Skeptics claim there are contradictions and discrepancies in the Bible, but the Scriptures are true and accurate, and conscientious Biblical students and researchers note the fact that similar incidents are not identical. The centurion in Matthew 8 is the same man recorded in Luke 7, but one event precedes the choosing of the twelve, and the other follows it. The servants are different also, suffering different maladies. In Matthew, the centurion personally comes to Jesus. In Luke, the centurion sent a delegation of Jewish elders to approach the Lord. The Matthew information is followed by Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, whereas the Luke account takes place long after that healing (Luke 4:38, 39) The centurion’s recorded words in both occurrences are practically identical, as is Jesus’ reaction, but the episodes are only similar.
In Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion, a Roman officer over one hundred soldiers, came to Jesus and implored Him concerning one of his servants (Greek pais, a male or female child), a paralytic, who was suffering greatly. Jesus agreed to go to the man’s house and heal this servant. The centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
This man understood the power and authority of spoken commands, and believed that all Jesus had to do was to “speak a word” and the power of the Lord’s word would heal the servant. Jesus was impressed, and commented to those who were following Him that He hadn’t witnessed this kind of faith among those who should have had faith. “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Jesus then told the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” The servant was immediately healed.
In Luke 7:1-10, the centurion had heard that Jesus was in the Capernaum area again. Because his esteemed servant (Greek doulos, bondservant) was sick and at the point of death, he requested some elders of the Jews to go to Jesus, imploring Him to come and heal him. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him urgently, honorably speaking of the centurion, saying that he was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Jesus then went with them, but when they were close to the house, the centurion came out with some friends to Jesus, and said, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Jesus had almost arrived at this man’s home, but the centurion, being a Gentile, though perhaps a proselyte, spoke words similar to those recorded in Matthew 8. “For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Again, Jesus was impressed by this man and publicly expressed His observation. “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” This record of this miracle closes with the information that the men who were sent returned to the house and found the servant completely healed.
“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) Jesus was not concerned or in any way intimidated that this man was a Roman soldier. Jesus recognized that this man was selflessly concerned about the well-being of those for which he was responsible. The centurion believed without a shred of doubt that the Lord’s words were powerful and authoritative. Although this man of such great faith is never named, he still serves as a tremendous example for all who love God’s Word and seek the healing words of Jesus.