Healing the Centurion’s Servant

How was it possible for the faith of the centurion to heal his servant? Do you agree or disagree with Martin Luther that alien faith needs to be rejected?

Luke 7:1-10: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

JesusHealingCenturionServant

Healing the Centurion’s Servant by Paolo Veronese (1580)

Paolo Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter from Venice known for his historic and religious paintings. His challenge is to tell the story of the healing of the servant while focusing on the faith of the centurion. Two of the centurion’s helmeted soldiers are with their commander as Jesus compassionately gestures to the kneeling soldier. The large painting is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Luther: Luther preached on the miracles of the healing of the lepers and the centurion’s servant on the Third Sunday after Epiphany in 1529. It is a remarkable message about faith without merit or works. The lepers call upon Jesus for mercy and healing and the faith of the centurion heals his servant. Yet, the gospels are clear that we are called to faith by the Holy Spirit and that the faith of one person does not save someone else. This will raise questions about the faith of infant and young children and prayers of a faithful parent for an unbelieving son or daughter. The question is does the faith of a parent save their child? “Now the question is, what becomes of the young children, seeing that they have not yet reason and are not able to believe for themselves, because it is written in Romans 10:17: “Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Little children neither hear nor understand the Word of God, and therefore they can have no faith of their own.”

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s sermon in January 1529: “Herein is the great faith of this heathen that he knows salvation does not depend upon the bodily presence of Christ, for this does not avail, but upon the Word and faith. But the apostles did not yet know this, neither perhaps did His mother, but they clung to His bodily presence and were not willing to let it go, John 16:6. They did not cling to His Word alone. But this heathen is so fully satisfied with His Word, that he does not even desire His presence nor does he deem himself worthy of it. Moreover, he proves his strong faith by a comparison and says: I am a man and can do what I wish with mine own by a word; should not you be able to do what you wish by a word, because I am sure, and you also prove that health and sickness, death and life are subject to you as my servants are to me? Therefore also his servant was healed in that hour by the power of his faith.

Now since the occasion is offered and this Gospel requires it, we must say a little about alien faith and its power for many are interested in this subject, especially on account of the little children, who are baptized and are saved not by their own, but by the faith of others; just as this servant was healed not by his own faith, but by the faith of his master. We have never yet treated of this matter; therefore we must treat of it now in order to anticipate, as much as in us lies future danger and error.

First we must let the foundation stand firm and sure, that nobody will be saved by the faith or righteousness of another, but only by his own; and on the other hand nobody will be condemned for the unbelief or sins of another, but for his own unbelief; as the Gospel says clearly and distinctly in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” “The righteous shall live by faith.” And John 3:16-18: “Whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already.” These are clear, public words, that everyone must believe for himself, and nobody can help himself by the faith of others., without his own faith. From these passages we dare not depart and we must not deny them, let them strike where they may, and we ought rather let the world perish than change this divine truth. And if any plausible argument is made against it, that you are not able to refute, you must confess that you do not understand the matter and commit it to God, rather than admit anything contrary to these clear statements. Whatever may become of the heathen, Jews, Turks, little children and everything that exists, these words must be right and true.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

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