Lesson 40: Healing the Centurion's Servant and Crowd Control
Matthew 8:5-13; 12:15-21, Mark 3:7-12, Luke 7:1-10
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
This is lesson # 40. And, we're ready to start Luke ch. 7. We're going to read the first 10 verses. So, let's read. Luke 7:1 beginning, "Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 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. For I also am a man sent under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."
Alright, Luke and Matthew both cover this account. Mark and John did not record this; so, let's read Matthew's account, ch.8:5-13, Please turn to that. Have you found that? Let's read! Beginning in v.5, "And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."
In both Luke and Matthew, this incident follows the sermon on he mount so this was after the twelve apostles were appointed. When they came back into Capernaum, which seemed to have been Jesus' main base of operations at that time. His miracles had caused his fame to spread and thus got the attention of many, many people. A centurion was an officer in the Roman army; the commander of 100 men was the technical meaning. This man was probably stationed in Galilee with Antipater Herod as part of the peace-keeping force there. Thus, I think it's reasonable to assume that he was a Gentile; i.e. a non-Jew. But, it is possible and even probable this centurion (we don't know his name) was a proselyte. My reason, of course, for suggesting this Roman officer may have been a proselyte is in v.5 in Luke's account. He had built a meeting house for the Jews. A proselyte was a Gentile who had identified with the Jewish religion and the Jewish nation. The "elders of the Jews" as used in v.3 was a term APPLIED TO synagogue leaders, which were, sometimes, also referred to as a ruler of the synagogue. So, it was thus the synagogue leaders that came soliciting Jesus on behalf of this centurion; whose servant was sick. You will recall that Jesus had been in the synagogue at Capernaum before and healed in that synagogue. I'm sure your remember the case of the man with the unclean spirit (Luke 4:35). Whether this was the same synagogue or not, of course, we cannot be sure. The servant mentioned here was probably not a soldier but a household slave that cared for the centurion and his family, if he had a family. According to Matthew's account (v.6), this servant was bedfast with the palsy, "grievously tormented." When Jesus heard the appeal of this centurion and the elders that came with him; Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." It is interesting that Jesus said: "I WILL COME and heal him." Do you remember the nobleman's son, recorded in John 4:46, in this same city, Capernaum? Jesus was in Cana of Galilee and He healed the nobleman's son without going to Capernaum. The word "nobleman" means one of the kings men. Thus, probably some one who worked around the king's castle or had occasion to be there from time to time as this centurion would have been also. Whether the publicity of that incident had anything to do with this case, or not, we don't know. However, the centurion did not want Jesus to come under his roof (Luke 7:6). Apparently a very modest and a very meek man. This might cause you to question whether he was a full-fledged proselyte or not. But, at any rate, Jesus honored the centurion's request and praised him for his great faith. Thus, the centurion realized that the powers of Jesus did not require Jesus' presence and, thus, was not a medical cure; but, a miraculous healing. Matt. 8:10 said that Jesus marveled at the man's faith and exclaimed that he had not found such great faith in all Israel. You have a KINGDOM WORKSHEET, remember, so pick up on a little kingdom study in v.11-12 of Matthew's account. Jesus said: "...many shall come from the east and west, and shall set down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Thus, Jesus here broadened the concept of the kingdom for the benefit of those synagogue elders and others; then, Matthew recorded it for us. Not only would that kingdom, that was coming, the theme of Jesus teaching according to Matt. 4:17, NOT ONLY would that kingdom exist upon this earth, where Jesus' rules and commandments of the sermon on the mount are to be observed and obeyed; but, that kingdom shall also extend into the after life, i.e. the heavenly realm. There the righteous of past ages shall be a part of that kingdom. The Jews expected to be inducted into that kingdom by their fleshly birth. You will remember what John the Baptist said in Matt. 3:9, "think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father." Jesus had told Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." And, Jesus had said in the sermon on the mount, "Not everyone that saith unto me, lord, Lord, shall enter..." Then, notice the warning here in v.11-12, "many shall come from the east and west..." i.e. many foreigners would enter into the kingdom and ultimately attain eternal bliss: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out." That's another way of saying that many of the Jews would be lost through their own arrogance. Some in our day refuse to believe in hell or eternal punishment; but, could the concept be taught any plainer than Jesus taught it in v.12? Outer darkness! weeping! Gnashing of teeth! That's the alternative as Jesus painted the picture. And, who could paint the picture any more authoritatively than Jesus? Can you find yourself in that verse? Many shall come from the east and the west; you see, that could include you. And, no doubt, you observed even in the centurion some of those beatitudes in the sermon on the mount. The officer did not consider himself as a high and mighty man; although, he commanded a century of troops; he did not consider himself worthy of a visit by Jesus. He was poor in spirit. He realized that without a gift from Jesus; his servant would die. He loved his servant and wanted to serve his servant's best interest. One aspect of the proud is that they want to be served by somebody else. Those who are poor in spirit want to serve others. And, you can't out-do them in courtesy, respect and accommodation. It's simply a trait or a characteristic of a humble man. The story is told about George Washington and General Lafayette as they vere walking one morning. They met a slave. The elderly colored man paused, tipped his hat, bowed and said: "Good mornin' Gen'l Washington." It is said that George Washington immediately removed his hat, bowed and wished the man a pleasant day. After a moment or two; and General Lafayette recovered from his shocked silence; he said: "Why on earth did you bow to a slave?" That great man, described as the father of our country replied: "I refuse to allow any man to be a better gentleman than I am." It's a characteristic of humble people. I'm NOT talking about false modesty. I'm talking about the real thing. Consider the centurion in our text today. Here was an influential officer of the Roman army, stationed in a backward outpost of the Roman empire. He could have exploited the natives; if he had chosen to have done that. But, instead, he built the Jews a synagogue. He was not there to be served. He was there to serve the Jews AND HIS COUNTRY the best he could, where he just happened to be stationed. V. 13 said, "his servant was healed the selfsame hours." This is just one more incident among the many, many things that happened during Jesus' ministry in Galilee.
Now, there's a couple more scriptures I'd like to tuck in here someplace between the sermon on Hi- mount and the passover at Jerusalem. The timing I'm not sure about. Apparently the time moved very rapidly in the early months of AD 31 during this Galilean ministry. So, I'm going to include those two scriptures here at the end of lesson # 40. Let's take Mark first. Please turn yith me to Mark ch 3, beginning in v.7. We're going to read six verses. Are you ready? Mark 3:7 beginning, "But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumae, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known." This was obviously on an occasion when crowd control was a problem. Thus, indicating a time after they had been traveling about for some weeks or months. Mark says "a great multitude" in v.8. With the possible exception of Idumea, I believe you can identify all the places mentioned in these verses. Idumea was a territory south of where Judea is marked on your map. Tyre and Sidon are cities on the Mediterranean sea north of Galilee. You should already have Tyre, city # 12, marked on your map. You can see from v.9 that the little ship, probably a fishing boat; was used as part of their security system, a measure used in crowd control. The healing described in v.10-12 seems to have been a very typical occasion of Jesus' Galilean ministry. V.10 said, "they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues." You see, this helps to give us a feel for the occasion.
Now, let's read Matthew's sequel, Matt. 12:15-21. You might notice that Matthew and Mark both connect this to the occasion when the Pharisees held the council against Jesus to destroy him. Let's read, beginning in Matt. 12:15, "But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth.judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust."
O.K. this scripture like the one we read in Mark shows how hectic things became in Galilee as Jesus went about his work. Great multitudes followed him, Matthew said in v. 15. These multitude were a great problem to deal with in one sense. Yet, the Pharisees had, in effect, threatened Jesus' life. So, in another sense the multitude shielded Jesus from the Pharisees carrying out some public acts of violence. It would appear that Jesus spoke to small groups and continue to move from place to place. His healing was done in a very individualistic way. And those whom he healed, he asked them to cooperate by not making him known to the Pharisees and their plotting against Jesus. Matthew saw in this another fulfillment of the O.T. The quote that Matthew used here is from the beginning of Isaiah ch. 42. Part of the quote, in v.19 here in. Matthew said: "neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets." So, most of the time Jesus worked with individuals and small groups, probably somewhat different than the occasion of the sermon on the mount. I get a different picture than the typical stump-type political speaker common in our day, yelling at the top of his voice. Jesus' approach i/as much quieter and individualistic. This, approach, Matthew is trying to impress upon us through the H.S., fits and fulfilled the Isaiah prophecy about Jesus. Thus, in this quote Matthew NOT ONLY gives us a typical fulfillment documentation as is common to Matthew, in v. 17-21; but, Matthew conveys to us by this means, his own feelings and impressions of Jesus' mannerisms under the circumstances. Iget the impression very little happened in terms of organized meetings, speeches, rallies and organized gatherings, etc. Yet, Jesus dominated the scene without the benefit of mass media, loud speakers, placards, and such likes. The description in v.20 about smoking flax and not breaking a bruised reed is a way of saying Jesus was very calm and never rash in his actions. Smoking flax apparently had reference to an ancient lamp, like they used, a wick was used to burn olive oil to produce light. When the fuel ran out the wick began to smoke and had to be extinguished with quick and rash action to keep it from filling the room with smoke and to prevent a sudden flare-up of flames. A bruised reed had something to do with a kind of dried weed. Jesus didn't even break these weeds. As I said, this was a way of describing Jesus' mild and cautious mannerisms. Thus, we get a peek at Jesus' personality, in effect. Our next lesson covers a very touching scene. Until then, have a good day.