When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "LORD," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly." Jesus said to him, "Shall I come and heal him?" The centurion replied, "LORD, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 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.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed"… Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that moment. (Matthew 8:5-10a, 13, NIV)
A centurion had a servant who was sick with palsy. From what we can tell, some two thousand years later, palsy was a type of paralysis. By some accounts, when someone was struck with this palsy, they usually died a few days later. Today, we might think of persons stricken with strokes or perhaps brain tumors.
This centurion heard that Jesus was in Capernaum and sought Jesus to heal his servant. That a man of his stature, a Roman centurion, would be so concerned about his servant tells us something about this man. One is that he felt compassion for someone who was beneath him on the social ladder.
Another is that he saw his servant as worthy of his master’s attempt to have him restored to health. This required humility on the part of the centurion. Seeking what others might consider a far-fetched cure, the centurion was willing to put his pride aside and ask Jesus for help.
Also, the centurion was willing to accept Jesus’ authority by asking for a long-distance healing. The centurion acknowledged Jesus as having authority above his own when he suggested the healing be done right then and there. All of this indicates a humility of the greatest order. The kind that someone with great love shows when they pull out every stop in order that their loved one can be healed.
The centurion’s faith amazed even Jesus. In the verses omitted, we hear Jesus praise the man’s astonishing and remarkable faith for Jesus had been willing to go to the centurion’s house and heal his servant. The centurion suggested one better. And Jesus, not unprepared, granted the faithful, humble centurion’s desire. The servant was healed on the spot.
A whole slew of people has become paralyzed on one level or another during this past year. Sure, the pandemic’s grip is not as tight as it was (keep up the good work of masking and distancing), but there is still that sense of paralysis about covid and a host of other concerns of pandemic stature.
First, it is important not to blame yourself for not being “over” things like the paralysis that produces short attention spans, inability to complete tasks, anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. It’s where we are. Inert. Feeling like slugs. And suffering inside.
The Good News of this narrative is that Jesus is only a prayer away from for those we love. When we pray for others, it comes from a place of deep compassion, complete humility, and an abiding belief in the authority of Jesus to heal that person or persons. A Roman centurion demonstrated that. And Jesus honored that prayer.
A praying person, a praying church, and a praying community can change the energy of paralysis to one of movement and restoration.
My friends, let’s start first by praying for those we love. They are many. As you pray for others, others are praying for you. If you have a church directory, pray over it. Or, if you feel so led, pray for each family and individual. Or a certain number every day. Let God lead you. You can also pray over the newspaper or newsfeed.
We heal others and ourselves in these times when we follow the Roman centurion’s example. Christ heals near and far. You and I can be part of that healing.