Like the miracle of the healing of the nobleman's son (John 4:46-54), the healing of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10) reveals Christ as able to heal from a distance merely by the power of His word. Because of his experience as a commander, the centurion knew that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his home to visit the sick servant and pray while standing over the afflicted. Then, as now, distance is not a factor in Christ's ability to heal; His word is sufficient whether near or far.
True faith requires no visible sign. The centurion's faith was in the spiritual capability of Christ; he had confidence in the effectiveness of Christ's word to heal the sick and dying. As a man of authority, he believed and understood that diseases had to obey Jesus' command just as his men had to obey him as their superior officer. He knew that authority transcended distance. An officer need not be personally present to command his soldiers to carry out his orders. It was sufficient for Christ to exercise His will through His word, and it is done. Nevertheless, the quick healing of a sick person from a distance is a rare occurrence in the healing miracles of the Bible (see Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).
1. What part does the Word of God play? Matthew 8:8; Luke 7:7.
Comment: The centurion's faith is commendable because he had received the Word of God. In asking Christ to heal his servant by His word, he shows that he trusted God's Word. He believes that all that is necessary is for God's Word to be spoken for healing to occur in even the most desperate case. The centurion's faith is great because it did not require the bodily presence of Christ to heal, surpassing even that of the nobleman whose son was healed (John 4:49). His faith is also shown to be greater than that of Mary and Martha, who also thought Christ had to be present to heal their brother Lazarus (John 11:21, 32).
2. What is the significance of the centurion's statement, "But only speak a word"? Matthew 8:8.
Comment: Christ compliments the centurion's faith because it is faith in His Word. When the centurion says he is unworthy of Christ's presence, he tells Him that he believed that all that He had to do was speak and the miracle would happen. To explain his understanding of the principle, the centurion says, "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, 'Go,' and he goes" (Matthew 8:9). He recognizes the power of the spoken word because he is familiar with authority, yet he also believes that Christ's word has power and authority even over disease. In asking Jesus to heal simply by speaking, the centurion shows that he accepted the authority of Christ's word. No one can have real faith if they reject the Word of God.
It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Many people doubt whether God's Word is sufficient. If they have a problem, they run instead to hear what the world's doctors and psychiatrists have to say. Today, many professing Christian churches do not show very much confidence in God's Word either. The centurion's "only speak a word" is not an applicable command for most churches. These days, churches use a lot of entertainment to draw people into their membership, believing that it is essential to their success. Yet, "only speak a word" is the true essence of spiritual success. Without the Word of God, the church will not maintain a solid foundation of truth and grow.
3. What kind of evidence proved the healing occurred? Luke 7:10.
Comment: Those who were sent to the house where the sick servant had been found him completely healed. The evidence of the servant's healing was abundant, excellent, and very visible; they did not need to look through a microscope to prove that he was healed. He had been paralyzed, in great pain, and near death, but now he was completely well. They needed no other proof to convince them that a genuine miracle had occurred.
Jesus provided many infallible proofs during his ministry that confirm his supernatural ability and divine purpose (Acts 1:3). The world makes every effort to discredit God the Father and Jesus Christ and their miraculous works, when the proof of their sovereignty and power are seen in everyday things. "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20-21, ESV). Do we see God at work in our lives?