The Healing of a Centurion’s Slave (Luke 7:1-9)

The Healing of a Centurion’s Slave

1 When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum.

2 A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.

3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.

4 They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him,

5 for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”

6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.

7 Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.

8 For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

10 When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

As a bit of background a centurion was an Officer in the Roman Legion.  The word “centurion” means commander of a century (typically anywhere from 80 to 200, perhaps more, men).  Additionally, before we get too deep into this I will point out that verse two says the slave was “valuable” to the centurion.  Looking at the Greek text, we should understand this to mean valuable as in precious, or honored; not valuable like the centurion was going to lose an investment if the servant died.

In one light we might think “this centurion isn’t really showing much faith.”  After all, he only sent messengers to Jesus and didn’t even go in person to ask for his own favor.  Also, from verses 7 & 8 it kind of looks like he’s just asking Jesus to issue an order, like he himself does.  Does he really show much faith?

First, let’s look at how he treats Jesus.  Recall that Jews in the first century made every effort to have nothing to do with non-Jews.  The centurion would have known that and he showed a great deal of respect and sensitivity when he sent the elders of the Jews on his behalf.

The centurion’s behavior is nothing like what would typically be expected.  If a Roman officer wanted anything from the occupied populous, he would not have concerned himself with the other person’s issues and “hang-ups”.  It’s true that we hold Jesus in the highest esteem so it might seem normal to us for someone to say “I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.”  But if we remember the time and place, it’s almost unimaginable that a Roman officer would express such a sentiment.

Looking at verses 7 & 8 the centurion is asking Jesus to “say the word”.  That is, give an order so that his servant can be healed.  But what order does he expect Jesus to give?  If we look again at verse 1 we see that the servant is about to die.  Verse 3 tells us that the centurion wanted Jesus to “save the life of his slave.”  This is an inescapable point; the centurion recognizes that Jesus has power over life and death.  Moreover, his power is so absolute, the centurion believes that Jesus can save the servant’s life from a distance; he doesn’t even need to be in the presence of the man he is about to save.

Power over life and death?  From afar?  Yes, the centurion demonstrates great faith.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.



  1. Rick October 21, 2016 Reply
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