When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserved to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one,’Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matt. 8:5-13 (NIV)
The Gospel writer, Matthew, gives us this episode in the life of Jesus as the very next encounter after the kneeling leper’s request for healing. This healing episode is much different:
A. Unlike the leper, the suffering servant was not present.This healing of the paralyzed servant took place without any physical contact. I personally have seen the paralyzed walk, the blind see, the dead live, and a demon cast out. But I never saw any of these things happen without the touch of the healer, be it a doctor or a missionary.
B. His master, a foreigner and a representative of an occupying army, only obliquely asked for help; he really described the his servant’s suffering.
C. Jesus’ initial response was a radical statement about the expansion of the kingdom of heaven beyond the Jews to the “many” of the whole world.
D. Jesus was amazed. Thirty-three times in the Gospels, people were amazed by something said or done by Jesus. Only the centurion amazed Him.
Jesus, in His human form, may have had a vision of the kingdom of heaven extending to all people. But up until the visit from the centurion, no one from outside the Jewish nation and religion had sought out His presence, His power and His authority. Our earthly Jesus was amazed.
Maybe He was amazed at the centurion’s purpose as well. No doubt by this time, Jesus had a reputation. Healers, political entities, and the economically concerned had probably already lined up to assess this power and authority. Imagine if He were a preacher from Palatka who had just taken up residence in St. Augustine, and performed the miracles, and gathered the crowds, that He had in 31 AD. The University of Florida and the Mayo Clinic would send representatives to ask for His help, study His methods, interview His patients. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Florida would ask about His political alignment, and seek to bring the crowds that followed Him under their umbrella. Advertising agencies might seek to use Him to sponsor certain brands compatible with His message. Wall Street companies and internet giants may have ideas on how to monetize the Jesus brand in preparation for a national and international campaign.
But without any additional agenda, the centurion came and announced that someone he loved was “paralyzed and suffering terribly,” then waited for Jesus’ response.
So maybe that’s one of the messages of this complex little story. If we want to amaze Jesus, and feast in the kingdom of heaven, we need to come to Him with the message that people we love are suffering terribly, and, whether or not we see His hand at work, we will trust in His power and authority to make things right.