As He entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered Him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13 (Fourth Sunday of Matthew)
In Roman times, a centurion was an officer who was in charge of one hundred soldiers. There were also servants who accompanied the soldiers to provide for their food and shelter. That’s a lot of people to lead. All of this fell on the centurion. He was indeed a powerful and imposing figure. Obviously, his most valuable commodity was his soldiers, his fighting men. Only the bravest, strongest and best were in the army. Would he care for a servant? Would he even notice the servants?
In this morning’s Gospel, we meet a centurion. The centurion had a servant who was very sick. The centurion was obviously not Jewish. Yet, he approached Jesus, a Jew, and immediately addressed Him as “Lord” and made a plea to Him that his servant, not his top soldier, but his servant was very sick.
Jesus offered to come to his home and heal the servant. However, the centurion (again remember this is a powerful man) addressed Jesus again as “Lord” and told Him that he felt unworthy to have Jesus come under his roof, but only for Him to say a word and his servant would be healed. Talk about faith – The centurion was a powerful man (he even told Jesus that he was a man of authority, who could order his soldiers to come and they would come, to go and they would go, and to tell his servant, do something and he would do it), who was not a Jew (and therefore would not have been looking to Jesus as a Savior), who addressed Jesus right away as Lord and expressed humility and unworthiness for Jesus to visit his home, while expressing faith that Jesus could heal his servant.
Jesus, we are told, marveled at what the centurion had said, and said that He had never seen such faith in all of Israel. He went on to say that many would come from all over (the Gentiles) and be welcomed while the people of Israel who rejected Him would be kept out of the Kingdom of Heaven. And finally, He told the centurion to return home and the servant of the centurion was healed by Jesus’ word alone.
There are many takeaways from today’s Gospel. First, what place does Jesus hold for you? Is He “Lord,” or “advisor”? Have you given Him the lead in your life, or just go to Him when it suits you?
Second, most of us crave authority. We like to have things our way, and we like to have people who will do what we ask – who will come when we say “come,” who will go when we say “go” and who will do something when we say “do it.” Think about your kids, their teachers or coaches, your mechanic, your doctor, accountant, gardener, anyone you want to comply with your wishes. We all want some kind of authority over someone. Yet are we willing to put ourselves under authority. Are we obedient to superiors? And most importantly, do we show obedience to the Lord, do we willingly do what He asks?
Third, how strong is our faith? Do we demand actions from the Lord? Do we take the Lord at His word? Do we trust in Him? Do we feel entitled to things from Him? Do we remain humble?
Fourth, do we look out for those “under us”? Do we take care of even “the servants”?
I like today’s Gospel a lot – I am a man of some authority, with a parish, parishioners and ministries that I lead. There are people who answer to me. However, I am also under authority – whether it is to my Metropolitan, or even to my parishioners. I have to answer and be accountable to them. Most important, however, I am under the authority of the Lord and have to answer to Him, to please Him, to serve Him, to place my trust and faith in Him. We are all like the Centurion – in authority and under authority. And one of the keys to the successful Christian life is to care for those under us, while serving those over us – our bosses on earth and our Lord in heaven.
Christ has risen from the dead, the first of those who have fallen asleep. The Artificer of all things that were made was first born before all creation; now He has renewed the corrupted nature of our human race in Himself. O Death, you no longer have dominion, for the Master of all has destroyed your power. (First Kathisma, Sunday Orthros, Third Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be both a good leader and good servant today!