Monday 29 November 2010

Bible Book:

"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed." (v. 9)

Matthew 8:5-11 Monday 29 November 2010


The centurion is a soldier - used to orders and commands. Forhim authority was not to be questioned, you followed andobeyed. 

But the centurion's attitude towards his servant was contrary tothe prevailing view of the Roman Empire. Servants or slaves wereconsidered as a piece of property to do with as the owner saw fit.They were to be used and then disposed of when they had outlivedtheir usefulness. Yet this Roman soldier was grieving that hisslave was ill, and was determined to do something about it. Quitepossibly it was the man's love and care of his slave that movedJesus to act. It is love like that which overcomes barriers whereit is between freeman and slave, or between Jew and Gentile(non-Jew) (cf Galatians 3:26-28). 

The manner in which the centurion approached Jesus displayed arespect for the Jewish faith, as he knew that Jesus (a Jew)entering the house of a non-Jew would mean breaking Jewish law as"the dwelling places of Gentiles are unclean" (theMisnah). 

The soldier's solution to this problem displays his background - aman used to orders and authority. He suggests to Jesus that he"only speak the word, and my servant will be healed".

These words are echoed in the Holy Communion service. The ministercelebrating Communion says, "Jesus is the Lamb of God who takesaway the sin of the world. Happy are those who are called to hissupper" and the congregation respond "Lord, I am not worthy toreceive you, but only say the word and I shall behealed." 

In response to the centurion's invitation Jesus responds in verse11 with an acknowledgement that this soldier will sit and eat withAbraham and Isaac in heaven. This is a reference to the great feastthat will happen when the Messiah returns - a banquet at which allJews would expect sit down and feast. Here is Jesus responding withthe breaking down of an even greater barrier. Jesus indicating thatthe entry to the banquet is not governed by membership of aparticular race - it is a matter of faith, faith regardless of allelse. 

So in the context of the reading, the words in the Communionliturgy have even deeper resonance. 

And for the record in verse 13: "... to the centurion Jesus said,'Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.' And theservant was healed in that hour." 

To Ponder

What are the barriers in your life that Jesusneeds to overcome?

The centurion risked status and reputation inspeaking to Jesus and asking for his help. How far will your riskyour status and reputation to follow Jesus?

"I am not worthy to receive you." Reflect onthese words in the context of a world preparing to celebrate thecoming of Christ as a baby in a Bethlehem stable.

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