And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
— Matthew 8: 5-10, 13 (NASB)
Capernaum (now Kfar Nahum) was a city on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. With a population of over 1500 people it was once the trading centre of Galilee and many far places. It is repeatedly referred to throughout the Gospels. In this city and its neighborhood Jesus spent a large part of the three years of his public ministry. Such an important place had a garrison of Roman soldiers, to keep a firm hand on order. It was from this garrison that a centurion came to meet Jesus.
Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the region. He had just taught a huge crowd on the hills overlooking Capernaum and healed a leper, there was no where Jesus could go now without being recognised. If anyone knew what was happening in the region, it would be the Romans. As a Roman citizen this man was probably a pagan, yet based on the testimony of many folk here he is believing Christ for a miracle. Take note reader – of the power of testimony of the power of God, even amongst ungodly people. This man does not request anything for himself but for a treasured servant. In this moment we see the heart of a man who cares deeply for someone he values as more than a servant. Instantly the Lord says “I will come and heal him.” From Jesus there is no judgement, only compassion.
This man of authority suddenly portrays beautiful humility, stating that he was not worthy to have Christ under his roof. I venture that in the moment of meeting Christ this man was convicted of his sinfulness, his unworthiness before a holy man. He was not used to feeling inadequate before men, but he did before this man of Galilee. The surprising thing is the faith he shows as he asks Jesus to “just say the word,” and he would know his servant would be healed. I don’t think there can be many scenes in the gospels where our Lord was pleasantly stunned, but that is certainly the case here with the believing faith of this centurion: “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” The Lord agrees to the centurion’s request telling him that his servant was healed, and it was so as he found when he returned home. Whether he came on his own or sent agents on his behalf (as stated in other scriptures) does not detract from his story. It is still his request, humility and faith that are central to his story. A final thought is that this Roman may be one of the earliest non-Jewish believers in Christ, who knows what he went on to do in the faith.
Dear reader, remember that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel and our Lord. The worst sinners, pagans and criminals can all be touched and called by Him. Let us never withhold in judgement the gift of God from anyone. It is our duty to pray for these souls and share our Saviour with them. Such people can hold valuable lessons for us, just like the lesson of faith from a centurion in Capernaum.