An Army Officer’s Great Faith
WHEN Jesus gives his Sermon on the Mount, he has reached about the halfway point in his public ministry. This means he has only a year and nine months or so left to complete his work on earth.
Jesus now enters the city of Capernaum, a kind of home base for his activities. Here older men of the Jews approach him with a request. They have been sent by an officer in the Roman army who is a Gentile, a man of a different race than the Jews.
The army officer’s beloved servant is about to die from a serious illness, and he wants Jesus to heal his servant. The Jews earnestly plead in behalf of the officer: “He is worthy of your conferring this upon him,” they say, “for he loves our nation and he himself built the synagogue for us.”
Without hesitation, Jesus leaves with the men. However, when they get near, the army officer sends out friends to say: “Sir, do not bother, for I am not fit to have you come in under my roof. For that reason I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.”
What a humble expression for an officer who is accustomed to ordering others! But he is also probably thinking of Jesus, realizing that custom prohibits a Jew from having social connections with non-Jews. Even Peter said: “You well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a man of another race.”
Perhaps not wanting Jesus to suffer the consequences of violating this custom, the officer has his friends request of him: “Say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, ‘Be on your way!’ and he is on his way, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
Well, when Jesus hears this, he marvels. “I tell you the truth,” he says, “with no one in Israel have I found so great a faith.” After healing the officer’s servant, Jesus uses the occasion to relate how non-Jews of faith will be favored with blessings that are rejected by faithless Jews.
“Many,” Jesus says, “from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.”
“The sons of the kingdom . . . thrown into the darkness outside” are natural Jews who do not accept the opportunity offered first to them of being rulers with Christ. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob represent God’s Kingdom arrangement. Thus Jesus is relating how Gentiles will be welcomed to recline at the heavenly table, as it were, “in the kingdom of the heavens.” Luke 7:1-10; Matthew 8:5-13; Acts 10:28.
▪ Why do Jews plead in behalf of a Gentile army officer?
▪ What may explain why the officer has not invited Jesus to enter his house?
▪ What does Jesus mean by his concluding remarks?