Luke 7:1-10


Matthew 8:5-13 is a parallel passage. Everyone agrees with this. But John 4:46-52 ought be placed in brackets because, for a number of reasons, it was a different occasion.

On the difference between the account in Matthew and Luke, Plummer states: "Matthew says nothing about either of these deputations, verses 3 and 6, but puts the message of both into the mouth of the centurion himself, who comes in person."

How solve this difference?

Morris: What a man does through agents he may be said to do himself.

The two accounts do not contradict each other. Then how account for the differences? Marshall discusses the many theories of the high critics with reference to sources and why Matthew gives an abbreviated account whereas Luke gives an expanded on. They are at a loss because the account is not found in Mark. Their many theories cancel each other out. They are not closer to a solution than before the rise of the higher critical school of thought.

Matthew was likely a witness of this account. No man can penetrate the mystery of inspiration. The two accounts supplement and verify each other. More important is to concentrate on what the text says.

On the basis of this passage some claim that Luke portrays the Jewish authorities as friendly to Jesus. The text by no means says that. What they are after is a  Sitz im Leben  in the early church, reflected in Luke, the idea that the Jews were welcoming the Gentiles into the church.

Luke 7:1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.

The Sermon on the Mount is in the previous chapter. The people truly heard it.

Luke 7:2 There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.

Morris: Each of the centurions of whom the New Testament gives us knowledge is a man of character, look at Luke 23:47; Acts 10:22; 22:26; 23:17,23; 24:23; 27:1,43.
Hendriksen: Among all the fine things Scripture says about centurions highest praise is reserved for the one of our present account.

Well said. He was an army captain. Whether he was directly under Rome or Herod Antipas makes little difference. That he was a Gentile is abundantly clear.

The sick man is called a "servant," or "slave," which refers to that fact that he was valuable, respected, and dear to his master. He meant much to his master. It is quite clear that he was so sick that he was at the point of death.

Luke 7:3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.

The centurion had heard about what Jesus had done and taught. He sent elders with a definite commission. These were some Jewish elders, not the Jewish leaders of the synagogue.

Here he requests two things: to come and to heal.

Luke 7:4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this,

Their whole plea is based on what the centurion did. They judged his worthiness on the basis of his works. Obviously, these are not the words or message of the centurion.

Luke 7:5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."

They base their plea first on a general and then a particular work. Whether he was the only or chief benefactor is impossible and needless to determine. Note that nothing is said about the personal attitude of these Jewish leaders toward Jesus. Did they accept Him and believe in Him? Were they friendly toward Jesus? We know not. Our entire attention is focused on the centurion.

Not only did the delegation bring his request but also stated why Jesus ought grant his request. Did the centurion send Jews because he considered himself an unclean Gentiles? Was he a "proselyte at the gate"? We know not.

At any rate, he considered himself unworthy. The Jews considered him worthy because of his attitude and works toward themselves. He considered himself utterly unworthy.

Luke 7:6 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.

"Lord" could be translated "Sir." He had heard about Jesus, verse 3. he considered himself unworthy. He had faith in Jesus' Word.

"Trouble yourself no further," perhaps we should add: "I am most unworthy." He speaks as did John the Baptist in Luke 3:16. The centurion sent a second delegation because his sense of unworthiness deepened. Whether he considered himself unclean as a Gentile is not stated. Our whole attention is directed to his humility.

Luke 7:7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Some commentators omit this verse since it is not found in the Western manuscripts. Some have considered it a later addition to make Luke harmonize with Matthew. But none of our translations omit it. Don't worry about it.

The first delegation was sent because he considered himself unworthy. Now comes a command which proceeds from faith. By faith the centurion commands the Lord to command by His Word. The phrase can be translated either, "And in this way let him be healed," or "and as a result he will be healed."

Luke 7:8 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."

"For I myself" does not mean that the centurion is comparing himself with Jesus, who is subordinate to the Father. Higher critics claim that Luke's writings stress Jesus' subordination to the Father and that is what the centurion means. Surely not. That would well nigh be an insult to Jesus at this point. He is stressing his own unworthiness and inferiority, not that of Jesus.

He is surely comparing himself with all other army captains. Note the emphasis on "man", likely he is stressing his mere humanity in comparison with Jesus' superiority. But despite that inferiority when he commands soldiers or slaves, his word causes immediate obedience. This is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If he as an inferior, a mere human, under authority, can accomplish so much merely by speaking words, how much more can the Lord command an illness, near to death, cease and health be restored!

Lenski: The greatness of the centurion's faith appears in is HUMILITY. The man, though a high military officer and great benefactor of the Jews, deems himself utterly unworthy. In the second place, this man's faith centers in the WORD of Jesus, the very thing that Jesus had so much difficulty in attaining among the Jews. Of himself, merely from what this man had heard about Jesus, without further experience and teaching, he shows absolute trust in Jesus' word and in its power. Thirdly, and as the basis of this humble confidence in the mere word, the centurion has a proper conception of the EXALTED PERSON OF JESUS.

Luke 7:9 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."

The same word of used of Jesus toward the centurion as had been used of the centurion of Jesus in verse 3. Only once do we read that Jesus praised faith as great, that of the Canaanite Gentile woman in Matthew 15:28.

By the way, this verb clearly shows Jesus' humanity. His reaction is very human. But the fact that He realizes the greatness of the centurion's faith indicates His divinity, His omniscience.

In what sense is faith "great"? Jesus is indicating its utter genuineness, not mere size. Read Luke 17:6 where faith is compared to a mustard seed. What is indicated is not its small size but its genuineness. Jesus is not saying that He did not find faith in Israel, but He is saying that this Gentile's faith is the greatest, even greater than that found in Israel.

Luke 7:10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

The "men" are likely those sent in verse 3 and in verse 6. All of them. The first group was still with Jesus when the second delegation met them. Luke does not indicate what Jesus said to them. That is easily supplied from Matthew 8:13, where Jesus states that the healing would correspond to the believing.

Rivet your attention on these facts: That the centurion had heard about Jesus, that he was truly humble, that he had utter confidence in Jesus' Word which accomplished his petition. It reminds us of Hebrews 11:1ff and James 5:16.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 4-6. Used with permission.

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