4th Sunday of St. Matthew (8:5-13)
The Gospel this Sunday gives us an example the kind of faith we are to have, the kind of faith that Jesus is looking for in us; a faith that recognizes His authority.
- We can see how the centurion recognizes Jesus’ authority because the centurion sought Jesus out and came to Him. On a strictly human level, it would be perfectly within the rights of the centurion to issue the order that Jesus be found, and be commanded to come to him. Jesus was, after all, a citizen of Roman-occupied territory. But the Roman commander doesn’t find Jesus and order that He be brought to him. Instead, the centurion seeks Jesus out in order to come to Him.
- We can see this in what he calls Jesus. He calls him “Lord”. The Greek word is kurios, or “Master”; and it’s a remarkable thing all on its own that a Roman centurion would have called a Jew “Master”.
- We can see this in the fact that the centurion was “beseeching” Jesus, or “pleading” with Him. The Greek word that is used (parakaleõ), in this case, means to “call upon” in such a way as to urgently request or entreat or beg. What a word to use to describe the centurion’s approach to Jesus!
- There is a fourth way that the centurion recognized Jesus’ authority; and it’s a subtle thing he didn’t even ask that Jesus do anything about it. He simply presented the situation to the Lord and left it at that. St. John Chrysostom thought that by not bringing the boy that the Centurion was already showing great faith – he simply did not feel it necessary to bring the servant in order for him to be healed.
In all of these things, we see that the centurion recognized the superior authority of this Teacher who could heal his servant. And what a marvel of Jesus’ grace that He said, “I will come and heal him.” In the original language, Jesus speaks emphatically; “I – even I, coming, will heal him.” It was as if he sought to assure the centurion that He Himself would come and do what is needed.
Do we recognize Jesus’ authority as this man did? When we pray, do we really stop to think of whom it is that we are praying to? When we place our requests before the Lord, do we truly recognize Him as “Lord”? Do we dare to try to tell Him what we want Him to do in a careless or disrespectful way? Or do we make our plea before Him as One to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given?
(The live version of this sermon 9 a.m. Sunday July 5, 2009 at Saint Ignatius Orthodox Mission will also look at the Centurion’s faith as a faith that is humble and that trusts in His Word.)