Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CENTURION’S FAITH”

Matthew 8.5-13

 

From time to time, it is good for us to take a step back and recount some things about the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry and teachings. So, in order that we might know the context of my sermon text this morning, allow me to remind you where we are, starting from the beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.

The public ministry of the Lord Jesus began when He was baptized by His cousin John the Baptist. We find this in Matthew chapter 3, Mark chapter 1, and Luke chapter 3. Immediately after His baptism, Satan in the wilderness of Judea tempted the Lord for forty days. This is recorded in Matthew chapter 4, Mark chapter 1, and Luke chapter 4. Upon the completion of His great test in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus returned to the scene of His Own baptism, where John the Baptist publicly identified Him to two of his own disciples, named John and Andrew. Those two then brought their brothers, James and Simon Peter, to our Lord.

Over a short period of time the Lord called His first disciples to follow Him, worked His first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, visited Capernaum briefly, returned to Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple of money changers for the first time, and then met with Nicodemus in that marvelous exchange that is recorded in John chapter 3, where He said, “Ye must be born again,” and where we find John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Departing Jerusalem, our Lord then headed north, passing through Samaria where He dealt with the woman at the well who had been married five times and who was not married to the man she was living with. Continuing on His way to Galilee, He then established His public ministry in earnest. We find this record in the final verses of John chapter 3 and all of John chapter 4.

If you survey the four gospels, you will find that the Lord Jesus Christ’s Galilean ministry consisted of three preaching tours of the area. The text I will preach from today comes near the end of our Lord’s first preaching tour of Galilee.

To recapitulate the first tour to this point:

- The Lord Jesus arrived in Galilee.

- Then He went to Cana a second time and healed a nobleman’s son from Capernaum.

- Then He went to the town He grew up in, Nazareth, and was rejected there for the first time for not working miracles.

- He then apparently established His headquarters in Capernaum.

- After that He called His disciples to follow Him for the second time. This is because they did not give up all and follow Him when called the first time. At least some of them did not.

- Then He taught in the Capernaum synagogue.

- After which He healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and others.

- This publicity moved His tour into high gear.

- He then called His first disciples a third time and they responded. I wonder if it was because He was getting popular.

- Following that He cleansed a leper.

- Then He healed the man whose friends lowered him to Jesus through a roof.

- Then He called Matthew, who apparently responded to His call immediately.

- Later He defended His disciple’s feasting while the disciples who had remained with John the Baptist were fasting.

- He then briefly visited Jerusalem again.

- He became involved in a second Sabbath controversy.

- He became involved in a third Sabbath controversy.

- He ministered to the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee.

- He prayed and then selected His twelve apostles from among His disciples.

- He preached His Sermon on the Mount, teaching His newly called apostles in front of all those throngs of people.

- All of this, of course, saw His influence in the region to really begin to spread.

Matthew and Luke give the following account of an incident that illustrates the spreading influence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the region of Galilee. It is the account of the healing of a Roman centurion’s servant in Capernaum, in Matthew 8.5-13 and Luke 7.1-10:

 

5      And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

6      And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

7      And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

8      The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

9      For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

10     When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

11     And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12     But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13     And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

 

1      Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

2      And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

3      And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

4      And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

5      For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

6      Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

7      Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

8      For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

9      When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10     And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

 

There are five items I would like to pay notice to as we examine this extremely important incident in the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry:

 

First, NOTICE THE SERVANT’S PROBLEM

 

Matthew 8.6 points out that the centurion’s servant is sick with the palsy, meaning that he is too weak to even move, though we are not told here what specific ailment he is afflicted with. If you look at what Luke the physician records about the incident, in Luke 7.2, you will notice that the servant, who was dear to his master, was sick and near death. This man had an extremely serious physical problem. It was a problem that only the Lord Jesus Christ could deal with. Much like the extremely serious spiritual problem, people are born with called sin, which, again, only the Lord Jesus Christ can deal with.

Do you realize that if you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you are actually worse off, spiritually, than this servant was physically? Romans 5.6 declares: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The phrase “without strength” means “impotent.” Therefore, you see, there is a close parallel between this servant’s physical condition, which only the Lord Jesus Christ could deal with, and the spiritual condition of every sinner.

 

Now, NOTICE YOUR PROBLEM

 

When I say your problem, I refer to the tendency of most people to be skeptical. Mainly I refer to unbelievers who think, when they compare this account in Matthew and Luke, that they have discovered a mistake in the Bible.

Look at Luke 7.6-10 once again and I will show you what I am referring to:

 

6      Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

7      Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

8      For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

9      When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10     And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

 

According to this passage, the Lord Jesus Christ healed the servant without ever meeting the centurion face to face. The centurion sent some Jewish friends ahead to ask for this favor for their Gentile friend. When apprised of the servant’s plight, the Lord indicated His willingness to come to the centurion’s house, and probably dispatched some of the centurion’s Jewish friends back to tell him the Lord was coming. However, the centurion, not believing himself worthy to receive the Lord Jesus into his house, sent them back with the second part of the message having to do with authority. So the Lord never did, at least that we have record of here, actually encounter the centurion face to face.

Now look once again to Matthew 8.5: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him.” This verse seems to indicate, and the rest of the passage would suggest at first glance, that the centurion approached the Lord directly and spoke to Him, rather than wait for His arrival at his home.

So, do we have a mistake in the Bible here? Not at all. Skeptics would be quick to jump on this as proof that the Bible has a mistake in it. However, a quick look at the Greek word translated “there came” in Matthew 8.5, pronounced prosercomai, refers not to actually arriving somewhere, but to moving towards something or someone.[1] Thus, a Roman centurion sent Jewish messengers to speak to the Lord and then himself moved in the direction of, but did not arrive at the location of, the Lord Jesus Christ, at least not until later. What we have, then, is an example in which Luke recorded some details that Matthew was not inspired to record in his record. When you recognize that Matthew is giving a summation of what transpired, and when you also realize that when someone speaks or acts in some way through an agent or representative, as the centurion did with his Jewish messengers, it was he who actually acted, then you see that Matthew’s account concurs and compliments Luke’s account of this incident in the Lord’s life and ministry.

 

THE SERVANT’S PROBLEM, YOUR PROBLEM, AND NOW THE JEW’S PROBLEM

 

These were the messengers that the Roman soldier, the centurion, sent. Remember that Jewish-Gentile friendships in those days were extremely rare, especially when the Gentile was one of the officer corps of the occupying Roman Imperial army. So the relationship this man had with these Jewish people was unusual, to say the least. When they arrived at where our Lord Jesus then was, according to Luke 7.4, they said the centurion “was worthy for whom he should do this.” In other words, because the centurion was worthy, the Lord Jesus Christ should heal his servant. Why, might we be permitted to ask, was the centurion worthy? Because he loves Jewish people and because he built their synagogue, these Jewish men would respond.

Now, do you begin to understand their problem? They were blinded to the truth by their own affection for this centurion. However, in their own Hebrew Scriptures it states, “There is none that doeth good.”[2] It also declares “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” to the LORD.[3] Therefore, we know the servant’s problem, and we know your problem. The servant is sick nigh unto death, and too many do not really believe the Bible. What, then, is the problem of these Jewish people?

Their serious problem was that they did not understand that neither the centurion, nor anyone else for that matter, is worthy of anything except judgment.

 

Now, EXAMINE THE CENTURION’S PROBLEM

 

Luke 7.6-8 brings the centurion’s problem into clear focus:

 

6      Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

7      Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

8      For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

 

The centurion obviously realizes how completely unworthy of Christ’s favor he really is. That is a lot more than we can say for his Jewish friends. You would think with the Bible they would be closer to the truth of the situation than the centurion was, but they were not. As well, and this really is not a problem unless you fail to realize it, the centurion recognized both the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know he realized Christ’s power by the fact that he knew that the Lord did not have to be anywhere close to his servant to heal him. We know he realized Christ’s authority by his own statement concerning giving and taking orders, and by his own understanding of the operation of the chain of command structure.

Do you realize that this centurion knew things about the Lord Jesus Christ that many of us here today would do well to learn? He knew that our Lord Jesus Christ is Almighty, and that He is the Lord Who must be obeyed. As well, it does not matter if it is any illness that must bow to His authority, or a man who must bow to His authority. He must be obeyed. So, what happened? This centurion trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. He trusted Jesus to do for him what he could not possibly do for himself. He trusted Jesus to provide physical deliverance for his servant. Consider, friends, that as this centurion trusted Jesus to save his servant, so you must trust Jesus to save your sinful soul.

 

Finally, NOTICE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S PRONOUNCEMENTS

 

There are three:

 

First, in Luke 7.9-10:

 

9      When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10     And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

 

Why is the Lord Jesus Christ referring to this centurion’s faith? There is no mention of faith by anyone up to this point. As well, keep in mind that the centurion is not even on the scene at this point. Where was this centurion’s faith? The Lord Jesus saw a demonstration of this soldier’s faith. This warrior clearly trusted Jesus Christ to do something for him that he could not accomplish for himself, or for the servant that he loved. He depended on the Lord, recognizing that Jesus Christ stands at the top of every chain of command authority structure. As I mentioned in my sermon last week, titled “What Is Faith?” that centurion acquired understanding unobtainable by normal means. That understanding came by his faith in this One he had likely heard preach, and perhaps had even seen heal, since he lived in Capernaum.

Now turn to Matthew 8.11-12:

 

11     And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12     But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

Jesus pointed out that there would be Gentiles sitting at the feet of the patriarchs while there will be Jews tormented in Hellfire. Why would that be? How could that be? Because the Gentiles sitting at the feet of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be those who trusted Jesus, while the Jews who did not trust Jesus, even though they were a part of the chosen nation of Israel, did not place their faith in Christ. Faith is the difference. Are you trusting Jesus?

Matthew 8.13:

 

“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”

 

The soldier’s servant was healed in the hour that Christ’s pronouncement was made. What a wonderful example of Jesus healing one person of a sickness because of the faith of another. Though we have no idea what the servant’s attitude toward the Savior was, he was healed when the centurion, his master, believed.

 

Both a lesson to learn and a caution to be observed: First, do not stop praying for any unsaved person or a sick person just because they have given up or you do not think they are reachable. Remember the servant of the centurion, who was close to death when Jesus healed him.

Also, remember that regarding personal salvation, another person’s faith will not result in your own salvation. Personal salvation from sin results only when there is personal faith in Jesus Christ.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 878.

[2] Psalm 14.3; 53.3

[3] Isaiah 64.6




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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org