The story of the Roman centurion is found in all four Gospels, with each evangelist highlighting an aspect that is dear to him.
Luke emphasizes the fact that the man was really a ‘good gentile’, not oppressive to the Jewish people, as Romans tended to be, and a lavish benefactor; so a delegation of local people begged Jesus to look favourably on his request. The request was to cure the officer’s servant, a young man of whom he is fond.
What astonishes Jesus is the humility of the centurion. While most Jews would importune Jesus to lay his hands on the sick patient, the officer says he would be satisfied if the Master merely commanded the sick man to get well from a distance; he needn’t bother to come all the way to the centurion’s home.
His words to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should step under my roof,” have since become immortal. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated today and for centuries before, they are repeated by Christians who re-affirm the centurion’s faith.
It is this faith which astonishes Jesus, and which he commends to the bystanders. While his own people quarrel and quibble about the miracles Jesus wrought, wondering whether they were signs from God or from the devil, here a pagan begs for a cure, and places his confidence that it will take place.
How unexpected this faith! How generously rewarded!