Some difference there is between this story of the cure of the centurion’s servant as it is related here and as we had it in Matt. 8:5 There it was said that the centurion came to Christ; here it is said that he sent to him first some of the elders of the Jews (Luke 7:3), and afterwards some other friends, Luke 7:6. But it is a rule that we are said to do that which we do by another—Quod facimus per alium, id ipsum facere judicamur. The centurion might be said to do that which he did by his proxies; as a man takes possession by his attorney. But it is probable that the centurion himself came at last, when Christ said to him (Matt. 8:13), As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.
This miracle is here said to have been wrought by our Lord Jesus when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, Luke 7:1. What Christ said he said publicly; whoever would might come and hear him: In secret have I said nothing, John 18:20. Now, to give an undeniable proof of the authority of his preaching word, he here gives an incontestable proof of the power and efficacy of his healing word. He that had such a commanding empire in the kingdom of nature as that he could command away diseases, no doubt has such a sovereignty in the kingdom of grace as to enjoin duties displeasing to flesh and blood, and bind, under the highest penalties, to the observance of them. This miracle was wrought in Capernaum, where most of Christ’s mighty works were done, Matt. 11:23. Now observe,
I. The centurion’s servant that was sick was dear to his master, Luke 7:2. It was the praise of the servant that by his diligence and faithfulness, and a manifest concern for his master and his interest, as for himself and for his own, he recommended himself to his master’s esteem and love. Servants should study to endear themselves to their masters. It was likewise the praise of the master that, when he had a good servant, he knew how to value him. Many masters, that are haughty and imperious, think it favour enough to the best servants they have not to rate them, and beat them, and be cruel to them, whereas they ought to be kind to them, and tender of them, and solicitous for their welfare and comfort.
II. The master, when he heard of Jesus, was for making application to him, Luke 7:3. Masters ought to take particular care of their servants when they are sick, and not to neglect them then. This centurion begged that Christ would come and heal his servant. We may now, by faithful and fervent prayer, apply ourselves to Christ in heaven, and ought to do so, when sickness is in our families; for Christ is still the great Physician.
III. He sent some of the elders of the Jews to Christ, to represent the case, and solicit for him, thinking that a greater piece of respect to Christ than if he had come himself, because he was an uncircumcised Gentile, whom he thought Christ, being a prophet, would not care for conversing with. For that reason he sent Jews, whom he acknowledged to be favourites of Heaven, and not ordinary Jews neither, but elders of the Jews, persons in authority, that the dignity of the messengers might give honour to him to whom they were sent. Balak sent princes to Balaam.
IV. The elders of the Jews were hearty intercessors for the centurion: They besought him instantly (Luke 7:4), were very urgent with him, pleading for the centurion that which he would never have pleaded for himself, that he was worthy for whom he should do this. If any Gentile was qualified to receive such a favour, surely he was. The centurion said, I am not so much as worthy of a visit (Matt. 8:8), but the elders of the Jews thought him worthy of the cure; thus honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. Let another man praise thee, and not thy own mouth. But that which they insisted upon in particular was, that, though he was a Gentile, yet he was a hearty well-wisher to the Jewish nation and religion, Luke 7:5. They thought there needed as much with Christ as there did with them to remove the prejudices against him as a Gentile, a Roman, and an officer of the army, and therefore mention this, 1. That he was well-affected to the people of the Jews: He loveth our nation (which few of the Gentile did). Probably he had read the Old Testament, whence it was easy to advance to a very high esteem of the Jewish nation, as favoured by Heaven above all people. Note, Even conquerors, and those in power, ought to keep up an affection for the conquered, and those they have power over. 2. That he was well-affected to their worship: He built them a new synagogue at Capernaum, finding that what they had was either gone to decay or not large enough to contain the people, and that the inhabitants were not of ability to build one for themselves. Hereby he testified his veneration for the God of Israel, his belief of his being the one only living and true God, and his desire, like that of Darius, to have an interest in the prayers of God’s Israel, Ezra 6:10. This centurion built a synagogue at his own proper costs and charges, and probably employed his soldiers that were in garrison there in the building, to keep them from idleness. Note, Building places of meeting for religious worship is a very good work, is an instance of love to God and his people; and those who do good works of that kind are worthy of double honour.
V. Jesus Christ was very ready to show kindness to the centurion. He presently went with them (Luke 7:6), though he was a Gentile; for is he the Saviour of the Jews only? Isa. he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, Rom. 3:29. The centurion did not think himself worthy to visit Christ (Luke 7:7), yet Christ thought him worthy to be visited by him; for those that humble themselves shall be exalted.
VI. The centurion, when he heard that Christ was doing him the honour to come to his house, gave further proofs both of his humility and of his faith. Thus the graces of the saints are quickened by Christ’s approaches towards them. When he was now not far from the house, and the centurion had notice of it, instead of setting his house in order for his reception, he sends friends to meet him with fresh expressions, 1. Of his humility: “Lord, trouble not thyself, for I am unworthy of such an honour, because I am a Gentile.” This bespeaks not only his low thoughts of himself notwithstanding the greatness of his figure; but his high thoughts of Christ, notwithstanding the meanness of his figure in the world. He knew how to honour a prophet of God, though he was despised and rejected of men. 2. Of his faith: “Lord, trouble not thyself, for I know there is no occasion; thou canst cure my servant without coming under my roof, by that almighty power from which no thought can be withholden. Say, in a word, and my servant shall be healed:” so far was this centurion from Namaan’s fancy, that he should come to him, and stand, and strike his hand over the patient, and so recover him, 2 Kgs. 5:11. He illustrates this faith of his by a comparison taken from his own profession, and is confident that Christ can as easily command away the distemper as he can command any of his soldiers, can as easily send an angel with commission to cure this servant of his as he can send a soldier on an errand, Luke 7:8. Christ has a sovereign power over all the creatures and all their actions, and can change the course of nature as he pleases, can rectify its disorders and repair its decays in human bodies; for all power is given to him.
VII. Our Lord Jesus was wonderfully well pleased with the faith of the centurion, and the more surprised at it because he was a Gentile; and, the centurion’s faith having thus honoured Christ, see how he honoured it (Luke 7:9): He turned him about, as one amazed, and said to the people that followed him, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. Note, Christ will have those that follow him to observe and take notice of the great examples of faith that are sometimes set before them—especially when any such are found among those that do not follow Christ so closely as they do in profession—that we may be shamed by the strength of their faith out of the weakness and waverings of ours.
VIII. The cure was presently and perfectly wrought (Luke 7:10). They that were sent knew they had their errand, and therefore went back, and found the servant well, and under no remains at all of his distemper. Christ will take cognizance of the distressed case of poor servants, and be ready to relieve them; for there is no respect of persons with him. Nor are the Gentiles excluded from the benefit of his grace; nay, this was a specimen of that much greater faith which would be found among the Gentiles, when the gospel should be published, than among the Jews.