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This Roman officer had evidently a high respect for religion and the worship of God. This appears from the testimony borne to his character and munificence by the messengers who applied to our Saviour in his behalf. “ When they came to Jesus,” says St. Luke, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this : for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.” This testimony would, no doubt, have its proper weight with our Lord, who honoured those who respected religion ; and, in connection with the immediate object of the centurion's application, it would excite a lively interest in his favour.
We have already observed that he is presented to our notice as a supplicant. But it is further to be remarked that he appears in the amiable character of an intercessor. It is not for himself, but for one of his domestics that he pleads. Addressing our Saviour by the customary title of respect, he briefly but emphatically states the occasion of his appeal : “ beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” To intercede for others, with a sincere desire to promote their happiness and comfort, is always an amiable, and frequently a delightful, employment. It is, moreover, an incumbent duty enjoined upon Christians, and when faithfully performed is doubtless acceptable to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This then we should bear in mind whenever we approach the throne of grace, and more especially when
we are imploring spiritual blessings ; remembering always, as well for our imitation as for our encouragement, that we also have a prevalent and ever-living Intercessor at the right hand of God.
Our Saviour, on receiving the centurion's application, manifests his characteristic compassion ; at once expressing his readiness to comply with the request of the petitioner, and to extend relief to the afflicted : “ Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him : -according to St. Luke, he “ went with ” those who had been deputed to solicit his aid. It is probable, however, that our Lord had a special object in view, in returning this answer, and adopting this conduct. We find at least that his proceeding on this occasion, elicits a developement of character which merits our attentive regard, and may well reprove the dulness of our apprehension, and the feebleness of our faith. Let us then examine the reply of the centurion.
He “ answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth ; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”—This reply indicates, in the first place, humility, together with a high regard for the character of our Lord. It is probable that the centurion felt a conviction of his own natural guilt, and of the many deviations from the path of duty which had marked the conduct of his life. He was doubtless convinced too that our Lord was no ordinary personage, but one of pre-eminent power and holiness; and therefore thought himself altogether unworthy to receive so exalted a character under his roof. Well were it for us if we entertained like sentiments concerning ourselves, and concerning that Saviour, to whom we are encouraged to look for help, and health, and everlasting life.—The reply of the centurion further indicates his confident reliance on the power of our Lord : “ Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed : ”-an extraordinary instance of the strength of faith, even if we suppose him to have heard of the manifestation of our Saviour's power in the case of the nobleman's son, which occurred some time before at Capernaum. A faith and trust so large and unhesitating, should be regarded as rebuking the doubts and apprehensions
who profess and call themselves Christians : of many, we may add, of whom there is much reason to hope that they are such in deed and in truth.Once more we observe,--this remarkable reply affords an admirable illustration of the nature of that estimate which the centurion had formed of the efficacy of our Saviour's word : “ For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” As though he had said, “Even I who am in a subordinate situation, under the authority of a superior officer, can give directions to those who are placed under my command, with a moral certainty
that my orders will be obeyed. Thou hast unlimited power : all created existences, their properties and accidents, are subject to thy control:-much more then canst thou accomplish all thy pleasure, and therefore bid that malady depart, which had not come but with thy permission, if not at thy command. Such an illustration was the result of sound reason connected with extraordinary faith. And, indeed, my
And, indeed, my brethren, the revelation of the Gospel requires not of us that we should believe any thing which is inconsistent with the soundest reason. Let us but be persuaded that Jesus is the Lord of the universe, and then it is reasonable to suppose that nothing is too difficult for Him to achieve. Proceed we to notice
II. THE SPECIAL OBSERVATIONS OF OUR LORD
ON THIS OCCASION.
Before these are introduced, however, we are informed by the Evangelist of the manner in which our - Lord received the reply which has just engaged our
attention: “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled.” Now if we understand this expression as importing that surprise was excited in his mind, such a supposition is perfectly consistent with the elevated sentiments which we are bound to cherish of the exalted character and dignity of our Lord. In his divine nature he not only knew generally what was in man, but was doubtless fully aware beforehand of the signal display of faith and wisdom which was presented on this particular occasion. In his human nature he was subject to the ordinary affections and emotions of man,--so far as those affections and emotions are free from sin. It was, therefore, perfectly natural that he should experience the sensation of surprise on hearing the remarkable words which were uttered by the centurion. There is no necessity, however, that we should understand the word marvelled as denoting surprise at all. The meaning of it, in this place, is probably no more than that our Lord admired or approved. Such admiration or approval we can easily suppose that he would manifest in his aspect and gesture.
But our attention must be especially directed to the memorable words of our Lord on this occasion. He uttered an honourable declaration concerning the centurion; for he“ said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” We must bear in mind that the person concerning whom this declaration is made, was a gentile : one who had not enjoyed those religious privileges and advantages which had been largely conferred on the Jewish nation. It is true indeed that in consequence of the local situation which he occupied, in connection with the official capacity which he held, he had had some intercourse with the Jews, and, as we have already seen, had shown himself favourable to them and to their religion. With that religion, however, we must suppose him to have been only recently and imperfectly acquainted. It was not, therefore, to be expected that he should be more ready than the Jews themselves, to exalt and honour that distinguished personage whose character and actions so clearly demonstrated him to be the Messiah promised