THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION
Key Verses: 8:10-11
"When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to
those following him, I tell you the truth, I have not
found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to
you that many will come from the east and the west,
and will take their places at the feast with Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.'"
1. Read v. 1-4. Why did the crowds follow Jesus? Which one of them
came to Jesus? What did he believe? Why might he expect to be
rejected? What can we learn from him?
2. Why did Jesus first touch the man? What did this touch mean to him?
To Jesus? What does it mean that Jesus is willing? How else did
Jesus help him? What can we learn here?
3. Read v. 5-13. What does the centurion's concern for his servant show
about him? What was his attitude toward Jesus? In what ways was he
unusual as a Roman soldier?
4. Why didn't he want Jesus to come to his house? What was his attitude
toward the word of Jesus? Why? Why was Jesus so pleased with his
faith? What was Jesus' sorrow? How did Jesus help him? How can we
have a faith that pleases Jesus?
5. Read v. 14-17. What kind of people did Jesus help? How did he help
them? What can we learn from Isaiah 53:4 about Jesus' Messiahship?
What does it mean to you that Jesus "took up our infirmities"?
In chapters 5 through 7, Jesus taught the Golden Rules, the
constitution of the kingdom of God. Now, in chapters 8 and 9, Jesus
focuses on healing the sick and planting faith in his young disciples.
In Ch. 8:1-17, Jesus heals many kinds of sick people. Jesus heals a
man with leprosy (1-4). Jesus heals a centurion's servant (5-13). Jesus
heals Peter's wife's mother (14,15). Jesus heals many who were brought
to the doors at sunset (16,17). Matthew prayerfully records Jesus'
healing ministry, emphasizing the healing power of Jesus' word. Worldly
kings have wounded and killed so many people. But King Jesus heals and
makes men whole with his word. Matthew, a wretched man who was very
sick with sin, heard Jesus' word to him, "Follow me," and was healed
and made whole by Jesus. Since Matthew was healed, he became the man
who wrote the Sermon on the Mount. He became a man who loved Jesus the
most. In today's passage, a Roman centurion astonishes Jesus with his
faith in Jesus' word. May God bless us to learn the faith of the
centurion and believe that Jesus' word has the power to heal and to
First, Jesus heals the man with leprosy (1-4). Look at verse 1. "When
he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him." Why did
they follow Jesus? When we read the four gospels we learn that these
people were mostly sick people, and that they wanted to be healed. What
did Jesus do for them? Matthew points out the fact that Jesus paid
attention to one particular person of all people. Who was he? He was a
man with leprosy. There is deep spiritual meaning to why Jesus cared
for a man with leprosy, of all the people.
In the past, leprosy was known as an incurable disease. Moreover,
lepers were known as cursed by God. Leprosy makes a man look wretched.
Man, as an aesthetic creature, enjoys looking in the mirror to
appreciate his or her own beauty, spending quite some time, maybe too
much time. But men with leprosy could not enjoy their own beauty, for
their faces were covered with ulcers and their eyebrows had fallen out.
Their eyes were barely supported by their sockets, and would stare
pointlessly. Their voices sounded ghastly hoarse, and they wheezed in
breathing. They could not mingle with others. They were supposed to be
isolated from ordinary people. They had to live in "no man's land."
They were lonely and sorrowful people.
They say that men with leprosy feel numb while they progressively
lose their fingers and toes from their hands and feet. In this respect,
leprosy is comparable to sin-sickness. Sin paralyzes man's conscience.
Sin also makes man numb to his deteriorating body and soul. One girl
wanted to enjoy sinful pleasure, just one time, and then come back to
study harder than before. But when she committed sin, she contracted
sin-sickness. She became so sick with sin that she could not fulfill
her human dreams. After committing sin, she began to complain to others
whenever she had the chance, then she began to condemn herself until
she was admitted to a mental hospital.
Men with leprosy were indeed men of strange fate because of their
leprosy. They were also social outcasts. They had to cry out,
"Unclean! Unclean!" covering the lower part of their faces whenever
they happened to pass by someone else. As soon as people discovered
lepers, they ran away from them, throwing stones at them as a means of
self-defense. A man with leprosy could not do anything but sorrow over
himself because of his ill-fate as a leper. This man with leprosy could
not dare to come to Jesus, because he was ashamed of his outward
appearance. Even if he decided to do something, he soon broke down
because of his habit of withdrawing into himself. The man with leprosy
was a man of strange fate.
Look at verse 2. "A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and
said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'" The man with
leprosy was a social outcast. The man with leprosy did not deserve to
come to Jesus, either legally or personally. But he came to Jesus,
believing that Jesus could make him clean. At that time, everybody knew
that leprosy was incurable. But the man with leprosy had faith in Jesus
that Jesus could make him clean. Of course, the man with leprosy knew
that he did not deserve the Son's mercy. So he knelt down before him
and begged his mercy, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me
clean." It was his act of faith.
What did Jesus do for him? Look at verse 3. "Jesus reached out his
hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!'
Immediately he was cured of his leprosy." This one verse shows us that
Jesus is the Son of God who came to this world to save men from their
sins. First, "Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man." This is
the exact expression of God's mercy. God's mercy is greater than men's
sins. One young man reached out his hand in the hope of shaking the
hand of a renowned American missionary to Korea. Then the missionary
refused to shake hands by hitting the young man's outstretched hand,
thinking he was too presumptuous. The missionary expected that the
young man would bow his head with respect and honor. In the past,
French colonizers would beat Vietnamese people mercilessly if the
Vietnamese did not bow their heads when the French passed by. It was
permissible for the Vietnamese to bow down and pay homage to the
French, but they were not allowed to shake hands with them. Fallen men
are groundlessly proud and insolent.
But Jesus first reached out his hand and touched the man. Nobody
wanted to come close to this man. But Jesus came close to him. Nobody
wanted to be touched by a leper. But Jesus touched him. Nobody was
willing to help him. But Jesus was willing. Everybody believed that
leprosy was incurable. But Jesus said, "Be clean!" Immediately he was
cured of his leprosy. Read verse 4. "Then Jesus said to him, 'See that
you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer
the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'" Jesus was not
afraid of infection, much less of violating the law, which said not to
approach within 16 feet of a leper. Jesus reached out his hand and
touched him because he had the healing power over leprosy. Jesus not
only has the healing power over leprosy, he also has the healing power
over those who are sick with sin. Jesus' healing the leper reminds us
of Isaiah 53:4a. "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our
sorrows...." "He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows"
sounds poetic and seems not so difficult to practice. But when we
examine our sinful nature, our Lord Jesus Christ's messianic work is
beyond human ability. For example, we like to see those who look good.
But we can't bear to talk with those we don't like. But our Lord Jesus
Christ carried all our infirmities and diseases, despite ourselves.
Second, Jesus heals a centurion's servant (5-13). Look at verse 5.
"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for
help." Centurions were the core of the Roman army. There are many
beautiful stories about centurions in the gospels. At that time, a
slave had no legal rights whatsoever. The owner of a slave was free to
treat him as he wished. But this centurion was different. All other
centurions of the world would throw out their slaves when they became
sick, or sell them like old junk cars. But this centurion was grieved
when his servant became ill. This centurion saw his servant as his own
son. Because of this, he did not hold on to his pride of being a Roman
centurion. He was willing to curb his pride and ignore his prestige if
only he could help his servant. This centurion had noble humanity
But the centurion's real greatness lies in his faith in the word of
Jesus. Look at verses 7 and 8. "Jesus said to him, 'I will go and heal
him.' The centurion replied, 'Lord, I do not deserve to have you come
under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.'"
Through this brief conversation we can see that, regardless of his
servant's terrible condition, the centurion put his faith in the power
of Jesus' word. Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." But the
centurion thought he did not deserve to have Jesus come to his house,
for he knew that Jews thought of Gentiles as unclean. At the same time,
he believed that Jesus' word had healing power. The centurion had faith
in Jesus' word. We need this kind of faith. We must believe that Jesus
can heal us with his word. We must believe that Jesus can heal all our
sheep when they believe in his words.
Look at verse 10. "When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and
said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found
anyone in Israel with such great faith.'" Jesus was never amazed by
anything or anybody. But he was amazed by the centurion's faith in his
word and said, "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great
faith." There are many kinds of faith, but the faith that Jesus admires
is faith in his word.
Jesus was happy because of the centurion's faith. At the same time,
Jesus was sorry about his own chosen people's unbelief in his word, and
because they did not have membership in the kingdom of heaven. So Jesus
said, "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and
will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in
the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown
outside, into the darkness..." (11,12).
Look at verse 13. "Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go! It will
be done just as you believed it would.' And his servant was healed at
that very hour." The servant was healed because of the centurion's
faith that believed in Jesus' word. Here we learn that we must have
faith in Jesus' word. Peter was a man who was very hard to change
because of his political ambition. He was sick with worldly desires.
But he was changed by the word of Jesus and said in 1 Peter 1:23, "For
you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable,
through the living and enduring word of God."
Third, Jesus heals many (14-17). Jesus went to Peter's home and healed
Peter's mother-in-law's fever (15). When evening came, Jesus drove out
evil spirits from many people who were suffering from evil spirits, and
healed all the sick (16). Jesus came into this world to heal all our
sin-sicknesses. Isaiah spoke of this: "He took up our infirmities and
carried our diseases" (Isa 53:4). When we see men and women of
infirmities, we are disgusted. We don't like anyone who burdens us. But
Jesus came into this world to take up our infirmities. Jesus came to
this world to carry our diseases.
As Matthew sees, Jesus is the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of
lords. But Jesus did not exercise his worldly authority over men.
Jesus used his divine power to heal all our sinsicknesses. Jesus
humbled himself and took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.
Our Lord Jesus is our Shepherd and our spiritual King, the Messiah. In
this chapter we learn that Jesus has authority to heal and restore
sinsick mankind. Jesus was sorry that God's chosen people were
unbelieving. But Jesus had hope and vision that the Gentiles would
believe and enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore we must have the
faith of the centurion and come to Jesus for healing and salvation
through faith in his word.