The second miracle recounted in Matthew chapter 8 is that of the centurion’s servant. It is an immediately surprising story. The first surprise is that the centurion would have been a member of the Roman army and therefore a Gentile but He was interested in seeking Jesus’ help. Luke’s account of the story (see Luke 7:1-10) makes it clear that he was highly regarded by the Jewish community and was a generous man who had contributed to the building of a synagogue. But he was still a Gentile. The second surprise is that for someone so powerful he was concerned for the welfare of his servant. He clearly had a deep care for the man and was prepared to go out of his way to obtain his healing.
Whereas the leper at the start of the chapter was seeking healing for himself, the centurion was seeking healing on behalf of someone else and in doing this he demonstrated remarkable faith, compassion and humility. He implored Jesus to heal his servant (vv6,7). When Jesus agreed to do it saying, ‘I will come and heal him’ (v7) the centurion followed up with a resistance to allowing Jesus to come to his home. Instead, he demonstrated amazing insight into the source of Jesus’ power.
The centurion understood authority. He knew that in the army he had superiors who simply uttered a command and he had to obey without question. Similarly, he had soldiers under him whom he could command to go here or there, to do this or that task according to his choosing and they would have to follow his command to the letter. He recognised in Jesus an authority over sickness that was ultimate. He saw that Jesus could heal because sickness and disease had to do exactly what Jesus told them to do. Jesus simply had to speak and the disease would have to obey. The centurion realised that this was not to do with Jesus’ proximity to the sick person but with His authority over the disease.
‘Just say word, and my servant will be healed.’ (v8) That is what the centurion believed. And it was true! All Jesus had to do was speak healing and the disease would have to go.
The centurion had clearly grasped something of the nature of Jesus. He saw that this was no ordinary man. Jesus was more than some travelling healer with special power in his hands. This was someone who had real authority and it took someone with true earthly authority to recognise it.
Jesus was obviously impressed with the man’s insight and does according to his request. He told the centurion to go and the servant was healed at ‘that very moment’ (v13).
What about us? Do we recognise the authority that Jesus has over sickness and disease? We should do because as the Son of God He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) which is pretty comprehensive! It means that when we call on Jesus to heal someone we can have confidence that He is able to do it!
So when are you going to ask Him?