Matthew 8:5-13: Healing of the Roman Centurion
By THE REV. ANDREW P. NELKO
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
In the Gospel of Matthew we hear about the healing of the centurion’s servant. A Roman soldier comes to Christ and asks for Christ to heal his servant who has been paralyzed. Christ responds asking for the centurion to take him to his servant so that he could heal him. The centurion replies that he is not worthy for Christ to enter his house and that he is a man of authority. The centurion knows by his word alone, Christ can heal his servant. Christ calls out this man of great faith and says; “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”(Matt. 8:11-12).
Too often we can feel justified because we call ourselves Christian. Christ reminds us that many will come from east and west to sit down in heaven but many who believed they were saved just because of their ancestry will not. We can easily fall into this trap of pride. A true Christian is humble and meek, putting all his trust in God and not himself. It doesn’t matter what our parents or those before us did but what matters is what we do and believe. Being a Christian is not just something we call ourselves but it is something we do and how we live. Ignatius of Antioch, who was the third bishop of Antioch around 66 AD says this: “It is not that I want to merely to be called a Christian, but actually to be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.” Being Christian is a life and not just something we call ourselves. To be a Christian means to put all our trust in God which means putting away our pride and our own wants, to “deny ourselves” as Christ says. It is a life lived following Christ.
One area we can see that America is struggling at is one of love. We lack love and compassion. We cannot be Christians if we do not love our enemies. Christ showed compassion and love to “enemies” of the Jews such as the centurion and even the Samaritans. It is easy to love those who are kind to us but to love our enemies is difficult and often people are our enemies because our pride gets in the way. They said or did something to hurt us. We are called to love them and forgive and put our pride away. Humility is the tool that opens up our hearts to truly accept Christ and allows Christ to dwell in it. If there is no room in our hearts for someone, even one person, then there is no room for Christ.
There is so much turmoil in our world and it all comes down to one thing, and that is our pride. Our pride is what blinds us from Christ and to see every person made in his image. We want things done our way, whatever spectrum that is, instead of how Christ calls us to be. We don’t forgive because our pride was hurt. Change in the world begins with each individual. It begins with an open heart and love for God. It happens when we focus more on doing the will of God and completing every task in the glory of God instead of our own glory. We do not like to humble ourselves and we end up looking for success in the secular sense instead of the Christian sense. We want to do things our way instead of the way Christ intends for it to be.
The centurion came to Christ with humility. He was a man of power and authority but came on behalf of his servant for Christ to heal him. Christ’s word alone heals the man. Christ, who is our maker and redeemer, saves us but we must come to him in humility. It may not always be in the way we want but He gives us what we need for our salvation. Just as a parent doesn’t always give their children what they want but gives them what they need, Christ does the same. We are children to God and the reality is we do not know what we need or want. God knows what we need and he gives it to us when we call upon him. Do we receive whatever he gives us with gratitude and joy, including trials and difficulties, or do we get upset and angry. For this centurion, Christ healed his servant because it was what was needed for his salvation at that time. We may not always get physical healing, even the Apostle Paul dealt with physical torments and pains but as he said it was for his salvation and so that he would not boast and in his weakness God’s grace was made known and strong. Just as the centurion came to Christ in humility, we must come to Christ with humility and an open heart so that he can grant us salvation.
(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of the Weirton Ministerial Association)