The centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:8 NRSV
The true test of the character of humanity is not in how we handle adversity, but in how we handle power. I would love to take credit for this quote. It is an adaptation, although not the same, of a quote I remember reading by Abraham Lincoln. It comes to mind this Advent for the turmoil that has bamboozled the world is fighting the hope of a changed state of existence. With human efforts to revert us back to a system of unjust power, hope is lying on the threshold of a house that continues to be divided by race, class and culture and the lingering question is this, “Will hope find security in the house or will it lie in wait with many people stepping over it simply because they have the power to do so?” We need a different kind of healing. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
In this passage, Matthew is encouraging Jewish readers in the Gentile Mission. Centurions were officers of the Roman Army. The nearest Legion would have been stationed in Syria. Some cohorts were Palestinians, many from a local region who when freed from the army asked for Roman citizenship. The Century, that this leader commanded, per Craig Keener were approximately 80 troops. They oversaw discipline and were not really liked. Some were not Roman. Most of them were not Jews. Yet, disregarding social stigma, he went to Jesus, knowing that a different kind of healing needed a different kind of power! He understood power and authority through his own experience. God elevated his thinking to a power that is greater than he. Power, then empowered him to get up, get moving and to get into the solution. His servant was healed and his community was changed at his faith. We need to get up, get out and get into the solution. Action that brings healing and restores faith and reclaims dignity, is how Jesus experiences faith. Action is not to be saved, it is the fuel of salvation. Jesus relegates that a centurion, a non- Jew would participate in the great feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! It brings to view a world, not judge by the color of your skin; but, the countenance of your character on earth as it is in heaven.
Lord God Empower us. We need individual healings that will bring healing our communities. We need action that restores faith and brings dignity to our people. Amen.
Pastor, Hopewell Temple CME, Texarkana, Texas
East Texas Region Dir. Of Christian Education