Miracle 10:
Healing of the Centurion

Rank has its privileges

I. OBSERVATION:

A.     Passage Selected: Luke 7:1-10

Luke 7:1-10

Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurionís 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.

 

Also in Matt 8:5-13. Read both accounts and notice differences.

Matthew 8:5-13

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.

 

B. Progression Stated:  Ideological or Biographical

The main idea is faith, but the miracle could also be outlined around the centurion.

C. Presentation Summarized:

There are differences in the gospel accounts of this miracle.  Some think these are two different miracles.  But I think they refer to the same miracle because:

         They are both about a Centurion and his slave.

         They both follow the Sermon on the Mount

         They both follow the discourse on calling Jesus Lord, Lord and not doing what He says and building oneís house on the rock/sand.

         My first answer is that we should not feel obliged to give a full explanation where one does not exist. We are not to close our eyes to problems in the text, but faith allows us to live with apparent inconsistencies, knowing that Godís word is inerrant and infallible, and that our understanding of His word is neither of the above.

         Faith is not opposed to the facts, but it is not troubled when all the facts are not made known. Let us remember that the gospel writers were aware of the writings of others (cf. Luke 1:1-2), and yet they felt free to have differences in their accountsónot differences which made another biblical author in error, but perhaps differences which remind us that we have only partial accounts of any incident in the life of Christ.

 

1.         The main reason some think these are two different miracles is because Matthew says that the Centurion himself went to see Jesus. Luke says that the centurion sent subordinates. Did the centurion go himself or send others? 

2.         It is passages like this that the critics hold up to show that the Bible is full of mistakes. It is the epitome of arrogance for a man to come along and say that the Bible is wrong. 

3.         Through the years men have made many claims that the Bible is wrong. Then, archaeologists come along and prove that the Bible is right after all. 

4.         One of my favorite examples is that for years critics denied the truth of Jonah, because Nineveh didnít exist, but archaeologists discovered it about 100 years ago.

5.         So, we need to assume that the Bible is inerrant, and just ask, "For now, until I know all the facts, what possible explanation is there for this difference?" 

6.         Who wrote Romans?  Paul? or Tertius?  Paul was the author but someone else wrote it for him.  Good secretaries can write letters for their bosses that only need to be signed.  Are the letters from the secretary or the boss?

7.         Nixon was not at the Watergate hotel.  Why was he impeached?  Because he was responsible. 

8.         The answer to the differences between the two passages is -- The official was a man in authority and he sent representatives, but it is the same thing as him going as far as his faith is concerned. 

9.         Matthewís style is to give summations of the miracles.  For his purposes, it was easier, but still accurate, to just say it was the centurion.

1. Context  7:1

a.         Luke says, ďWhen He had completed all His discourseÖĒ In the preceding passage (Luk 6:46) Jesus has just asked them, ďWhy do you call me Lord, Lord, and then do not do what I say.Ē 

b.         One issue that He is dealing with is not recognizing His authority.  Now we will have a miracle in which a Gentile recognizes Jesusí authority.

2. Content  7:2-10

a. The Testimony to the Centurion  (2-3)

1.         The Centurion believes in Jesusí power.  He approaches Jesus through Jews.

2.         That was the proper way for a Gentile to come to God in OT economy.  Here is a Gentile who really understands and recognizes Jesus for who he is.

3.         He also was very concerned for a servant and that was very untypical.  His knowledge of God and love for God is shown by his love for his fellow man.

4.         He was a generous man and had built a synagogue so that he could worship the one true God with the Jews.  He couldnít go into the temple, since he was a Gentile.

b. The Testimony of the Centurion  (6-8)[1]
(1) His humility The centurion, a man in authority is placing himself under the authority of Jesus. He feels he is not worthy. Again, we see the extraordinary godliness of this man.  This is in stark contrast to the Jewish leaders who think that they are worthy of and deserving of Godís blessings.  They are self-righteous.  That is the hurdle that keeps them from experiencing the grace of God.  This is the same point of Lukeís account of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
(2) His faith He knew the word of Christ and His authority were enough. This miracle is an illustration of the final statement in the sermon on the mount that the crowds were amazed that Jesus spoke with such authority (Mat 7:28-29). 
Matthew 7:28-29 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
(3) Most people didnít do anything with that amazement. Here is one man who did.  Perhaps he heard the sermon on the mount.

He believed Christís words before He saw the works.

c. The Testimony to the Nation of Israel  (9-10)

1.       Jesus is amazed at the manís faith.  He doesnít need to see the signs. 

2.       This Gentile really does understand a lot, believes it and acts on it.  This is an indictment against the Jewish nation which insists on seeing signs as proof and then still doesnít believe even after they see the signs.

3.       Matthew includes Jesusí comment about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob eating with Gentiles in the kingdom (Matt 8:11). Luke leaves this out because he is writing to a Gentile audience. There are a couple of things we can learn from this:

         This requires a literal future millennium.

         There is a warning. Some Jews wonít be there.

         See Weeping and gnashing of teeth discussion: Appendix B.

II. INTERPRETATION

         Commendation of the Centurionís recognition of Jesus as the Messiah who has authority over disease.

         Condemnation of Israel for rejecting Messiah and they are in danger of losing their expected place in the kingdom of heaven.  What gets you in and keeps you out?  Accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

         In Matt 8: there is a discussion about ďthe sons of the kingdom being thrown out into the outer darkness.Ē This is a figure of speech. They were not in and then thrown out.  It is like being beat out of a job.  You didnít get the job and then lose it.  You never got it.  Who are the sons of the kingdom?  They are Jews.  This does not mean "Christians" or "believers."

         The centurion is a man with authority but also under authority, and he submits to the authority of Christ.  That is what Jesus calls great faith.  His underlying character trait is humility.

         If you donít have faith, then what is your problem?  Pride.  You think you can earn Godís approval on your own. Israel refused to subject itself to the Messiah.  They were self-righteous.

         Where is the healing?  It is back at the house and almost not a part of the miracle story.  It certainly doesnít get center stage. The truth surrounding the miracles is overwhelming.  The miracle is still important because it verifies the truth, but it is not what gets the emphasis.  In our day, those who believe that tongues and healing are still happening put their emphasis on the tongues and miracles.  Those who emphasize these gifts prove that they are not legitimate.

         The man built their synagogue.  This man knew and applied the OT scriptures and recognized the Messiah when he arrived.

III. APPLICATIONS

         Belief in the authority of Godís Word and the sovereignty of God brings results.

         Donít be critical of a man because of his job. You wouldnít normally think that a Roman centurion would be a believer in the true God.  Jews didnít usually think too much of centurions, but hereís one with great faith.

         True faith is demonstrated in a humble approach to God.

         Rejection of Godís truth may bring replacement in Godís service.  The Jews rejected Christ and were replaced - Rom 9-11.

         A man is a good leader when he is a good follower. "I too am a man under authority..."

         Jesus doesnít have to be present for the healing to take place.

 

Conclusion

            I believe that this miracle, serves several purposes in the developing message of Lukeís gospel.

            First, this miracle testifies to the fact that Jesus is who He claimed to beóIsraelís Messiah. No prophet had ever surpassed this miracle.

            Second, this miracle is the backdrop for the questions of John the Baptist, which are to be introduced in the following section.

            Third, these miracles were the basis for the faith of men and women.

            Finally, these miracles are samples of the kind of faith, which we should have today. Let us look back over these two miracles to discover the characteristics of faith, which these to incidents teach us.

(1) Faith honors and pleases God. If anything is clear in the story of the centurion, it is that the faith of this man both pleased and honored God. God delights in menís faith. God is honored by faith when He is the object of that faith. What greater compliment to the character of God than to have men demonstrate that they have confidence in Him. Men find God trustworthy because He is worthy of menís trust. Faith honors God. Faith pleases God. Faith is commended by God.

(2) Faith focuses on God as its proper object. The centurion did not trust in his (great) authority, but in Christís.

a.    The centurion believed that Christ was Lord of nature, which He had authority to command sickness to depart. His faith was focused on the right object.

b.   Too often, we focus our attention on our faith, rather than on God, who is the object of our faith. The centurion was not guilty of such self-consciousness. In fact, he did not mention his faith at all. It was Jesus who pointed out the great faith of this man. The centurion had fixed his attention of Jesus, on His compassion, His mercy, His power. The centurion was preoccupied with the person of our Lord, not his possession of faith.

c.    To press this point a little further, some Christians lose the focus of their faith by concentrating on the promises of God, rather than the person of God. Promises are only as good as the person. Promises alone are worthless. A healthy faith is a faith in the person, which then enables us to believe the promises. And if our faith in the person of God is sufficient, we hardly need promises, for we know that God is greater than those promises He has given. The difference here is subtle, but important. It is the difference between God as the gift and God as the giver. The centurionís faith was focused on God.

(3) Faith anticipates and asks for great things from a great God. The centurion not only asked our Lord for a miraculous healingóthe boy was about to dieóbut also for a healing that was out of the ordinary.

a.    The centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant ďlong distance.Ē His God was so great that He need not be present to heal, and thus he asked for Jesus merely to speak the word. Faith in a great God is evidenced by requests that are out of the ordinary.

b.   How often my prayers and those of others I hear are merely requests for the humanly possible. It is not that God cares little about colds, sniffles, the flu, minor aches and pains, but lets face it folks, a little aspirin, bed rest, and time usually solves these problems.

c.    The things which should require faith are those things which are not humanly possible. Let us once again read through the New Testament, looking at those things for which our Lord and His apostles prayed. Let our prayer be a reflection of the greatness of our God.

(4) Faith is always found in the vicinity of grace and mercy. The centurionís petition was a request for grace, and thus he totally rejected any worthiness on his own part (although the Jewish elders thought he was worthy).

a.    The faith of the centurion was not only faith in the power of our Lord, but in His character, specifically His mercy. He knew that Jesus was not only able to heal from afar, but willing, because of the great suffering of his servant.

b.   Faith cannot be divorced from mercy and grace. Godís gifts to men are not the result of manís worthiness, and not even the result of manís faith, but of Godís goodness and mercy. BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED THROUGH FAITH (Eph. 2:8)

(5) Faith does not require sight or visible evidence. So far as we know, the centurion never saw Jesus.

a.    The centurion did not request Jesusí presence, nor did he feel it necessary for his servant to be healed. Faith is trusting in the person of God, based upon the testimony of those who have seen him.

b.   So it was for the centurion and so it is for us. Our faith is to be grounded in the testimony of the apostles. Faith does not require sight. The centurionís faith did not require Christís presence, nor rites, rituals and magical formulas, only the spoken word of the Lord.

(6) The faith which our Lord commends in the centurion is for the blessing of God on others, rather than on oneís self. Notice the unselfish nature of the centurionís faith. He trusted God and asked our Lord for the healing of his servant, not the blessing of his bank account, and so on.

a.    The ďname it and claim itĒ folks always seem to dwell on the selfish dimensions of faith. Have faith and God will heal you. Have faith and God will make you rich and famous. Have faith and God will bless you.

b.   The faith of the centurion is vastly superior. It is focused upon God and its application is toward others. May our faith be out-going, rather than ingrown. Faith is a gift, like the other gifts, not to be used in a self-indulgent sort of way, but to meet the needs of others.

(7) Faith grows. Our Lord commends the faith of the centurion, but it would be wrong to think that his faith was somehow instant faith.

a.    I believe that the faith of the centurion was a faith that was nurtured, that grew over time. His faith was evidenced in the way he dealt with the Jews, and especially in his generosity toward the building of their synagogue.

b.   The centurion seemed to trust God to bless Gentiles through the Jews. He invested his worldly goods in blessing Abrahamís seed. The faith which we see commended by our Lord here is not the ďfirst-fruitsĒ of his faith, so to speak, but the evidence of a growing, healthy faith.

c.    I believe that faith must be exercised, if it is to grow. May God stretch and increase our faith. May our Lord

 



[1] This section outline is from Ryrieís The Miracles of our Lord, p. 56-58.