"The prayer of the righteous man has great power in its effects." - James 5:16
This story, in the eighth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, is meant to show us both the authority of Jesus and the necessity of faith. Since Jesus' address in the synagogue in chapter 3 all the way through chapter 7, Jesus has been teaching. Chapter 7 ends with this verse, "And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." This leads us to understand that the scribes were teaching in the name of Moses whereas Jesus is teaching of His own authority. In fact, He often says, "you have heard it said...but I say."
Matthew then moves on to show us that Jesus' authority is not contained merely in His teaching alone. He shows us that His words have the power to change hearts but also the power to heal. Sometimes His words are accompanied by a touch or action as with the leper at the beginning of chapter 8. At other times, like in today's Gospel, it is His word alone that heals.
However, these healings,and His words, come as His response to the faith of the person being healed or to the faith of one interceding for another.
The centurion is interceding on behalf of his servant. This tells us that the centurion was a man with compassion. He had a heart for his fellow man. He did not treat his servant as a possession but as a human person with worth. We can even guess that he loved this servant by the lengths that he goes to to approach Jesus asking for healing. The centurion certainly didn't approach Jesus under cover of darkness and he didn't hide his faith that Jesus was someone special, "Lord, I am not worthy."
The centurion, as a man in authority, also recognized the authority of Jesus. He recognizes the fact that if his own words have such power over those under his authority, how much more power resides in the words of this Jesus of Nazareth!
My favorite quote from this passage is, "When Jesus heard him, he marveled..." I pray that during this season of Advent my faith may increase and the Lord will "marvel" at my prayers as well. Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed, only say the word and my loved ones will be healed, only say the word and this world will be healed.
Who, during this Advent season, can you bring to Christ in prayer? Who do you know that may be sick, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and is need of the healing power of Christ? Is it a relative? A friend? A politician? Is it the mailman? Is it the teen you saw at the mall this weekend? Is it someone you heard about on the news, a blog, or in the paper? Do you know someone that you are reasonably sure has no one to pray for them?
Be the centurion for that person over the next four weeks. During this time of Advent bring this person each day to Jesus in prayer. Trust in his healing power with the faith of that centurion and you too will amaze Jesus. Wouldn't that be a nice gift to give the King!