After Jesus finished presenting all his words among the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion had a servant who was very important to him, but the servant was ill and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. “He deserves to have you do this for him,” they said. “He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us.”
Jesus went with them. He had almost reached the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, “Lord, don’t be bothered. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. In fact, I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m also a man appointed under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”
When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.” When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health. (Common English Bible)
Jesus the Jew used his authority to heal and transform a Gentile.
This particular Gentile, a Roman Centurion, clearly understood his place and who Jesus was. The Centurion felt unworthy to even have the Lord Jesus come into his house. And his profession of faith amazed even Jesus. “Just say the word,” he said in recognition of Christ’s authority.
The power and authority of Jesus is big enough to heal without even being present. In the ancient Roman Empire, Centurions were the backbone of the Roman military machine, and so, were hated by the Jews. Yet, Jesus the Jew not only responded to the Centurion’s request, but he also affirmed this Gentile’s faith as greater than any he had seen amongst his own people.
Grace answers to need, and not to smug self-confidence. The Roman Centurion asked for healing, not for himself, but for his servant. And Jesus graciously and mercifully listened and answered.
The Centurion neither demanded nor claimed healing; but instead, he came in a spirit of humility and asked with confidence that Jesus could heal his servant if he wanted to. The Centurion simply threw himself on God’s mercy. So, Jesus lifted him up as a model of faith for us all.
Real and genuine faith always serves as a solemn warning to the self-righteous – that their lack of humility and their pretentious faith will land them outside of God’s benevolent realm. In a great reversal, the insiders will become the outsiders, and the outsiders become the insiders.
Independently proud folk do not experience healing and transformation because they don’t even know they are sick with sin. They see no need for an intervention by Jesus because they already have their righteous deeds to boast about. Such persons are more concerned about looking good and saving face, and so, are unaware of their own unworthiness.
The self-righteous approach to handling problems and difficult situations is to come up with good ideas and clever strategies. They rely on hard work, personal effort, and sheer willpower. Prayer may or may not happen after the plans are laid; there is no sense of addressing a problem or need with beseeching God.
These are merely delusional thoughts of personal autonomy; they only serve to separate us from the grace of God that we so desperately need.
There is a spiritual dimension to every situation and trouble we face – including sickness. If we only examine the medical end of physical problems, we may be dealing with symptoms instead of the root issue that plagues us.
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you have sinned, you will be forgiven—healed inside and out. Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. (James 5:13-16, MSG)
Jesus healed and transformed outsiders. So, followers of Christ need to consistently ask:
- Who are the outsiders among us?
- Do we care about strangers?
- Are we willing to touch aliens and immigrants?
- Will we intercede in prayer for those who are foreign to us?
- Will we search for and pursue those on the periphery of society?
- Do we believe the risen and ascended Christ can and will heal, deliver, and transform people?
Jesus cannot be domesticated into some figurehead which suits our desires and conforms to our ideas about how things ought to be.
Instead, Christ is portrayed as eager to heal, wanting to show grace to the least and the lowly among society.
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13, NLT)