Roman centurions had command over around eighty soldiers (rather than the commonly assumed one hundred), and these soldiers were expected to obey their commands without question. Their ‘centurio’ would be part of a legion with around sixty others such units, and they were expected to give the same kind of obedience to their legionnaire as their soldiers were to them. As part of the most disciplined fighting force the world had known to this point, they knew all about authority.
When the centurion in this story saw Jesus, he recognised his authority. Jesus had entered Capernaum and the centurion approached him about his servant who was paralysed and suffering. For all the power of Rome, healing this man’s physical suffering was beyond their capabilities, and he was looking for a greater authority to solve the problem and recognised such authority in Jesus.
Jesus responded positively to the request and offered to go to the man’s house, but the centurion saw himself as unworthy of this. His recognition of authority meant that the physical visit would be unnecessary. Jesus was capable of healing with just a word and this is what the centurion suggests he does. Just as God spoke the universe into being, the centurion recognised a similar authority in Jesus, way before the disciples or anyone else has seen it.
Jesus marvelled when he heard this, because he recognised the faith with which the man was speaking. This is one of only two occasions in the gospels where we are told that Jesus marvelled at something (the other is Mark 6:6, this time cause by the lack of faith of those who should know better). Having seen this faith from a Gentile, Jesus teaches that many from outside Israel will be brought in, and many from inside will find themselves on the outside. It is faith, not ethnicity that is the marker of entry in God’s kingdom.
The story ends with Jesus demonstrating the authority that the centurion had recognised, speaking healing for the servant from afar, and at that exact moment that Jesus spoke, he was indeed healed. Christ’s word has power and authority over all sickness.
Some Key Points:
- Jesus has all authority over sickness.
- Faith is recognising and trusting in the authority of Jesus.
- Such faith causes Jesus to marvel and us to enter the kingdom of God.
- Recognise Jesus’ Authority – We all have circumstances in life that seem big and overwhelming. This passage shows a great example of a man who saw that Jesus had authority over his own problems and difficulties.
- Invitation to Faith – Do we have the kind of trust in Jesus that we see in this centurion that made Jesus marvel? Invite the congregation to come to Jesus in faith with whatever is going on in their lives.
- Physical Healing – Here we have another example of Jesus physically healing. You could offer prayer for those who are sick.