When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6“Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
In Matthew 8, Jesus is recorded as miraculously healing several distinct individuals that represent three classification of people who were viewed with lesser status in Jewish eyes. The first is a leper, who is considered unclean for a Jewish man to touch (vv. 1-4). Next is a servant of a Roman centurion, who was a Gentile foreigner and likely part of the oppressive Roman Empire, which Jews considered to be their enemy (vv. 5-13). Lastly, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15), which is unique as women were not looked upon with much recognition or significance in Jewish society. In addition, the passage also reveals that Jesus healed numerous other people who were demon-possessed around Capernaum as well (vv. 16-17).
In verses 5-10 when Jesus is approached by the centurion, he concedes to the centurion’s request to come and heal his servant. Jesus’ agreement to come to the centurion’s home is quite a startlingly turn of events in this passage as a Jewish person would be deemed ceremonially unclean if they entered the house of a Gentile (cf. Jn 18:28; Acts 10:28). But nevertheless, Jesus humbly agrees to go and heal the man (vv. 5-7).
But the centurion replies quickly to Jesus expressing his “unworthiness” for Jesus to make the effort to come to his house. Rather, the centurion reveals a keen understanding of Jesus’ authority to speak with the power of God. The centurion explains that he knows what authority means because he speaks, and someone obeys, and the task is accomplished. In the same way, he claims that Jesus only needs to speak the “word,” and according to the authority of his “word,” the centurion’s servant will be healed (v. 8).
This proclamation amazes Jesus because the centurion understood the power and authority of God that Jesus represented. And in response to the centurion’s understanding of this reality, Jesus declares, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (v. 10). What an unsuspecting pronouncement—that Jesus would confess such a great faith from this Gentile that superseded any he had seen in all of Israel. The emphasis here is that even a Gentile, who was not considered a member of God’s people, will see the power of God at work when they trust in Jesus, God’s Anointed.
What the passage can teach us is that God’s power flows in response to the exercising of faith (trust) in God as the source of all power and in Jesus as God’s Messiah. If we want to see God’s power at work in our lives, it begins by recognizing that God moves when we believe and trust in him, knowing that he is able to do even what may seem impossible in our eyes. Our trust in God doesn’t make God move; rather, God responds when we trust in him. And we must also trust in his character—that he responds as the good and loving God that we know he is.