Healing the Centurion's Servant.

5-7. HEALING THE CENTURION'S SERVANT.
(At Capernaum.)
a MATT. 8:1, 5-13; c LUKE 7:1-10.

      c 1 After he had ended all his sayings in the ears of the people, a 1 And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. c he entered into Capernaum. [Jesus proceeded from the mountain to Capernaum, which was now his home, or headquarters. The multitudes which are now mentioned for the third time were not wearied by his sermon, and so continued to follow him. Their presence showed the popularity of Jesus, and also emphasized the fact that the miracles which followed the sermon were wrought in the presence of the vast throngs of people.]

  a 5 And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion [The context shows that this centurion or captain of a hundred men was a Gentile, but whether he was in the employ of Herod Antipas, tetrarch not clear, neither is very important. The army of Antipas, like that of other petty kings, was modeled after that of Rome],

  c 2 And a certain centurion's servant [slave boy], who was dear unto him, was sick, and at the point of death.

  3 And when he heard concerning Jesus [The sequel shows that the centurion had probably heard how Jesus had healed the son of his fellow-townsman-- John 4:46-54 ], he sent unto him elders of the Jews [To reconcile Matthew and Luke, we have only to conceive of the centurion as coming to the edge of the crowd about Jesus, but modestly refraining from coming into the Lord's immediate presence.] asking him that he would come and save his servant. a beseeching him,

  6 and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. [Because palsy is not usually accompanied with suffering, some think that in this case it was combined with tetanus or lockjaw, a combination not infrequent in hot climates. But Sir R. Bennet, M.D., speaks thus: "In this instance we have probably a case of progressive paralysis, attended by muscular spasms, and involving the respiratory movements, where death is manifestly imminent and inevitable. In such a case there would be symptoms indicative of great distress, as well as immediate danger to life." As to palsy generally, see Section 33, Section 35.]

  c 4 And they, when they came to Jesus, besought him earnestly, saying, He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him;

  5 for he loveth our nation, and himself built us our synagogue. [The centurion evidently believed in and worshiped God, but, influenced probably by his profession, did not become a proselyte by being circumcised and conforming entirely to the Mosaic law. He was what later Jews would have termed a Proselyte at the Gate, and not a full-fledged Proselyte of Righteousness. The ruins of Capernaum show the ruins of a synagogue. It was a beautiful structure, built of white limestone, shows by its architectural features that it was built in the time of the Herods, and there is little doubt that it is the one which and healed.]

  a 7 And he saith to him [i. e., answering him as represented by his friends], I will come and heal him.

  c 6 And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him,

  a 8 And the centurion answered and said, {c saying unto him,} Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof [not because his house was a poor one, for he was evidently well to do]:

  7 wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: a but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [The centurion, well knowing that it was unlawful for Jews to go into the houses of the Gentiles, lest they should sully the sanctity which they desired to maintain, wished to spare Jesus any embarrassment. Whatever he may have thought of this custom with regard to the Pharisees, he attributed to Jesus so high a degree of sanctity that he accepted the doctrine as true in reference to him. The centurion showed his great faith partly by believing that Jesus could heal by a word, but chiefly in his lofty conception of Jesus as compared with himself. The less faith we have, the less we esteem Jesus, and the more faith we have, the less we esteem ourselves. As Jesus rises, we sink in the scale of our estimation. The centurion's faith would have been wonderful enough in an Israelite, but it was all the more wonderful when found in the bosom of a Gentile. The word "found" suggests that Jesus came seeking faith: he will come seeking it again ( Luke 18:8 ). The elders, little knowing the wideness of our Lord's vision and sympathy, supposed that Jesus would look upon the splendid synagogue erected for the Jewish people as a sufficient motive for granting their request. Even the apostles were slow to learn that at heart Jesus knew neither Jew nor Gentile.]

c 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant [not a soldier, but a household slave], Do this, and he doeth it. [Having those over him, he knew how to obey, and having those under him, he knew how to be obeyed. He was familiar, therefore, with all the principles of obedience. Knowing from the healing of the nobleman's son, or from other reports concerning Jesus, that the realm of nature obeyed Jesus, he judged from his knowledge of earthly obedience that Jesus had those who could come and go for him, and who could carry his messages and enforce obedience to them. He felt that the presence of Jesus was not at all necessary to the healing.]

a 10 And when Jesus heard it, {c these things,} he marvelled at him, and turned and said unto a them c the multitude that followed him, a Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. [To some it seems strange that Jesus could marvel, but he had all the actual feelings of a man. However, we should note that Jesus is never said to have marveled but twice. In this case it was because of belief, and in the other ( Mark 6:6 ), it was because of unbelief. Those who think that Jesus gave or gives faith should note this fact. If Jesus had given the centurion faith, he could not have been surprised to find that he had it; and, if he failed to bestow it upon the people of Nazareth, it would have been inconsistent in him to express surprise at their lack of it. It would seem, however, irreconcilable with the character and affectionate nature of Christ, to bestow faith in such profusion upon this Gentile stranger, and withhold every spark of it from his near kinsmen and fellow-townsmen. Faith is no miraculous gift. Faith means no more nor less than belief; and a man believes the Scripture facts in the same manner and by the same processes that he believes any other facts.]

  11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven [Jesus here predicts the conversion of the Gentiles, since that fact is suggested to him by the faith of this centurion. The east and the west represent the extreme points of the compass in the directions in which the world was most thickly inhabited. But Jesus refers rather to geographical distances-- Malachi 1:11 ; Isaiah 49:19 ; Jeremiah 16:19 ; 8:22 .]

  12 but the sons of the kingdom [The child of anything in Hebrew phraseology expressed the idea of special property which one has in the thing specified, as, for instance, children of disobedience ( Ephesians 2:2 ). Jesus here means, then, the Jews, to whom the kingdom belonged by hereditary descent-- Romans 9:4 ] shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [In this paragraph Christ's kingdom is set forth under the simile of a great feast, a familiar simile with Jesus ( Matthew 26:29 ; Luke 22:30 ). The Jews were accustomed to speak of the delights of the Messianic kingdom as a feast with the patriarchs ( Luke 14:15 ), but lost sight of the fact that Gentiles should share in its cheer and fellowship ( Isaiah 25:6 ). Marriage feasts and other great feasts of the Jews were usually held in the evening. Inside, therefore, there would be joy and light and gladness, but outside there would be darkness and disappointment, tears and bitter self-reproach ( Matthew 25:10-13 ). The despised outcasts should be brought in and placed at the festal board, while the long-invited guests--the natural and fleshly heirs of Abraham's invitation--would be excluded ( Matthew 21:43 ). Hell is absence from spiritual light, separation from the company of the saved, lamentation and impotent rage.]

  13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And the servant was healed in that hour. [In the moment when Jesus spoke, the servant was healed--not relieved, but healed.]

  c 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole. [The centurion, long before this when he was building the synagogue, had doubtless heard with delight concerning the wonderful works wrought by the mighty prophets in the olden time; he little dreamed that his own eyes should see them all surpassed.]