1 Ki 8; Mat 8; Psalm 72
Immediately following the Sermon on the Mount, the theme of obedience of lack of it is highlighted in the healing of the centurion’s servant.
The gospel of Matthew is the one most clearly directed towards an audience which has a Jewish background. Law is a key theme and the gospel is shaped in a five-fold pattern, echoing the five books of Torah. This background is important in understanding Jesus response to the gentile centurion, for there is a key element of the gospel summed up in Chapter 10:5 where Jesus commands ‘Go nowhere amongst the gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, bit go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and proclaim the good news “The kingdom of heaven has come near” ‘.
In the incident with the Centurion, Jesus is amazed for the key element of his conflict is with the disobedience of God’s people. We might well see the focus of the faith of the centurion as key – but there is another important element here. Those under the authority of the Centurion do what they are commanded – as we have already seen, the same cannot be said of the people of God, and yet who has the higher claim to authority? The Son of the most high God, or a mere military functionary?
Put like that we may well spend a moment considering: firstly how our inherently self centered culture in the West responds poorly to any authority except that of the Self; secondly how do we respond to the question when it is put in terms of a miltary leader who commands in the last resort, by penalty of death, compared with Jesus’ authority as a teacher of truth; and thirdly how well our own response to Jesus, freely given compares with that of the servants etc. to the command of the centurion – let alone the response of the disease to the presence of Christ?