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 His favor.
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
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
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 deliverance.
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.