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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 8:5–17

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (NRSV)

OK, so there’s this centurion—an officer in command of a unit equivalent to a modern army company. This unit would most likely not have been part of a Roman legion, since Judea was not a senatorial province. Instead, it would have been an auxiliary cohort, drawn from the provincial populations. About this time, the local auxiliary cohort would have been composed mainly of Samarians, which the local Jews would have considered a step below the hated Samaritans, because the Samarians were pagan.

Still with me? Good.

So the centurion, commanding a unit of collaborators who were hated because of their religion and nationality (not to mention the occupation itself), has some ground to cover to come see this Jewish preacher. There are barriers. But he’s got a guy who’s in bad shape, so he goes. And this is where things get interesting. He doesn’t say, “Come see my guy.” He doesn’t ask anything. He can’t.

The thing about barriers is they work both ways. The nature and composition of the army means that the Jews hate them. The mission of the army itself means that he can’t be a supplicant to the occupied. I mean, his job is to lay down the law, to give and receive orders. So how far can he go?

He just tells Jesus, “I’ve got a guy who’s in bad shape.” All he can do is trust that this guy he came to see will know what to do. And Jesus recognizes that standing in front of him is a person who had gone as far as he could, not for himself but for the good of another. And Jesus says, “OK, let’s go.”

There are so many barriers between us and God. The centurion’s love for his servant took him as far as he could go. Fortunately, it took him to someone who could make up the difference.

Lord, we can only come so far. We can never get all the way there. Please hear the prayers we can’t speak, be the strength we don’t possess, and help our unbelief. Help us to trust, when that is all we have. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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