TWO CENTURIONS OF SYNOPTIC GOSPELS (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

The Centurion is an officer in the Roman army in-charge of one hundred soldiers. We have the references of six centurions in the New Testament. Two of them appear in the Synoptic Gospels. Mathew and Luke speak about the centurion at Capernaum while all the Synoptic Gospels narrate the account of the centurion at Calvary. In this essay we encounter these two centurions of the Synoptic Gospels.

In the details there is some differences in the account of Mathew and Luke about the centurion at Capernaum. But the basic information about the deep faith of century is the same. In Mathew the centurion himself comes to Jesus with deep faith requesting him to heal his servant. While in Luke it is the Jewish leaders who come to Jesus as the messengers of the centurion and request Jesus the healing of the centurions servant. But there is no doubt that both Mathew and Luke are speaking about the same centurion.

Read Mathews description of the centurion:

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.

I will go and make him well, Jesus said.

Oh, no, sir, answered the officer. I do not deserve to have you come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, Go! and he goes; and I order that one, Come! and he comes; and I order my slave, Do this! and he does it.

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him. I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.

Then Jesus said to the officer, Go home, and what you believe will be done for you.

And the officers servant was healed that very moment. (Mt. 8: 5-8, 10, 13)

With the above account of Mathew we can compare Lukes version of Jesus healing the centurions servant.

When Jesus has finished saying all these things to the people, he went to Capernaum. A Roman officer there had a servant who was very dear to him; the man was sick and about to die. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, This man really deserves your help. He loves our people and he himself built a synagogue for us.

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the officer sent friends to tell him, Sir, dont trouble yourself. I do not deserve to have you come into my house, neither do I consider myself worthy to come to you in person. Just give the order, and my servant will get well.

Jesus was surprised when he heard this; he turned round and said to the crowd following him, I tell you, I have never found faith like this, not even in Israel!

The messengers went back to the officers house and found his servant well. (Luke 7, 1-7, 9-10).
Some biblical scholars think that Johns the account of Jesus at Cana in Galilee healing the son of a government official at Capernaum is the same incident (see John 4, 43-54).

In all three accounts we see the great and unshakable faith of the centurion or the Roman officer. Jesus himself appreciates the great faith of the gentile centurion and proclaims it to his followers!

In the Holy Mass at Holy Communion the priests and faithful say the prayer, Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. (see Mt. 8, 8). This prayer is taken from the centurions own words when he said to Jesus that he is not worthy that Jesus himself go to his house to cure his servant. The Christians around world are repeating the same prayer of the centurion for centuries!

The second centurion, appearing in the Synoptic Gospels, is one who is given the responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus. He must have observed Jesus and the crowds following him from the Palace of Pontius Pilate all the way to Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. He must have seen his soldiers mocking Jesus with scarlet robes and putting thorny crown on Jesus head. He must have forced Simon from Cyrene thinking that Jesus might die before reaching Golgotha as he was weak with the suffering already inflicted on him and seeing him falling under the weight of the Cross which he was carrying. The soldiers must have nailed Jesus hands and legs under his orders. He has heard the words of Jesus from the Cross. At the death of Jesus on the Cross, the centurion gave his verdict:

He really was the Son of God! (Mt. 17, 54)

This man was really the Son of God! (Mk. 15, 39)

Certainly he was a good man! (Lk. 23. 47)

These words of the centurion reveal that he has spoken sincerely and honestly. This judgement of the centurion proclaims that his Superior Pilates judgement of condemning Jesus to death was wrong. He acknowledges that he himself was wrong in crucifying Jesus. We cannot help but appreciate the honesty and the truthfulness of the centurion at Calvary. (Contact: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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