Session #063 The Day Messiah Marvelled
Scripture Matthew 8:5-13
Summary Matt 8:5-13 is often used to encourage one to have faith to be healed. The centurion was, after all, commended by Jesus for having great faith. But what does this have to do with entry into the kingdom of God? Sadly, this point, Matthew’s main intent, is usually overlooked. Henson shares four key points from this familiar passage, and challenges with a fifth, reminding all that great faith is for great faithfulness. That is what truly matters in the kingdom
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. Matthew 8:5–13 (See also Luke 7:1-10)
10 miracles were recorded in Matthew 8 and 9. The first three of these are all healing miracles of very unlikely people, a leper, a Gentile and a woman. This group was shunned by the Jewish community but were the first recipients of God’s grace and healing through Jesus in Matthew 8:2-17.
In Matthew 8:5-13, we will see four key points and challenges with a fifth, reminding all that great faith is for great faithfulness. That is what truly matters in the kingdom of God.
A centurion was a position in the Roman army during Classical Antiquity, nominally the commander of a century, a military unit of around 80 legionaries. In a Roman legion, centuries were grouped into cohorts commanded by their senior-most centurion.
Centurions had to be a Roman citizen and participated in pagan religious oaths to the divine emperor, Caesar, who is regarded as a god.
Approach: How did the Centurion Approach Jesus (Matthew 8:5-8)
With humility, the centurion approached Jesus for his servant who was paralyzed. He requested Jesus to heal the servant even though he is a commander of an army. He was a military leader with much influence (Luke 7:4), but did not coerce Jesus to “go the second mile”. He also came to Jesus not for himself but for his servant.
True humility is having an accurate assessment of self, not putting self down. There was a recognition of his own position as a Gentile. The Jews were not to have contact or table fellowship with gentiles as they are unclean. This may explain Luke’s account of the centurion sending the elders, instead of him personally approaching Jesus. It was not because of pride, but respecting the customs and culture then.
Jesus then tests his heart in Matthew 8:7. The emphasis in Greek could translate the phrase as a question: “Shall I come and heal him?”, making the Jew-Gentile barrier even more distinct. Jesus tested his response, as in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter was demon-possessed (Matthew 15:24–27). “I am not worthy…” was his response in Matthew 8:8. So was the Centurion deserving or undeserving?
The Jewish elders considered the centurion deserving based on his contributions. But the Roman centurion regarded himself unworthy based on his own status as a Gentile. If Jesus acceded to his request, it is entirely undeserved. This is Grace.
The true worth of grace is experienced when we recognise our unworthiness to receive that grace. Never mistaken grace extended to be grace entitled.
Authority: The Centurion Recognizes the Authority of the King (Matthew 8:8-9)
The centurion comes humbly to Jesus, but he also comes confidently. He tells Jesus, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)
Jews had considered long-range miracles extremely rare and difficult. The centurion’s request would have been considered ridiculous and impossible but he recognized Jesus’ authority.
The centurion tells Jesus, “I also am a man under authority” (Matthew 8:9). As a soldier, he understood authority very well. As a centurion, he had the entire backing of Caesar and the Roman Empire. In the same way, the centurion believed that Jesus had the backing of God and the entire kingdom of God. Caesar did not have to be physically present but every command will be obeyed as the centurion operated on delegated authority. Similarly, just one word from Jesus is enough.
Caesar had all authority over the Roman Empire. But Jesus had all authority over everything, including sickness and disease. This same authority is given to disciples in Matthew 10:1; 28:18-20, and that includes us.
Amazement: The Centurion Amazes the King (Matthew 8:10)
thaumazo is Greek for amazed or astonished. When the word is used, it is usually to describe how people marvelled at Jesus, at His teachings, His responses, and miracles.
But this time, it was the Messiah who marvelled.
What marvels the Messiah? What amazes Jesus? Jesus marvelled at the centurion’s great faith (Matthew 8:10). The other mention of “great faith” was attributed to a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:28.
What is expected of God’s people is experienced by those who are not considered God’s people. This was the comparison of Gentile’s great faith to Israel’s faith. What about us, who are God’s people?
In Matthew 8:13, Jesus simply tells the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. Jesus did not even address the sickness or cast out anything. This is more than just a lesson on faith for healing and a showcase of miracles, Matthew had a larger intention.
Matthew was highlighting the condition of Israel, to which the Messiah was sent, but rejected. To break the prejudice against Gentiles, opening the way for the gentile mission.
To announce that the good news of the kingdom is for all peoples – both Jew and Gentile.
The centurion’s faith was considered amazing.
Access: The King grants Access into the Kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12)
Like the centurion, the faith of many gentiles will enable them to be a part of the kingdom of God. This is unthinkable to the Jewish mind. Gentiles will get to sit down and feast with the patriarchs (Revelations 19:7-9; Matthew 22:1-14).
Amazing. Sons of the kingdom cast out.
Sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness (Matthew 8:12) is consistent with Sermon on the Mount teaching. There are other references of weeping and gnashing of teeth which are found in the following,
Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:13
Evil Servants & Hypocrites, Matthew 24:48–51
Parable of Talents, Matthew 25:30; and
Narrow Gate/Way. Master closes the Door, Luke 13:28.
Is salvation and entry into the kingdom not by faith? Yes, it is. Luke does not mention casting out but an invitation to Gentiles. Gentiles who believe by faith become sons of the kingdom. Matthew writes of “casting out” as a warning to the sons of the kingdom. It takes more than just faith that believes but also faith that obeys (James 1:24).
Allegiance to the King
The centurion was a professional soldier who understood authority and submitted to the higher purposes of the Roman Empire. On that day, he may have switched allegiance to a greater Caesar and a greater purpose of the kingdom of God. He not only became a son of the kingdom, but he also became a “fellow soldier” of the Lord’s army, much like Archippus (Philemon 2). It would have cost him his military career. Probably got kicked out of the Roman army. But that would have been fine (2 Timothy 2:3–4).
His great faith results in great faithfulness in all he was assigned to, whichever Area of Operation he was sent to. Maybe he was to build more synagogues? Maybe he was to provide for orphans and widows? Maybe he was to return to Rome and was part of the church plant to the Romans? Whatever his obedience and faithfulness is what ensures his readiness and entry into the kingdom of God. That is what great faith is for.
In our Approach, thank God for His amazing grace. May we always approach Him with humility and reverence, and not with presumptuous entitlement.
Understand His Authority as we declare Jesus’ power and authority. We must remember to operate in that same authority in His name.
Amazement, when was the last time we marvelled at our Messiah? We are sons and daughters of the kingdom. Do we have great faith in a great God?
We presume our automatic Access into the kingdom. Are we faithful to do the Father’s Will? Do we have prejudices against others and raise barriers to their entry into the kingdom of God?
Who has your Allegiance? Do we live as ones under the authority of Jesus? To obey and to come or go as He directs? Are we prepared to live for Jesus as centurions are prepared to live for Caesar?