Matthew 8:5-13

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour. Matthew 8:5-13

One day Jesus is approached by a leper seeking healing. Today it is a Roman soldier who is concerned because his servant is sick. Isn’t life amazing? Isn’t life surprising?

We all long for good days. We want to be healthy. We want to be financially secure. We want good homes, great schools, safe streets. We want the freedom to go to the store to get what we need when we need it. We want to live in communities where people cooperate and celebrate and live and let live. We want all of that…and we live in fear that, if we have it, someone will take it away, and if we don’t have it, that someone is trying to keep it from us. So we get anxious and reactive and stressed, even when times are very good.

But then we get sick. We get sick and something happens. Something changes. Walls fall down. We focus in a strange new way and we see things in altogether strange, but beautiful, ways.

When is the last time you have been in the waiting room outside of an intensive care unit? If you’ve been there, you have watched it happen. People who would never have anything to do with one another begin to band together. They share their stories. They support one another. They get coffee and share food and console one another over bad news. They celebrate signs of hope. They cheer for tears of joy.

A Roman soldier approaches Jesus. A hated, oppressive, Roman soldier. My guess is that he didn’t want to be in Israel in the first place any more than one of our own soldiers wants to do a tour in Afghanistan. But he’s a soldier. He does what he is told to do. Sometimes what he does is cruel and heartless because war is hell and few occupied peoples welcome their occupiers with open arms. But then his servant gets sick.

I’ve been told that soldiers might begin with the idea of fighting for their country but, under fire and very soon, they are really fighting for one another. They become a band of brothers. War does that just as sickness does. So the servant really does matter to the Roman soldier and he is desperate to find help. Like the leper, he too takes a shot and seeks out Jesus.

Once again, with no shame, no blame, no judgment, seeing only the need of a sick servant and the desperation of a man who cares about another man, Jesus responds with healing love.

Jesus applauds the soldier’s faith. But what is that faith? It isn’t some kind of intellectual assent to the theological claims of Jesus. It isn’t signing on the dotted line to join a faith-based club. No, all it is is a radical surrender to the possibility that Jesus can be helpful in ways that no one else can. Helpful in ways far beyond any worldly power, worldly wealth, worldly position, or worldly class. That is faith.

Faith is the great equalizer. Luther said that we are all beggars at the foot of the cross. Sometimes we need to go to the edge – to a place of sickness, to a scene of chaos, to the cross itself – before we will realize that.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, life is so fragile. Try as we might to shield ourselves from that cold hard reality, we know we can’t. We find ourselves in places where loved ones suffer and strangers become friends and we realize that you are present, even in our darkest places. Help us trust you – your power, your compassion, your healing love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 8:5-13”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:


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