Luk_7:6-7. 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: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
NOTHING makes a wider breach among men than a difference in political and religious opinion: but mutual good offices would greatly counteract this evil. Though we can never hope to soften the rancour of all, we may by persevering kindness conciliate the esteem of many. We have before us a remarkable instance of the efficacy of such conduct. The centurion was a heathen, an officer of a hostile nation, stationed in Jud
a to keep the Jews in subjection; but instead of oppressing the Jews he had shewed them much favour. He, in his turn, needed their good offices on behalf of his servant; and they gladly became his advocates and intercessors; they even prevailed on Jesus to work a miracle on his behalf.
To elucidate this miracle we shall consider,
The centurion’s character—
Soldiers, for the most part, are unfavourably circumstanced with respect to religion; but here was one, though a heathen, whose character may well put to shame the greater part of the Christian world. We may observe,
His love to his fellow-creatures—
[His servant was grievously afflicted with the palsy nigh unto death [Note: Compare Mat_8:6. with Luk_7:2.]. In this disorder, persons can do nothing for others, or even for themselves; and in such a state, even dear friends and relatives are ready to think the care of one a heavy burthen; yet this Centurion administered to his servant with the tenderest affection, and interested all he could in the promotion of his welfare [Note: He applied to some of the Jewish elders to use their interest with Jesus on his behalf.]. What could the servant himself have done more for the kindest master?]
His piety towards God—
[He had not embraced either the doctrines or discipline of the Jewish Church; but he had learned to acknowledge the only true God; and he was glad to promote the worship of God, even though he himself did not acquiesce in the peculiar mode in which he was worshipped. He even built a synagogue for the Jews at his own expensed [Note: ver. 5.]. What an admirable pattern of liberality and candour! How different from those who will not do any thing without the pale of their own Church! Surely he never afterwards regretted that he had so applied his wealth.]
His low thoughts of himself—
[He did not arrogate any thing to himself on account of his rank and authority; nor did he value himself on his benevolence to man and zeal for God. While others judged him worthy that a miracle should be wrought for him, he accounted himself unworthy of the smallest favour. This was the reason of his forbearing to wait on our Lord in person [Note: On our Lord’s near approach to the house, the same humility that had kept the Centurion from going to him, compelled him, as it were, to go, lest he should seem guilty of disrespect. Compare Mat_8:13. with the text.]. How lovely does such an one appear in the eyes of God and man!]
His exalted thoughts of Christ—
[He judged our Lord to be too holy to admit of converse with a heathen. He believed also that Jesus could effect whatsoever he pleased, by a word, and at a distance, without the intervention of any means [Note: ver. 7.]. Nor did he doubt but that universal nature was subject to his will far more than the most obedient soldier could be to the commands of his officer [Note: ver. 8.]. Thus did he ascribe to Jesus a power proper to God alone [Note: Deu_32:39.]. Well might our Lord’s address to the discreet Scribe have been applied to him [Note: Mar_12:34.].]
Such a character as this could never meet with a repulse from Jesus.
The kindness vouchsafed to him by our Lord—
Instantly at the request of the elders Jesus set off to the Centurion’s house. He who, though repeatedly importuned, declined to visit a nobleman’s son [Note: Joh_4:46-50.], went, at the very first summons, to attend upon a centurion’s servant; and no sooner met the centurion, than he richly recompensed his assiduity—
He expressed his admiration of the centurion’s faith—
[We never hear of Jesus admiring the things of this world: he rather checked in his Disciples such ill-judged veneration [Note: Mar_13:1-2.]: but when he beheld the Centurion’s faith, “he marvelled at it.” Not that such exercise of grace was really unexpected by him. Jesus both knew what was in the Centurion’s heart [Note: Joh_2:25.], and had planted there the very grace which he exercised [Note: Joh_1:16.]; but Jesus, as our exemplar, would teach us what to admire, and shew us that the smallest portion of true faith cannot be estimated too highly [Note: 2Pe_1:1.]. Our Lord declared in his very presence, that this faith had not been equalled by any even of the Israelites themselves [Note: ver. 9.]. Such approbation from his mouth could not fail of comforting the afflicted Centurion.]
He wrought the desired miracle in confirmation of his faith—
[By a simple act of his Will he restored the servant to perfect health, and told the Centurion that it should “be to him according to his faith.” Thus he removed the distress of the family in an instant. Thus too he confirmed the faith which had shone forth so nobly, and shewed that we could never expect too much at his hands. What advantage for eternal life did the Centurion derive from hence! With what lively hope might he apply to Jesus for the healing of his soul! We can never suppose that such love and piety, such humility and faith, were left to perish. No, verily; that declaration shall be found true to all eternity [Note: 1Sa_2:30.]—]
He declared that many such persons should be saved, while many, with clearer light and higher privileges, should be cast out—
[They who profess the true religion may be called “the children of the kingdom.”But how many of them are destitute of the attainments this heathen had made! How many would have imitated that vile Amalekite rather than him [Note: 1Sa_30:13.]—! How many grudge the necessary contributions for keeping up the houses of God [Note: What a contrast to him who, entirely at his own expense, erected a synagogue for people of another communion!]! What doubting of Christ’s power and grace, yea, what a proud conceit too of their own worthiness, is to be found among professing Christians! Surely what our Lord said respecting the unbelieving Jews shall be realized in Christians of this character [Note: Mat_8:12.]: and the humbler heathens, who walked agreeably to the light that they enjoyed, shall be preferred before them. Nor can we doubt but that the Centurion, in reference to whom these things were spoken, shall be among that blessed number.]
[Let us then learn to plead earnestly for ourselves; nor let a sense of unworthiness keep us from carrying our wants to Jesus — — — Let us also sympathize with, and intercede for, others. Job, like the Centurion, found benefit from his own intercessions [Note: Job_42:10.]: nor shall our supplications be in vain, either for ourselves or others.]