The Kindness of Christ to the Undeserving (verses 5-8a)
This centurion was an officer in the Roman army with approximately 100 soldiers under his command. More significantly for this account, he was a Gentile. He seeks Jesus’ help on behalf of his paralyzed, suffering servant. At first glance, based on Jesus’ response, it seems the centurion is implying by his request that he desires Jesus to come to his home. For a Jew, entering a Gentile’s home would have made him unclean. Does this Gentile realize what he’s asking? Should a Jewish man, especially this holy Messiah, enter into the home of an unclean Gentile?
The centurion makes clear that he does recognize the implications of his request, stating that he is unworthy for the Lord to enter his home. However, in his great confidence in the mercy of Jesus, the recognition of his unworthiness does not keep him from asking. He doesn’t think his unworthiness is sufficient reason not to seek the mercy of Christ. He believes that the kindness of Christ would extend even to an unworthy, unclean Gentile like himself. And his confidence in the kindness of Christ does not disappoint.
- The only way anyone can come to Jesus is in the awareness of their own unworthiness and with confidence in Christ’s undeserved kindness (c.f. Luke 18:9-14). The Word of God makes clear that we, by nature, are undeserving sinners, and that Christ in His grace is willing to extend His saving kindness even to us.
The Authority of Word of Christ (verse 8b-9)
Not only does the centurion acknowledge that he is unworthy for Jesus to enter his house, he believes it’s not even necessary. All Jesus needs to do is simply speak the word and his servant will be healed. As a military man who lived in a context of authoritative commands, the centurion was able to recognize the authority of Jesus. Over and over again in the ministry of Jesus, it is evident that creation, disease, demons, and even death submit without hesitation to His command. Never once in His earthly ministry did the word of Jesus fail to accomplish what He had spoken.
- Still today, Jesus Christ continues to rule all things by the authority of His word. As the writer of Hebrews describes it, He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). The Sun rises and sets, nations rise and fall, sickness comes and goes, and people live and die at the command of Christ. All things are governed by the powerful word of the Lord Jesus.
The Exclusivity of Christ as Savior (verses 10-13)
Jesus marvels at this man’s faith. “You might expect to find this sort of faith among the Israelites, those who had been given the Scriptures and the covenant; but Jesus says in all of his encounters with the people of Israel, never had He found someone who really understood and believed who He was like this man did. As he considers and contrasts this man’s faith with the lack of faith among many in Israel, it leads Him to reflect on the coming reality of His kingdom. Following the death and resurrection of Christ, Gentiles from the east and the west, from all nations, would believe in the Lord and be saved and would join Him in His kingdom at the end of the age; while many in Israel, despite their great religious privileges, would reject Him.
He is not saying that no Jews will be saved—thankfully many will be. Rather, he is pointing out that many who think they belong to the kingdom will be excluded because they are hoping in the wrong things. No one gets into the kingdom based on ethnicity or physical ancestry. Rather, the only basis for entrance into the kingdom, whether on the part of a Jew or Gentile, is faith in Jesus Christ. His righteousness alone credited to us through faith is sufficient to save. He is the exclusive savior.
- Jesus responds to the centurion’s request made in faith by healing the servant immediately by his word. The centurion’s faith did not disappoint. In the same way, if anyone puts their faith in Christ alone for salvation, no matter their unworthiness, they will not be disappointed. As Peter quotes in His 1 Peter 2:6, “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”