July 2, 2017

Gospel Commentary for the Fourth Sunday of Matthew (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

Fourth Sunday of Matthew
The Healing of the Centurion's Servant

Matthew 8:5-13

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Matthew

By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

5-6. And when Jesus entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying.

This man, too, did not approach Jesus while He was on the mountain, so as not to interrupt the teaching. This is the same man mentioned by Luke [Lk. 7:1-10]. Although Luke says that the centurion sent to Jesus others who were elders, this does not contradict Matthew who says that the centurion himself came to Jesus. It is altogether likely that first he sent others, and then, when death was imminent, he himself came and said:

6-7. "Lord, my servant lieth at home a paralytic, grievously tormented." And Jesus saith unto him, "I will come and heal him."

The centurion did not bring his servant lying on his bed to Jesus, as he believed that Jesus could heal him even from a distance. Therefore:

8-10. The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: 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. When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."

The centurion says, "If I who am the servant of the emperor command the soldiers who are under me, how much more so art Thou able to command death and the illnesses, so that they depart from one and beset another?" For illnesses of the body are God's soldiers and officers of punishment. Christ marvels, therefore, saying, "I have not found such great faith among the Israelites as I have in this Gentile." (1)

11-12. "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus did not say outright, "Many Gentiles shall sit at table with Abraham...." But He said it in a roundabout manner, so as not to scandalize the Jews, "Many shall come from the east and west." He mentioned Abraham to show that He does not stand in opposition to the Old Testament. By saying outer darkness, He shows that there is also an inner darkness which is less severe. For in hell there are varying degrees of punishment. He calls the Jews the sons of the kingdom, for the promises of the Old Testament were made to them. He is saying, "Israel is my firstborn son" [Ex. 4:22].

13. And Jesus said unto the centurion, "Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."

And when the centurion returned to his house, at the same hour, he found his servant well. Healing the servant by His word alone, Jesus showed that He also spoke the truth when He said that the Jews would be cast out from the kingdom.


1. A scholion in the Greek text adds: "Others have interpreted these words thus: When Jacob, the renowned patriarch, beheld the ladder reaching up to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending, he understood that God was present in that place, but not that He is everywhere present. Thus he said, 'How fearful is this place! This is none other than the house of God' [Gen. 28:16-17]. The Lord now marvels at the great and supernatural faith of this Gentile, saying, 'Not even in Israel,' that is, 'in Jacob' did I find such faith. For Jacob understood that I could appear in one place, but this man understands that I am everywhere in all places and that by word alone I can do all things. For he said, 'Only speak the word, and my servant shall be healed.'"