Tuesday 01 March 2022

Bible Book:

‘In no one in Israel have I found such faith.’ (v. 10)

Matthew 8:5-13 Tuesday 1 March 2022

Psalm 147


Although brought up in the village of Nazareth, from the start of his public ministry Jesus, according to Matthew, made his home in Capernaum (4:13), apparently a much larger place. We can infer that there was a Roman garrison in the town and so it is likely that the newly famous preacher and the captain of the soldiers knew of each other, at least by reputation. But, of course, the centurion would have been a Gentile and so this is another story where someone who would be viewed as an outsider comes to Jesus. For many Jews, the centurion would have been a symbol of Roman oppression; although there was a local, client king (Herod), Galilee was effectively under Roman rule.

As in yesterday’s story, Matthew here portrays Jesus as reaching out across boundaries. When the centurion asks for Jesus’ help, Jesus offers to go to the man’s house. Interestingly, there is no account in the gospel of Jesus actually going into the home of a Gentile, but it seems that his compassion for the suffering of the child in this instance requires him to offer to go. The centurion declines Jesus’ offer, not because of any social or religious norms, but because he does not feel worthy to welcome Jesus and, anyway, it is not necessary. His understanding and experience of authority tell him that Jesus only needs to command and it will be done.

The centurion’s answer has been incorporated into many liturgies and devotional books as a prayer of humility. Before receiving communion, Christians are often invited to pray "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." The faith of the centurion which Jesus praises consists of two elements – an understanding of who Jesus is (the centurion addresses him as ‘Lord’) and a trust in the power of Jesus to heal. Jesus’ response that he has not seen faith like this among the Jewish people should not be read (as tragically it sometimes has been read by antisemitic interpreters) as excluding Jews from the kingdom of God but as a recognition that those who are new to the ways of God sometimes see more clearly than those who are familiar with the covenant of grace.


To Ponder:

  • ‘Lord’ is a form of address often used in prayers. What does it mean to you?
  • Have you lived in or known of a situation where the forces of law and order represent an oppressive or enemy power? How would you feel if you were asked for help from someone across that divide?
  • The centurion understands authority as requiring unquestioning obedience, but our experience might be very different. What does it mean for the Gospel to have authority today?
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