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Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Son


 “…The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” (John 10:25)

“Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying,  ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I am also a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ And when Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast our into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

…if there ever was a time when Jesus might have said “Wow!”—this was probably it.

The centurion in the our Bible reading would not have known the German word Ernsthaftigkeit, but he undoubtedly would have known the concept. Matthew’s Gospel account shows that the centurion seriously believed in the power of words.

And if there ever was a time when Jesus might have said “Wow!”—this was probably it.

The first syllable of Ernst-haf-tig-keit simply means “earnest,” the middle syllables mean “holding,” and the last four letters mean “-ness”. Hence we have the word “earnest-ness,” which also means steadfastness or seriousness. The word usually applies to words—to something spoken by command or promise, and the centurion understood that.

A ninety-one-year-old lady in a nursing home taught me years ago the meaning of that German word. She was the widow of a pastor whose family name was well known in conservative Lutheran synods.

This Christian lady taught me about a serious problem that presumably affected her and many Lutherans due to something called “Pietism.” Pietism wears a modern dress, but it’s the same old—even if polite—self-righteousness masquerading behind work-righteousness, struggling behind self-centered decisions to believe Jesus and follow Him.

It was the sort of thing that had developed with a certain perverse fierceness and aggressiveness in the Jewish temple and synagogues—and kept many from believing Jesus. Hence Jesus’ sharp words.

Anyway, she had the problem. I was happy to comfort her with the fact that she would soon be going to heaven. I quoted many Bible passages to her, many words of Jesus, and I reminded her what He had done for her through His life, death, and resurrection. I did all this to prepare her for confession and absolution of her sins prior to her reception of the Sacrament.

…she said (in German): “I think I do not have enough Ernsthaftigkeit!

But she interrupted me and said she didn’t think she would be going to heaven! When in my surprise I asked her “Why?”, she said (in German): “I think I do not have enough Ernsthaftigkeit!

After gathering my wits, I asked her if she thought that God and His Son and Spirit were serious when they made all their promises, including “This is My body…This is My blood…given and shed for you… .” Did God have enough of that “E” word? She said, “Yes, of course!” Then I asked her whether her seriousness had to be greater than God’s seriousness in order that His Word might be made effective and valid.

She got the point. I proceeded to review with her the same Bible passages, though with a renewed, gentle earnestness; we had a wonderful devotion [devotional service—ed.].

And now back to our centurion friend. We can be sure he taught his troops how to listen, for he himself knew how to listen. He knew the power of words—and certainly now the power of Christ’s words. Perhaps he had listened in on certain occasions when Jesus spoke during His northern ministry, enough to address Him as “Lord”—yet not with pretended piety which would counteract or superimpose itself on Christ’s Word-ability.

Christ has that Word-ability still today. The Holy Spirit sees to it wherever Holy Scripture is used. Christ is “the Word made flesh,” and He is serious—very earnest!—about our salvation. His words create faith and action.

You don’t have to invent or create any kind of serious feelings. Just listen to Him! Just listen. Faith and heaven come freely by hearing His words. Yes, feelings come, but they do not control the situation!

Have you learned that yet?—Good!