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“Roman Centurions in the New Testament”

Categories: In the Bulletin

Today’s sermon will focus on the second of nine miracles in Matthew 8-9. It is thought that the first three miracles in Matthew 8.1-17 happened on the same day. As Jesus entered Capernaum, He was approached by Jewish intermediaries who informed Him of the servant boy of a Roman centurion, who was paralyzed and suffering greatly. The story goes on to show the centurion’s great faith — which Jesus marveled over, 8.10. That this centurion, a Gentile, and maybe even a Samaritan, had such a faith is noteworthy. There are five other centurions mentioned in the New Testament. In fact, it is thought that at least two of them became followers of Christ. Here are the others we can read about:

Mark 15.39; Luke 23.47: The centurion at the cross. Amazed by all the events that happened on the day Jesus died, the centurion exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Luke says he said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” A fourth-century writing, The Acts of Pilate, says this centurion’s name was Longinus. The historian Bede (673-735) claimed that Longinus was murdered for his faith in 58 AD in Caesarea.

Acts 10: Cornelius and family were converted to Christ. Luke goes out of his way to describe the man’s character before he became a Christian. Cornelius was a man who feared God, gave alms, and prayed continually.

Acts 22.25-26: The centurion who rescued Paul from being scourged. Paul reported that he was a Roman citizen and the centurion immediately reported this to his superiors.

Acts 23.17-22: The centurion who saved Paul from a Jewish plot to murder him.

Acts 27.1: A centurion named Julius, who was assigned to guard Paul on the journey from Caesarea to Rome. This man prevented the solders from killing Paul along with all the other prisoners when the ship wreck occurred. He also seemed to have a growing trust and respect for who Paul was as the journey progressed, giving Paul privileges other prisoners did not have.

These men are all presented as men of honesty, integrity, duty, and having care for others. It challenges the typical assumption we might make regarding a member of the Roman Army. Many times their character and regard for other human beings stands in remarkable contrast to those who considered themselves as God’s people.

— Matthew Allen