3 October 2013

Matthew 8:1-13

"The centurion answered, 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, "Go", and he goes, and to another, "Come", and he comes, and to my slave, "Do this", and the slave does it.'" (vv. 8-9)


We dive straight into the second of three healing narratives in this part of Matthew's Gospel. The first tells the account of a Jewish leper (Matthew 8:1-4). And after the healing of the centurion's servant, there is the third healing - that of Peter's mother in law (Matthew 8:14-15).

Jesus means business!

He has come to heal Jews, Gentiles (non Jews) and family - and to do so publicly, and in such a way that hundreds of other people are brought to him for healing and restoration.

There is much in this short passage that is shocking. It is shocking not only because it tells the account of Jesus healing someone; nor because Jesus heals from a distance, without entering into the centurion's home or even meeting with the sufferer. What marks this account out even more powerfully is that the initial request of the centurion is not for himself. This is not a selfish petition, but the selfless act of a power-holder within the Empire.

The centurion would have been a significant leader - an alpha male; someone with fast-track leadership qualities, to whom great responsibility within the Roman Empire will have been given. Yet this powerful strategist also demonstrates great compassion towards someone who is far lower than him in rank and regard. He comes to Jesus requesting help on behalf of his servant. His servant who was 'suffering terribly' (verse 6).

Even before Jesus speaks, this is a challenging passage. It challenges the reader to think about whether they notice people over whom they hold power, and to consider how that power is used (or abused).

The centurion continues to demonstrate that he knows and understands the humanity of his servant, and the reality of his own powerlessness in this situation as he is unable to do anything other than risk coming to Jesus. In other words, a centurion who is so used to ordering people about and achieving positive outcomes puts himself under the authority and power of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus responds to this courageous and humble request, and from a distance heals the servant. Once again, the kingdom of God turns power on its head.

To Ponder

  • Whose authority are you under?
  • What difference does that make to you?
  • Who do you have authority over?
  • How do you demonstrate compassion to them?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".