After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
Who is this slave so highly valued? Is it woman or a man? And for what is the slave valued? the slave's craft? the slave's diligence? work ethic? friendship? Had the slave become a confidant? Or a member of the family? Who is this slave? What role does the slave play in the centurion's life? I imagine the centurion having lit dozens of candles, said hundreds of prayers until he heard about Jesus.
At first the centurion sends elders, presumably because Jesus might respond to the authority of the elders. Maybe. That certainly tweaks our picture of Jesus and it adds to the meaning of authority in this passage - which seems to be part of the passage's meaning.
He sends the elders who argue on behalf of this Gentile. It's an interfaith community. They say to Jesus, "He deserves to have you come to him because he has built our synagogues." And Jesus listens to the elders, following them to the man's home.
But something must've happened at the centurion's home, some conversation among his friends have convinced him not to bother Jesus in this way. So his friends intercept Jesus and the elders, saying "you don't have to come to the house... say the word and the slave will be healed." Where the elders made the case that the centurion is worthy of Jesus' company, his friends argue a different angle. At first glance, perhaps the centurion was trying to save face for Jesus - He really shouldn't be in the home of a Gentile after all. At second glance, I wonder if the centurion wasn't connecting the authority Jesus has with his own authority, creating a sense of equanimity between them. At third glance, maybe Jesus entering his home was simply too intimate. Of course all of these glances are guesses or interpretation.
Amazed by the centurion's faith, the Gentile's faith, Jesus granted the long distance healing of this highly valued slave. Who was this slave? Did Jesus ever meet him or her personally - the one that mobilized elders and friends and faith?
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