[This chapter is based on Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-17.]
Christ had said to the nobleman whose son He healed, "Except ye
see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." John 4:48. He was
grieved that His own nation should require these outward signs of His
Messiahship. Again and again He had marveled at their unbelief. But He
marveled at the faith of the centurion who came to Him. The centurion
did not question the Saviour's power. He did not even ask Him to come in
person to perform the miracle. "Speak the word only," he said,
"and my servant shall be healed."
The centurion's servant had been stricken with palsy, and lay at the
point of death. Among the Romans the servants were slaves, bought and
sold in the market places, and treated with abuse and cruelty; but the
centurion was tenderly attached to his servant, and greatly desired his
recovery. He believed that Jesus could heal him. He had not seen the
Saviour, but the reports he heard had inspired him with faith.
Notwithstanding the formalism of the Jews, this Roman was convinced that
their religion was superior to his own. Already he had broken through
the barriers of national prejudice and hatred that separated the
conquerors from the conquered people. He had manifested respect for the
service of God, and had shown kindness to the Jews as His worshipers. In
the teaching of Christ, as it had been reported to him, he found that
which met the need of the soul. All that was spiritual within him
responded to the Saviour's words. But he felt unworthy to come into the
presence of Jesus, and he appealed to the Jewish elders to make request
for the healing of his servant. They were acquainted with the Great
Teacher, and would, he thought, know how to approach Him so as to win
As Jesus entered Capernaum, He was met by a delegation of the elders,
who told Him of the centurion's desire. They urged "that he was
worthy for whom He should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath
built us a synagogue."
Jesus immediately set out for the officer's home; but, pressed by the
multitude, He advanced slowly. The news of His coming preceded Him, and
the centurion, in his self-distrust, sent Him the message, "Lord,
trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under
my roof." But the Saviour kept on His way, and the centurion,
venturing at last to approach Him, completed the message, saying,
"Neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee;" "but
speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man
under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go,
and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do
this, and he doeth it." As I represent the power of Rome, and my
soldiers recognize my authority as supreme, so dost Thou represent the
power of the Infinite God, and all created things obey Thy word. Thou
canst command the disease to depart, and it shall obey Thee. Thou canst
summon Thy heavenly messengers, and they shall impart healing virtue.
Speak but the word, and my servant shall be healed.
"When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned
Him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, I say unto you, I
have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." And to the
centurion He said, "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.
And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."
The Jewish elders who recommended the centurion to Christ had shown
how far they were from possessing the spirit of the gospel. They did not
recognize that our great need is our only claim on God's mercy. In their
self-righteousness they commended the centurion because of the favor he
had shown to "our nation." But the centurion said of himself,
"I am not worthy." His heart had been touched by the grace of
Christ. He saw his own unworthiness; yet he feared not to ask help. He
trusted not to his own goodness; his argument was his great need. His
faith took hold upon Christ in His true character. He did not believe in
Him merely as a worker of miracles, but as the friend and Saviour of
It is thus that every sinner may come to Christ. "Not by works
of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved
us." Titus 3:5. When Satan tells you that you are a sinner, and
cannot hope to receive blessing from God, tell him that Christ came into
the world to save sinners. We have nothing to recommend us to God; but
the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless condition
that makes His redeeming power a necessity. Renouncing all
self-dependence, we may look to the cross of Calvary and say,--
"In my hand no price I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
The Jews had been instructed from childhood concerning the work of
the Messiah. The inspired utterances of patriarchs and prophets and the
symbolic teaching of the sacrificial service had been theirs. But they
had disregarded the light; and now they saw in Jesus nothing to be
desired. But the centurion, born in heathenism, educated in the idolatry
of imperial Rome, trained as a soldier, seemingly cut off from spiritual
life by his education and surroundings, and still further shut out by
the bigotry of the Jews, and by the contempt of his own countrymen for
the people of Israel,--this man perceived the truth to which the
children of Abraham were blinded. He did not wait to see whether the
Jews themselves would receive the One who claimed to be their Messiah.
As the "light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the
world" (John 1:9) had shone upon him, he had, though afar off,
discerned the glory of the Son of God.
To Jesus this was an earnest of the work which the gospel was to
accomplish among the Gentiles. With joy He looked forward to the
gathering of souls from all nations to His kingdom. With deep sadness He
pictured to the Jews the result of their rejection of His grace: "I
say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit
down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But
the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Alas, how many are still
preparing for the same fatal disappointment! While souls in heathen
darkness accept His grace, how many there are in Christian lands upon
whom the light shines only to be disregarded.
More than twenty miles from Capernaum, on a tableland overlooking the
wide, beautiful plain of Esdraelon, lay the village of Nain, and thither
Jesus next bent His steps. Many of His disciples and others were with
Him, and all along the way the people came, longing for His words of
love and pity, bringing their sick for His healing, and ever with the
hope that He who wielded such wondrous power would make Himself known as
the King of Israel. A multitude thronged His steps, and it was a glad,
expectant company that followed Him up the rocky path toward the gate of
the mountain village.
As they draw near, a funeral train is seen coming from the gates.
With slow, sad steps it is proceeding to the place of burial. On an open
bier carried in front is the body of the dead, and about it are the
mourners, filling the air with their wailing cries. All the people of
the town seem to have gathered to show their respect for the dead and
their sympathy with the bereaved.
It was a sight to awaken sympathy. The deceased was the only son of
his mother, and she a widow. The lonely mourner was following to the
grave her sole earthly support and comfort. "When the Lord saw her,
He had compassion on her." As she moved on blindly, weeping, noting
not His presence, He came close beside her, and gently said, "Weep
not." Jesus was about to change her grief to joy, yet He could not
forbear this expression of tender sympathy.
"He came and touched the bier;" to Him even contact with
death could impart no defilement. The bearers stood still, and the
lamentations of the mourners ceased. The two companies gathered about
the bier, hoping against hope. One was present who had banished disease
and vanquished demons; was death also subject to His power?
In clear, authoritative voice the words are spoken, "Young man,
I say unto thee, Arise." That voice pierces the ears of the dead.
The young man opens his eyes. Jesus takes him by the hand, and lifts him
up. His gaze falls upon her who has been weeping beside him, and mother
and son unite in a long, clinging, joyous embrace. The multitude look on
in silence, as if spellbound. "There came a fear on all."
Hushed and reverent they stood for a little time, as if in the very
presence of God. Then they "glorified God, saying, That a great
prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited His
people." The funeral train returned to Nain as a triumphal
procession. "And this rumor of Him went forth throughout all Judea,
and throughout all the region round about."
He who stood beside the sorrowing mother at the gate of Nain, watches
with every mourning one beside the bier. He is touched with sympathy for
our grief. His heart, that loved and pitied, is a heart of unchangeable
tenderness. His word, that called the dead to life, is no less
efficacious now than when spoken to the young man of Nain. He says,
"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." Matt.
28:18. That power is not diminished by the lapse of years, nor exhausted
by the ceaseless activity of His overflowing grace. To all who believe
on Him He is still a living Saviour.
Jesus changed the mother's grief to joy when He gave back her son;
yet the youth was but called forth to this earthly life, to endure its
sorrows, its toils, and its perils, and to pass again under the power of
death. But Jesus comforts our sorrow for the dead with a message of
infinite hope: "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I
am alive forevermore, . . . and have the keys of hell and of
death." "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh
and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through
death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their
lifetime subject to bondage." Rev. 1:18; Heb. 2:14, 15.
Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them
live. He cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives
Christ's word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin,
"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead." Eph.
5:14. That word is eternal life. As the word of God which bade the first
man live, still gives us life; as Christ's word, "Young man, I say
unto thee, Arise," gave life to the youth of Nain, so that word,
"Arise from the dead," is life to the soul that receives it.
God "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath
translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son." Col. 1:13. It is
all offered us in His word. If we receive the word, we have the
And "if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead
dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken
your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." "For
the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice
of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ
shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so
shall we ever be with the Lord." Rom. 8:11; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. This
is the word of comfort wherewith He bids us comfort one another.
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