Matthew 8:5
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) In St. Luke the narrative follows immediately upon the Sermon on the Plain; in St. Matthew (the healing of the leper intervening), upon the Sermon on the Mount. The juxtaposition in both cases seems to imply a connection between the teaching and the act that had fixed itself on men’s minds. The act was, indeed, chiefly memorable for the teaching to which it led. A comparison of the two narratives suggests the thought that St. Matthew records the miracle more with reference to the associated teaching, St. Luke after more close inquiry into the details and circumstances. Here, e.g., the centurion is said to have come to our Lord himself; but from St. Luke’s report we learn that he never came at all in person, but sent first the elders of the Jews, and then his friends.

A centurion.—The presence of a centurion (a word originally meaning the commander of a hundred soldiers, out, like most words of the kind, afterwards used with a greater latitude of meaning) implied that of a garrison stationed at Capernaum to preserve order. So we find a centurion with his soldiers at Cæsarea (Acts 10:1). At Jerusalem, it would appear, it was thought necessary to station a Chiliarch, or “chief captain” of a thousand soldiers (Acts 21:31); and the same word meets us as connected with the birthday feast of the Tetrarch Antipas (Mark 6:21).

Here, as in the case of Cornelius, the faith and the life of Judaism (seen, we may well believe, to more advantage in the villages of Galilee than amid the factions of Jerusalem) had made a deep impression on the soldier’s mind. He found a purity, reverence, simplicity, and nobleness of life which he had not found elsewhere; and so he “loved the nation” (Luke 7:5), and built anew the synagogue of the town. It is probable, as has been already said, that among the ruins of Tell-Hûm, identified as Capernaum, we have the remains of the very fabric thus erected. And he, in like manner, had made a favourable impression upon the Jews of that city. They felt his love for them, were ready to go on his errand, to support his prayer with all earnestness, to attest his worth. To one whose work had been, like that of St. Luke, to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, all these incidents would be precious, as early tokens of that breaking-down of barriers, that brotherhood of mankind in Christ, of which the Apostle who was his companion was the great preacher.

Matthew 8:5. There came unto him a centurion — A captain of a hundred Roman soldiers, in Herod’s pay; saying, My servant lieth sick of the palsy, grievously tormented — Or, afflicted, as the word βασανιζομενος often signifies. Palsies are not attended with torment. Jesus saith, I will come and heal him — Thus showing both his kindness, and how acceptable to him the humanity of this centurion to his servant was. The centurion answered, Lord, I am not worthy, &c. — That is, he signified that he did not mean Christ should take the trouble of going to his house, he being a Gentile, but only that he would be so good as to command his servant’s cure, though at a distance; for he knew his power was equal to that effect, diseases and devils of all kinds being subject to his command, as his [the centurion’s] soldiers were to him. For I am a man under authority, &c. — As if he had said, If I, who am but an inferior officer, can make the soldiers under my command, and the servants in my house, go whither I please, and do what I please, merely by speaking to them; much more canst thou make diseases go or come at thy word, seeing they are all absolutely subject to thee. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled — Our Lord’s marvelling on this occasion, by no means implies that he was ignorant either of the centurion’s faith, or of the grounds on which it was built. He knew all this fully before the man spake one word. But as he possessed a real human, as well as a real divine nature, and is elsewhere represented as susceptible of the human affections of desire, aversion, joy, and sorrow, so he is here represented as influenced by that of admiration, a passion excited by the greatness and beauty of an object, as well as by its novelty and unexpectedness. And he expressed his admiration of the centurion’s faith, in the praise which he bestowed on it, with a view to make it the more conspicuous, declaring he had not found such great faith, namely, in the divine power resident in Jesus, (who, by outward appearance, was only a man,) no, not in Israel. Thus he taught those around him what to admire; not worldly pomp, or glory, or valour, but the beauty of holiness, and the ornaments which are in the sight of God of great price. Observe, reader, the wonders of grace, should affect us more than the wonders of nature or providence, and spiritual attainments more than any achievements in this world.8:5-13 This centurion was a heathen, a Roman soldier. Though he was a soldier, yet he was a godly man. No man's calling or place will be an excuse for unbelief and sin. See how he states his servant's case. We should concern ourselves for the souls of our children and servants, who are spiritually sick, who feel not spiritual evils, who know not that which is spiritually good; and we should bring them to Christ by faith and prayers. Observe his self-abasement. Humble souls are made more humble by Christ's gracious dealings with them. Observe his great faith. The more diffident we are of ourselves, the stronger will be our confidence in Christ. Herein the centurion owns him to have Divine power, and a full command of all the creatures and powers of nature, as a master over his servants. Such servants we all should be to God; we must go and come, according to the directions of his word and the disposals of his providence. But when the Son of man comes he finds little faith, therefore he finds little fruit. An outward profession may cause us to be called children of the kingdom; but if we rest in that, and have nothing else to show, we shall be cast out. The servant got a cure of his disease, and the master got the approval of his faith. What was said to him, is said to all, Believe, and ye shall receive; only believe. See the power of Christ, and the power of faith. The healing of our souls is at once the effect and evidence of our interest in the blood of Christ.Capernaum - See the notes at Matthew 4:13.

There came unto him a centurion - A centurion was the commander of 100 men in the Roman armies. Judea was a Roman province, and garrisons were kept there to preserve the people in subjection. This man was probably by birth a pagan. See Matthew 8:10.

Mt 8:5-13. Healing of the Centurion's Servant. ( = Lu 7:1-10).

This incident belongs to a later stage. For the exposition, see on [1234]Lu 7:1-10.

See Poole on "Matthew 8:10". And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum,.... Was returned from his journey through Galilee, to the place where he before dwelt, and is called his own city, Matthew 9:1

there came unto him a centurion, a Roman officer, , "a commander of an hundred men", as the Hebrew Gospel by Munster reads it: though the number of men under a "centurion" was more, according to some accounts.

"A band (it is said (g)) made two centuries, each of which consisted of an hundred and twenty eight soldiers; for a doubled century made a band, whose governor was called an ordinary "centurion".''

Such an one was Cornelius, a centurion of a band, Acts 10:1. The other person that was healed was a Jew. The next instance of Christ's power and goodness is the servant of a Gentile; he came to do good both to Jews and Gentiles;

beseeching him, not in person, but by his messengers; see Luke 7:3 and the Jews (h) say, , "that a man's messenger is as himself".

(g) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 13. (h) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 34. 2.

{2} And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

(2) Christ by setting before them the example of the uncircumcised centurion and yet of an excellent faith, provokes the Jews to jealousy, and together forewarns them of their being cast off and the calling of the Gentiles.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 8:5. The centurion was a Gentile by birth, Matthew 8:10, but connected with Judaism (Luke 7:3), probably from being a proselyte of the gate, and was serving in the army of Herod Antipas. The narrative is, in the main, identical with Luke 7, differing only in points of minor importance. The question as to which of the two evangelists the preference in point of originality is to be accorded, must be decided not in favour of Matthew (Bleek, Keim), but of Luke, whose special statements in the course of the incident (misinterpreted by Strauss and Bruno Bauer, comp. de Wette) cannot, except in an arbitrary way, be ascribed to an amplifying tendency; they bear throughout the stamp of historical and psychological originality, and nothing would have been more superfluous than to have invented them for the sake of giving greater prominence to the man’s humility, which is brought out quite as fully and touchingly in Matthew’s narrative. Comp. Neander, Krabbe, Lange. For the points of difference in the account John 4:47 ff., see note on that passage.Matthew 8:5-13. The centurion’s son or servant (Luke 7:1-10). Placed by both Matthew and Luke after Sermon on Mount, by the latter immediately after.5. a centurion] i. e. a captain or commander of a century—a company normally composed of a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion in the Roman army. This centurion was probably an officer in the army of Herod Antipas, which would be modelled after the Roman fashion.

5–13. Cure of a Centurion’s Servant

St Luke 7:1-10, where the incident is placed immediately after the Sermon on the Mount. The centurion sends a deputation of Jewish elders to Jesus, who speak of the worthiness of the centurion and of his love to the nation, “he built us a synagogue.” St Luke does not introduce our Lord’s comparison between Jew and Gentile, and the promises to the latter. This last point is characteristic—the rejection of the Jews is not dwelt upon when the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles. This might be further illustrated from the Acts.Matthew 8:5. Προσῆλθεν Ἀυτῷ ἑκατόνταρχος, There came unto Him a centurion) The centurion did not actually come to Him in person; nor would our Lord have praised him, as He did just afterwards, in his presence.—Sec Matthew 8:10, and cf. ch. Matthew 11:7. Others, indeed, were praised by our Lord in their presence, but not until after previous humiliation, and not so singularly and in comparison with others as the centurion is here praised in contradistinction to all Israel. And the same reverence, which induced the centurion to declare himself unworthy that our Lord should come under his roof, prevented him from going to Him in person.—See Matthew 8:8, and Luke 7:7; Luke 7:10.[357] He appears to have come out of his house in the first instance, but to have gone back before he had reached our Lord. The will, therefore, on his part was held in Divine estimation as equivalent and even preferable to the deed: and this estimation is nobly expressed by St Matthew in the sublime style of a divine rather than a human historian. Jesus and the centurion conversed truly in spirit.

[357] D. Hauber has fully proved, in den harmon. Anmerk. p. 72, that the history here given in Matthew is one and the same as that in Luke.—Harm. p. 255.Verses 5-13. - The healing of the centurion's servant. (Vers. 5-10; parallel passage Luke 7:1-3, 6-10. Vers. 11, 12, equivalent to Luke 13:28, 29.) According to St. Luke, the centurion sent first elders of the Jews to plead for him, and afterwards friends, and expressly said by them that he did not think himself worthy to come to Jesus. Their return in ver. 10 seems to forbid the supposition that he eventually came. This detailed narrative seems more likely than St. Matthew's, which is not only compressed, but, if taken by itself, gives a wrong idea of what appears to have actually taken place. But quod tacit per alium facit per se, and as Trench points out, this is "an exchange of persons, of which all historical narrative and all the language of our common life is full. A comparison of Mark 10:35 with ch. 20:20 will furnish another example of the same." The fact is that St. Matthew (or, perhaps, the original framer of the source that he used, or those through whose hands it passed) seizes on the Gentilic origin of the centurion, without troubling himself to record his previous kind and generous attitude towards the Jews, and the interest that they now show on his behalf. This led to the omission of the second group of messengers also, and, of course, to the modification of the language where necessary, e.g. ver. 13. For the same reason, St. Matthew records vers. 11, 12 in this place. For the contrast between this and the superficially similar miracle recorded in John 4:46, sqq., cf. Trench on that miracle. Verse 5. - And when Jesus (Revised Version, he) was entered into Capernaum. (On Capernaum, see Matthew 4:13.) There came unto him; i.e. by messengers, as we learn from St. Luke (vide supra). A centurion, beseeching him. The centurion probably belonged to the soldiers of Antipas, in whose district Capernaum lay. They would naturally be organized after the Roman manner; of the forces of the Indian native states and our own. It should be observed, by the way, that even the imperial troops stationed in Palestine were drawn, not from distant lands, but from the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country, perhaps especially from Samaritans (vide Schurer, I. 2. p. 50).
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