July 2 – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Tone 3 Matthew 8:5-13
Implications of Christ’s Healings: Matthew 8:5-13, especially vs. 10: “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” The healings performed by the Lord Jesus reveal more than His divine tenderness; they point to God’s purpose for us, His fallen children. As we learned from yesterday’s reading, He wills for us to become His servants, free from the influence of demons and unquestioningly obedient. His healing always is conducted with those ends in mind, and He yearns for us to cooperate in the achievement of these goals.
The Lord testifies that the centurion described today’s passage from Saint Matthew is spiritually advanced (vs. 10). In the course of the Gospels, we encounter many people who fail to understand the Kingdom of God as well as this Roman officer. Let us take note of the manner in which the centurion approaches the Lord, for it reveals that he has attained several virtues required of those who would “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 11).
First, we observe that this man knows his own unworthiness before the Lord (vs. 8). He reveals profound insight into the scope of Christ’s capacity to heal, as well as a grasp of the exalted nature of the Lord’s divine person (vss. 8-9). He offers a worthy model for us to follow if we wish to grow in Christ, to free ourselves from the power of the demons and attain health in all aspects of our being.
Saint Matthew reports that the centurion comes “pleading” to the Lord Jesus (vs. 5). This word suggests a fervor beyond the scope of a simple request, for there is a plaintive quality in the man’s address. And yet his request is coupled with modesty, for he does not tell Christ what to do, nor does he express expectations of Him. He simply communicates his own pain, basing his appeal on the suffering of his servant who is “lying at home, paralyzed, dreadfully tormented’ (vs. 6).
The Lord clearly startles the centurion with His answer: “I will come and heal him” (vs. 7). He does not anticipate such a response, for as a devout Gentile he knows that his home is considered a defiled place, especially for this great and holy man whom he calls Lord (Kyrie) (vss. 6-8).
The Lord startles him further by his insistence on coming to visit this very home. To protect the Lord Jesus from ritual defilement, the centurion offers this alternative: “I am not worthy. . . . Only speak a word” (vs. 8). His reply brings to mind the prayer from the Bridegroom services of Holy Week (“I behold Thy Bridal Chamber. . . . but I have no wedding garment to worthily enter”). His words reveal a man who perceives his unworthiness before God – an unusual quality, to say the least, in a Roman officer.
Second, the centurion manifests a profound understanding of God’s power over all the earth. He knows it is unnecessary for the Lord to visit his home: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (vs. 8). The centurion does not subscribe to the magical thinking we might expect from a pagan idol-worshiper. He appreciates that Christ is the Pantocrator – the ruler of all.
Third, the centurion reveals a sublime theology by recognizing the exalted nature of the Lord Jesus. The eyes of his heart pierce through the Lord’s humanity to perceive His divinity. Whereas neither Mary nor Martha fully grasps His divinity when the Lord comes to raise Lazarus (Jn 11:21, 32), the centurion understands readily with neither doubt nor hesitation. As a man of authority himself, he is able to perceive the glorified eminence of the Lord, which leads him to unquestioning faith that Christ can heal by means of a spoken word alone.
Behold, my soul, beware, lest thou fallest into deep slumber and the door of the kingdom be closed against thee; but be thou wakeful, crying, Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O Christ God. – Bridegroom Orthros