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 also am 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.” 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 out 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. (Mat 8:5-13 NKJ)
This text in Matthew can be somewhat problematic. The centurion wasn’t just any Roman soldier; he was a battle-hardened, an educated career soldier, his allegiance to Rome unwavering and his appointment was approved by the Emperor. This was a hard life, often leading his men from the front meant that many died in battle.
Many of these young men had no real family, in fact, Emperor Augustine forbade marriage. Soldiers would then revert to using female and male slaves for their personal gratification. This may have been the case here in Matthews gospel.
Matthew doesn’t use the traditional word for servant, doulos. Instead, he uses the Greek word pais. Pais does not mean “servant.” It means “lover.” Greek historian Thucydides, in Plutarch, in countless Greek sources, pais refers to the junior partner in a same-sex relationship. Now, this is not exactly a partnership of equals. However, we should not read too much into this story, as Jesus neither affirms or condemns the centurion’s lifestyle. Instead, his focus is upon the man’s faith.
The centurion didn’t need Jesus to come to his home; he knew that when Jesus spoke, as one with power and authority, it would be done. Jesus, responds, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
The centurion wouldn’t be the kind of person you would expect Jesus to minister to, and yet Jesus saw beyond the issues and saw great faith. Perhaps we should do the same?