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The Sheriff of Capernaum

Briefing: If Jesus were living on earth today, as He was in New Testament times, what would be your jurisdiction’s protocol concerning Him? You know He draws a crowd. Some people love Him and some people want to kill Him. As an officer dispatched to one or more of these gatherings, you may have the opportunity to listen to Him and even see Him perform miracles.

Dispatch (Assignment): What are some of the characteristics you look for in a leader? Read Matthew 8:5-13.

On the Street: Jesus made Capernaum His home town and the center of His activities. This is the town He returned to for rest after long journeys.

During Jesus’ entire life, all of Israel was occupied by Rome. There were Roman soldiers in every major town. Capernaum was one of the cities that had a permanent Roman army presence. Roman soldiers were the peace keepers of the time, the police force.

The Romans that were stationed in Capernaum would have been very familiar with Jesus. When He returned home from a journey, crowds would gather. Because of this, Roman soldiers would be called out in force to make sure there were no riots. This might explain why the Roman Centurion in these verses knew who Jesus was. He would have been there when Jesus taught and performed miracles.

A Centurion was a Roman soldier in charge of one hundred soldiers. He was their supervisor, leader, sergeant. This particular Centurion is spoken of in Matthew and also Luke. There are a total of eighteen verses describing his encounter with Jesus. It amazes me that we see so much of his character in just a few verses.

This Centurion was a great leader. We know this because his men followed him without question. This is easy to see because of his statement to Jesus, “I tell one to do this and he does it”. Because of his soldier’s obedience to his authority, he is able to understand what absolute authority is. He had no doubts that if Jesus said for it to be done, it absolutely would be done exactly as He said. His soldiers’ obedience is a testament to him.

This Centurion was humble. He was not arrogant. A good example of an arrogant military leader is found in 2 Kings 5:1-15.

He took time to get to know the people around him and he invested in people’s lives. This is seen in his knowing and believing in Jesus so completely.

This guy was compassionate. You can see it in his statement to Jesus, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering”. This was not just some servant, whom he could replace, this servant was important to him.

The Bible does not say this but I believe that this Centurion was declared righteous even though the Holy Spirit had not yet come. The reason I believe this is because, like Abraham in Genesis 15:6, he demonstrated a faith that was absolute.

He was a generous man. In the version in Luke we see that he built the Jewish synagogue in Capernaum. This is found in Luke 7:5. His faith was contagious. We see, again in Luke, where the Jewish elders of Capernaum believed in Jesus’ deity. This is not something we see a lot of in the gospels. Usually, the Chief priest and the elders were against Jesus but here they go to Jesus and ask Him to heal the Centurion’s servant.

He had respect for the Jewish people and their customs. In Acts 10:23-48, we read about Peter’s encounter with another Centurion named Cornelius. Peter tells Cornelius that it was against Jewish law for him to associate with or visit a Gentile. This is probably the reason that our Centurion tells Jesus that he is undeserving of having Jesus come to his house.

This Centurion lived out the command given to us in Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This Centurion had childlike faith. The Bible tells us that we should all have this kind of faith (Matthew 11:25 and 18:3).

Highlights from this Read: In verse eight, when the Centurion says, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof”, this is also the attitude that John the Baptist had when it came to being in the presence of Christ. John said that he was not even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.

In verse ten, the Bible only mentions Jesus being amazed twice. The first is here because of the faith of the Centurion and the other is in Mark 6:6 because of the unbelief of the people in Nazareth.

Investigational Resources: Matthew 4:13-17 on Capernaum. Luke 7:1-10 is Luke’s perspective of the story.

Officer Safety Principle: We all need to strive to have a character that points to Christ and to live by Luke 10:27.

from The Gospel of Matthew Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!