« PreviousContinue »
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE
ON THE FAITH AND HUMILITY OF THE CENTURION.
Gospel. St. Matthew, viii. v. 1-13. At that time, when Jesus was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him; and behold a leper came and adored him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying, I will, be thou made clean; and forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith to him, See thou tell no man; but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home, sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And Jesus saith to him, I will come and heal him. And the centurion making answer, said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth ; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. And Jesus hearing this, marvelled ; and said to them that followed him, Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And I
that come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven : but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into the exterior darkness : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion, Go, and as thou hast believed so be it done to thee; and the servant was healed at the same hour. The Gospel of this Sunday furnishes us with an account of two splendid miracles, which display on the one hand, remarkable instances of a lively
faith in the individuals in whose favor they were performed, and which exhibit on the other hand, the power and dignity of the divine person who performed them, in the most lively colors. The first of these miracles was the cure of that malignant and loathsome disease called the leprosy. The man who was afflicted with it, must certainly be allowed to have given a striking proof of his faith in Jesus, by his respectful attitude, as well as by the terms in which he applied for relief. “And behold a leper came and worshipped him saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” For in what more expressive language could he convey his belief of the greatness of our Saviour's power, than by requiring no more than an act of his will for the removal of the disorder ?
Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” And when, on the other hand, we behold Jesus laying his hand upon him, and uttering at the same time his authoritative mandate for the distemper to depart, and see that mandate instantaneously obeyed, we are compelled to acknowledge the supernatural power and grandeur of deportment which our Saviour manifested on the occasion. “ And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will, be thou made clean.” At the same time his aversion to ostentation implied in his injunction of secrecy, and the respect which he evinced for the ordinances of religion, by enjoining the man whom he had cured of the leprosy, to shew himself to the priest, and to offer the gift which Moses had commanded, proved him to be free from any of those interested and ambitious views observable in impostors, who, by their arrogant pretensions to superior illumination, and their contempt of the ceremonies of religious worship, seek to enhance their personal importance in the estimation of the multitude. “ And Jesus saith to him, see thou tell no man, but go shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony to them.”
The other miracle related in the Gospel, is the cure of the servant of a Roman centurion, who was stricken with the palsy : and in this also, we shall have occasion to admire a not less conspicuous instance of extraordinary faith in the conduct of the centurion who applied to Jesus in behalf of his servant, and of the divine power and dignity of demeanour exhibited by Jesus, in graciously complying with his humble petition. “And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home, sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented.” Our blessed Saviour, to whom the secrets of hearts were known, saw distinctly the inward faith which animated the breast of this humble petitioner. But he wished it to be exposed outwardly to the view of the Jews, as a condemnation of their obstinate and perverse incredulity; and therefore, instead of rewarding it immediately, as he intended ultimately to do, by acceding to his request, he returned him an answer, which he was sensible would have
the effect of bringing that faith to light, and of operating as a reproach to the children of Israel, on account of the unconquerable stubbornness of their unbelieving hearts. “ And Jesus saith to him, I will come and heal him.” This reply, as Jesus foresaw, most completely answered the purpose for which it was delivered. For it drew from the centurion a profession of his conviction of the sovereign majesty and omnipotence of Christ, the most expressive and significant that it is possible for human language to convey. Impressed on the one hand with the most elevated notions of the transcendent pre-eminence of Jesus, and penetrated on the other hand with a deep sense of his own comparative insignificance, he was overwhelmed with confusion at the idea of so great and exalted a personage condescending to enter the dwelling of an individual so infinitely beneath him, and therefore humbly requested, that he would only give the word of command, and that in obedience to it, his servant's disorder would, he well knew, immediately leave him. “And the centurion making answer, said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” He then proceeded to unfold the sublime conception entertained by him of the power of Jesus, by comparing it with that, which he himself, though only a subordinate officer in the Roman army, was permitted to exercise. For since he, who in consequence of the rank which
he held, was subject to the authority of others, had only to issue his orders to those who were under his command, to be instantly obeyed; since whithersoever he might direct them to march, or whatever task he might impose upon them, his mandate was executed without delay; he naturally concluded, that Jesus, whom he acknowledged to be the supreme Lord of universal nature, and to whose absolute control, he consequently considered every distemper to which the human frame is exposed, to be subject, had nothing more to do for the restoration of the sick man's health, than to signify his pleasure to that effect. “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” So illustrious an example of extraordinary faith in a Pagan soldier, produced, even in Jesus himself, an appearance at least of astonishment, and induced him to declare that he had not met with any thing of the sort equal to it among the chosen people of God, favored as they had been beyond the rest of mankind by a particular revelation of the counsels of the Most High. “And when Jesus heard this, he marvelled ; and said to them that followed him, Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.” But mark the awful and dignified terms in which he thence takes occasion to award with authority to the faithful heathens and to the unbelieving Jews, the happiness and misery of