To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11
Weekdays in the season of Advent begin with the miracle of the healing of a Gentile officer’s servant. In Matthew’s narrative of this miracle the focus of attention is on the sayings of both Jesus and the centurion. The centurion does not explicitly tell Jesus his request, but simply relates the situation of his servant. The fact that he addresses Jesus as “Lord” indicates that he is a believer (in Matthew, only those who believe in Jesus address him as “Lord”). Though the response of Jesus might be read as a statement (“I will come and cure him”) it seems better to read it as a question, “I should come and cure him?” Read as a question, it expresses hesitancy and fits in with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus as the one sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The centurion, however, responds with faith.
He regards Jesus as one who is under no power or authority. If he, though under the authority of his superior officers, can command and expect to be obeyed, then it is a sure fact that Jesus, who is above all and under no one, will surely be able to heal his servant. This is why there is no need for Jesus to even enter his house.
Jesus’ response to the centurion’s faith is to comment on the lack of faith of those to whom he had been sent, Israel. This lack of faith on the part of Israel, and faith on the part of the Gentiles, will lead to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the eschatological banquet.
Faith has often been regarded, by some, as a verbal profession of belief. While this is necessary, what is more important is that faith be shown in action. The centurion did this. The confidence with which he approached Jesus is already an indication that, though he had not recited a creed, he had faith. His response to Jesus’ hesitancy is to respond with a positive word of confidence in Jesus’ ability to make whole. He knew in his heart that Jesus had the power, since Jesus’ authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was, in fact, God’s word.