Say the Word

The Big But ~

The big but of this chapter demonstrates a man’s confidence that Jesus’ compassion and love could overcome his own unworthiness.

Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed.

A Roman centurion was an officer assigned to oversee 100 soldiers. This man understood the chain of authority. As such, his plea was seen as a statement of faith in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus told those that were with Him that this was a testimony to a watching world, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith!” More than that, it would be a damning testimony against those who lack faith. This man came and humbled himself. He really believed. In this way, strangers, Jesus said, will sit down at the banquet in heaven but the subjects of the kingdom—Jews who thought that their heritage assured them of citizenship in the kingdom—will be thrown outside.

Jesus told the man, “Go! It will be done for you just as you believed it would.” Matthew caps the story off by confirming that the man’s servant was healed that very hour.

These two encounters are interesting for another reason. The laws having to do with leprosy restricted people from being in God’s presence—this man is unclean, therefore he cannot come in. The Roman officer was a Gentile—definitely not a man who would be welcomed in the assembly of God’s people. But Matthew records these as the first two encounters Jesus had coming down the mountain. A leper? Jesus touches him and says, I am willing, be clean. A Gentile officer? “Now, this man has great faith!” He may as well have said, “Here’s a great example for you all!” Can you feel the weight of these stories on Matthew’s Jewish audience? Not quite? Consider again Jesus’ conclusion: many (folks like these) 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.