The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2


Chapter 11—The Centurion's Son

After laboring two days with the Samaritans, Jesus left them to continue his journey to Galilee. He made no tarry at Nazareth, where he had spent his youth and early manhood. His reception in the synagogue there, when he announced himself as the Anointed One, was so unfavorable that he decided to seek more fruitful fields, to preach to ears that would listen, and to hearts that would receive his message. He declared to his disciples that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. This saying sets forth that natural reluctance which many people have to acknowledge any wonderfully admirable development in one who has unostentatiously lived in their midst, and whom they have intimately known from childhood. At the same time, these same persons might become wildly excited over the pretensions of a stranger and an adventurer. 2SP 151.1

The miracle that Jesus had performed in Cana prepared the way for his cordial reception. The people who had returned from the passover had brought back the report of his marvelous cleansing of the desecrated temple, followed by his miracles of healing the sick and restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. The judgment passed upon his acts by the dignitaries of the temple, opened his way at Galilee; for many of the people lamented the abuse of the temple and the lofty arrogance of the priests, and hoped that this man, who had the power to put these rulers to flight, might indeed be the looked-for Deliverer. 2SP 151.2

The news that Jesus had returned from Judea to Cana soon spread throughout Galilee and the region round about. It reached the ears of a nobleman in Capernaum, who was a Jew of some honor. He was much interested in what he had heard of the power of Jesus to heal the sick, for he had a son suffering with disease. The father had consulted the most learned physicians among the Jews, and they had pronounced the case incurable, and told him that his son must soon die. 2SP 152.1

But when he heard that Jesus was in Galilee his heart was encouraged; for he believed that one who could miraculously change water into wine, and drive out the desecrators of the temple, could raise his son to health even from the brink of the grave. Capernaum was quite a distance from Cana, and the centurion feared that, if he left his home to seek Jesus and present his plea to him, the child, who was very low, might die in his absence. Yet he dared not trust this errand to a servant; for he hoped that the prayers of a fond parent might touch the heart of the great Physician with pity, and induce him to accompany the father to the bedside of his dying son. 2SP 152.2

He went to Cana, hastening for fear of being too late. Forcing a passage through the crowd that surrounded Jesus, he at length stood before him. But his faith faltered when he saw only a plainly dressed man, dusty and worn with travel. He doubted that this person could do what he had come to ask of him; yet he determined to make a trial. He secured a hearing from Jesus, told him his errand, and besought the Saviour to accompany him to his home for the purpose of healing his son. But Jesus already knew of his sorrow. Even before the centurion had left his home, the pitying Redeemer had read the father's grief, and his great heart of love had gone out in sympathy for the suffering child. 2SP 153.1

But he was also aware that the father had made conditions in his mind concerning his belief in the Saviour. Unless his petition should be granted he would not have faith in him as the Messiah. While the father waited in an agony of suspense, Jesus addressed him, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” He here revealed the superficial faith of the centurion, that would lead him to accept or reject Christ according as he did or did not perform the work required of him. 2SP 153.2

Jesus designed, not only to heal the child, but to illuminate the darkened mind of the father. He saw unbelief struggling with his faith. He knew that this man had sought his help as a last and only hope. In this centurion he saw represented the condition of many of his nation. They were interested in Jesus from selfish motives; they desired some special benefit that they hoped to receive through his power, but they were ignorant as to their spiritual disease, and saw not their terrible need of divine grace, but staked their faith on the granting of some temporal favor. Jesus met this case as illustrating the position of many of the Jewish people. He contrasted this questioning unbelief with the faith of the Samaritans, who were ready to receive him as a teacher sent by God, and to accept him as the promised Messiah without a sign or miracle to establish his divinity. 2SP 153.3

The father's soul was stirred to its depths with the thought that his doubts might cost him the life of his son. The words of Jesus had the desired effect; the centurion saw that his motives in seeking the Saviour were purely selfish; his vacillating faith appeared before him in its true light; he realized that he was indeed in the presence of One who could read the hearts of men, and to whom all things were possible. This thought brings his suffering child to his mind with new vividness, and he cries out in an agony of supplication, “Sir, come down ere my child die!” 2SP 154.1

He fears that while he has been doubting and questioning, death may have closed the scene. This was enough. The father in his need seizes the merits of Jesus as his Saviour. In demanding him to come down ere his child dies, he clings alone to the strength of Jesus as his only hope. His faith is as imperative as was that of Jacob, when, wrestling with the mighty angel, he cried, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me!” 2SP 154.2

Jesus responds to the demands of the centurion by commanding him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” These brief and simple words thrill through the heart of the father; he feels the holy power of the speaker in every tone. Instead of going to Capernaum, Jesus, by a flash of divine telegraphy, sends the message of healing to the bedside of the suffering son. He dismisses the suppliant, who, with unspeakable gratitude, and perfect faith in the words of the Saviour, turns his steps homeward with a peace and joy he has never felt before. 2SP 154.3

At the same hour the watchers stood around the dying child, in the distant home of the centurion. The form that had been so strong and symmetrical in its youthful grace, was now worn and emaciated. The hollow cheeks burned with a hectic fire. Suddenly the fever leaves him, intelligence beams from his eyes, his mind becomes clear, and health and strength return to his body. The fever has left him in the very heat of the day. The attendants behold the change with amazement; the family is summoned, and great is the rejoicing. No signs of his malady linger about the child, his burning flesh has become soft and moist, and he sinks into the peaceful slumber of childhood. 2SP 155.1

Meanwhile the father hastens on his way with a hopeful heart. He went to Jesus with grief and trembling. He leaves him in joy and confidence. He feels the solemn assurance that he has talked with One whose power is unlimited. No doubt crosses his mind that Jesus has really healed his son at Capernaum. While still some distance from home, his servants meet him with the glad tidings that his son has recovered. With a light heart he hurries on, and, as he approaches his house, is met by the child, bounding out to receive him, radiant in health and beauty. He clasps him to his heart as one restored from the dead, and thanks God again and again for this miraculous restoration. 2SP 155.2

The centurion and all his household become disciples of Jesus. Thus their affliction was sanctified to the conversion of the entire family. They published this miracle through all Capernaum, and thus opened the way for Christ's further labors there. Many of his most wonderful works were done at that place. 2SP 156.1

This case of the centurion should be a lesson to all the followers of Christ. He would have them place implicit faith in him as their Redeemer, ready and willing to save all who come unto him. But he sometimes delays bestowing his precious gifts, in order to impress our hearts with a sense of our deep need of that true piety which entitles us to ask of him what we will. We are to lay by the selfishness that is frequently the sole cause of seeking him, and, confessing our helplessness and bitter need, trust in his promises. He invites all to come unto him who are weary and heavy-laden, and he will give them rest. 2SP 156.2