A Faith in Christ

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 8:5-11)

Scripture Study

8:5 Capernaum Town where Jesus based His ministry in Galilee (4:13). See note on Luke 4:31. centurion A Roman military officer who commanded about 80 men. These officers served their entire careers as soldiers and were highly experienced and esteemed. appealed to him The Greek word used here, parakaleō, carries the sense of strongly urging or begging. Matthew’s choice of words would have conveyed a shocking scene: A high-ranking Roman military official—part of the imperial forces currently occupying Palestine—begs for help from one of the subjugated people, even calling him “Lord” (Matt 8:8).

8:6 my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully The servant is bedridden and in great pain; in Luke’s parallel account (Lk 7:1–10), he is about to die. The Greek term used here, paralytikos, refers to being disabled or crippled. This healing backs up Matthew’s earlier report about Jesus’ power to heal paralysis, among other conditions (Matt 4:24).

8:8 Lord I am not worthy The centurion humbles himself before Jesus, who would have been perceived as a lowly Jewish rabbi. He also might be indicating an awareness that Jews could not acceptably enter the homes of Gentiles (see Acts 10:28; 11:3). only say the word A statement of faith. The centurion expresses belief not only in Jesus’ authority over sickness and disease, but also over time and space (anticipating His ability to heal from a distance).

8:9 For I too am a man subject to authority The centurion served within a chain of command; his own authority was derived from those above him. He seems to recognize a similar situation with Jesus, whose authority comes from God (Matt 11:27; 28:18).

8:10 he was amazed Matthew frequently refers to the astonishment of Jesus’ audience (e.g., vv. 27; 9:33; 15:31; 22:22), but this is the only place in this Gospel where Jesus Himself is astonished (compare Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9). He uses the opportunity to teach His followers about faith. Amen, I say to you Jesus employs this statement throughout His ministry to emphasize the words that follow. in no one in Israel have I found such faith Jesus makes the astounding statement that no Jew has as much faith as this Gentile (non-Jew). Jesus often describes His own followers as having very little faith (Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8).

8:11 many will come from east and west Refers to many Gentiles, in addition to the centurion. Jesus is pointing to the time when people all over the world would become His followers. will recline Refers to the messianic banquet that will accompany the end of the age (compare 22:1–14; Rev 19:6–10). The Old Testament predicts a gathering of Israel from all over the earth (e.g., Isa 43:5–6; Psa 107:3), as well as the Gentiles’ worship of God (e.g., Isa 2; 60:3–4; Mic 4:1–2; Zech 8:20–23). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob The three patriarchs of the Jewish faith.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel passage acclaims a centurion’s trust in the Lord Jesus. To trust is to have hope, to turn one’s heart to God. It means to root one’s life, to ground and center one’s concerns in God. And, oppositely, to trust and to turn one’s heart to human beings means to root the whole of one’s life, to ground and center one’s concerns, in the things of this world, in wealth, fame, power, honor, or pleasure.

What is the center of gravity of your life? What is your “ultimate concern’”? The Bible consistently lays this out as an either/or. Think of the passage in the book of Joshua, when Joshua lays it on the line for the people of Israel: “Do you serve the Lord or some other gods?”

Jesus tells his followers, “Either you are with me or you are against me.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that we each have to answer this question with great honesty and clarity.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.