The Good Army Captain
( Originally Published 1915 )
AT CAPERNAUM there was an officer of the Roman army, a captain, having under him a company of one hundred men. This man was not of the Jewish people, but a Gentile, which was the name that the Jews gave to all people outside of their own race. All the world, except themselves, the Jews called Gentiles.
This army captain was a good man, and he was very friendly to the Jews, because through them he had heard of the true God, and had learned to worship him. Out of his love for the Jews he had built for them with his own money a church, and had given it to them. This may have been the very church in which Jesus taught on the Sabbath days.
The army captain had a young servant, a boy whom he loved greatly; and this boy was very sick with the palsy and near to death. The army captain had heard that Jesus could cure those who were sick; and he asked the chief men of the church, who were called its "elders," to go to Jesus and ask him to come to the captain's house, that he might lay his hands on the boy and make him well. The elders spoke to Jesus soon after he came again to Capernaum, after preaching on the mountain. They asked him to go with them to the captain's house and cure his servant, and they added:
"He is a worthy man, and it is fitting that you should help him, for though a Gentile, he loves our people, and he has built for us our church.
Then Jesus said, "I will go and cure him."
But while Jesus was on his way to the captain's house, and with him the elders and a company of people, who hoped to see another wonderful cure, he was met by some friends of the captain, who brought this message:
"Lord, do not take the trouble to come to my house: for I am not worthy to have one so great as you are under my roof; and I sent to you, because I am not worthy to speak to you myself. But speak only a word where you are, and my servant shall be made well. For although I am myself a man under authority and rule, I have soldiers under me to carry out my will. I say to one man `Go,' and he goes; I say to another man `Come,' and he comes. I tell my servant, `Do this,' and he does it. You, too, have power to command and be obeyed. Only speak the word and my servant shall be cured."
When Jesus heard this he wondered at this man's faith. He turned to the crowd that followed and said:
"In truth I say to you all, I have not found such faith as this in all Israel. And I tell you further, that many like this man, who are not Israelites, shall come from places in the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. But many of those who are the children of Israel, because they have not believed, shall never enter into God's kingdom, but shall be thrust forth into the darkness outside."
And Jesus said to those who came from the captain's house:
"Go back and say to this man in my name, `As you have believed, even so shall it be done to you.' "
They went to the captain's house, and found his servant, who had been at the point of death, now free from his palsy and brought back to perfect health: