He would have had angels at His disposal to do His bidding. If Jesus determined that the boy should be cured, then at His word, angels would be dispatched to execute His order.
Jesus was truly impressed with both this man’s ability to discern this and his willingness to be subject to the orders of a Jewish Rabbi. Why could a Roman Soldier understand this and all the religious people of the day miss the point totally?
The people were amazed at the authority of Jesus. He spoke with authority, He healed with authority, He cast out demons with authority, He fed multitudes with authority, He raised the dead with authority. The list goes on and on! Yet they would follow Jesus endlessly seeing demonstration after demonstration of divine power and authority. Then they would say he was possessed of a devil, because He did not fit their expectations or ask, “Jesus, when will you tell us if you are the Christ?”
Then when He took the sacred name saying, “I, I am…”, they called Him a blasphemer and tried to stone Him.
Into this daily grind of unbelief, walks a Roman Officer and says, “Lord, just say the word and my boy will be healed.”
The unclean, gentile, imposer understood what all the Doctors of Law and Scripture could not grasp. It is for that reason Jesus said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
Being religious, or knowing the Bible backward is useless without that implicit trust in Jesus. Jesus cares little what songs you sing, or how much of Christian traditions you know. His big question is this, “Do you trust and believe in Me.” Jesus wants a living faith and He hates dead ideas. Will you take Jesus at His word?