This is one of the most tender passages of Scripture. A broken-hearted, destitute man drops to his knees before Jesus and says weakly, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” I’m sure his head was barely above the dirt and his hope hanging by a thread. But he threw himself before Jesus.
Jesus did not immediately respond with words, but “he reached out his hand and touched the man.” You didn’t touch lepers. In fact if they came close they were supposed to yell “unclean!” so that people would keep a wide berth. And here Jesus touched him. I’m not so sure that this man didn’t break down sobbing when someone touched him. Not only did Jesus touch him, but he gently pronounced, “I am willing…be clean.” Beautiful words. And the man was healed immediately. What joy! What relief.
And then look at the profound depth of the heart of the centurion who comes next. Even Jesus is amazed at him. He comes to Jesus with such humility. Romans didn’t associate with Jews, but here was a Roman “asking for help.” This was a Roman high-up soldier, asking a ‘despised’ Jewish peasant for help. Humility at its greatest.
And what compassion the centurion had! He asks nothing for himself at all, but only that his servant be healed. The servant was a man who was ‘disposable’ according to most Romans. But this slave was suffering and the centurion was moved so much by his “terrible suffering” that he intentionally sought Jesus out. What tenderness and compassion in this ‘tough’ soldier!
And then there is once again the centurion’s humility and his understanding. He says to Jesus not to come to his house, that he is not deserving, but to just say the word and he knows that his servant will be healed. Jesus is blown away. The Scriptures say he is “astonished.” Jesus, astonished. He turns to the people following him and says amazed, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Wow! What a joy it must have been for Jesus to heal that servant in that very hour.
Matthew 8:1-13 (Jan 4, 2010)