When he entered Cafernaum, a Centurión came up to him, asking his help. “Master,” he said, “ my servant is struck down at home, paralysed and in terrible pain.

He said to him, “I’ll come and care for him.”

But the centurion said in reply, “ I am not fit that you should come under my roof; just say the word and my servant will be cured. For I am also a man under power, with soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘ Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.’

When Jesus heard him he was astonished and said to his followers, ‘ Amen I tell you, I have found nobody with trust like this in Israel! I tell you that many will come from the East and the West to recline at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, in the Rule of heaven; while the children of the kingdom will be pitched into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion,’God will do for you just as you have trusted.” And the servant was cured at that hour.

If you compare this with Luke’s version (Luke 7) you can see the simplicity and clarity of Matthew’s storytelling. The readiness of Jesus to respond to the request of a Roman officer is evident: he is immediately prepared to go with him. This is important for Matthew’s depiction of Jesus a law-abiding Jew who treats Romans as human beings.

The centurion spells out Matthew’s understanding of Jesus’ power: it comes from being under power, the power of God, just as the centurion’s ultimately comes from Caesar. This is a classic Jewish understanding of the power of prophets and leaders in Israel. Jesus is not superman, but rather a channel for the power of God. The placement of this doctrine in the mouth of the centurion gives it force and poignancy.

Jesus’ prophecy reflects the situation in the assemblies of Jesus in Matthew’s time, where many believers were gentiles and many Jews who had been sympathetic to Jesus were becoming hostile. Matthew certainly held the Jewish religious leaders responsible for the crucifixion.

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