Nestled on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was a town of some significance in the days of Jesus. It became a place the Lord would call His own (Matthew 4:13; 9:1) and where Peter lived with his wife and mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15). Following the teaching on the mountain Jesus enters the city when a centurion comes to Him pleading on behalf of a servant. The Roman soldier explains, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented” (Matthew 8:6). Telling the centurion that He would come and heal the servant the warrior bears a humble heart begging Jesus not to trouble Himself with coming to his home. The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matthew 8:8-9). The centurion knew something that many in Galilee did not know. Marveling at the faith of this man of Gentile blood, the Lord desires that His own people exhibit a faith to believe in the unseen and trust in the unknown. Blessing the centurion Jesus says, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (Matthew 8:13). The servant was healed that same hour.
The city by the sea had a special significance in the ministry of Jesus. Here the Lord raised up the servant of the centurion from his torment but also healed the mother-in-law of Peter from a fever (Matthew 8:14-15), the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-2), the ruler’s daughter (Matthew 9:23-25), the multitudes (Matthew 8:16) and healed the nobleman’s son (John 4:47). Imagine all this being done in one city. Later Jesus would rebuke the cities where His mighty works had been done but did not repent. Included in that number is Capernaum. “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24).
What a comparison. Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked the Lord destroyed them from the face of the earth. “Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24). If Jesus had come to town and shown His mighty works in healing all manner of diseases the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would have changed their hearts. How much more evidence could be given than to have the Son of God in the flesh among them and then to reject Him. Jesus had come to town and the servant rejoiced when he was healed as did his compassionate master. The few who believed in Jesus and allowed the great Physician to heal them knew the power of God.
Jesus has come to town and who has taken notice? He has since returned to the Father but He dwells in the word of God and His presence is felt in the stirring words of His sermons and the vivid proofs of His power. John declares, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name … And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 20:30-32; 21:25).
Jesus might well declare in our towns and cities the same pronouncement against Capernaum. We have the miracles of Jesus along with His teachings and the complete revelation of the scheme of redemption contained in what men refer to as “The Holy Bible.” Paul told the Christian’s in Ephesus, “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5). And yet how many have failed to come to know the Jesus of scripture and learn of His love, His sacrifice and His desire to save all men (2 Peter 3:9)?
The question becomes more important when the present day followers of Jesus answer what happened when Jesus came to their town? As a people have we come to know the Jesus of the Gospels and the revealing mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16) in the powerful manifestation of His character in our lives? The centurion of Matthew 8 exhibited such a great faith that he only desired for Jesus to speak the word and his servant would be healed. “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in [America]” (Matthew 8:10)! The living Jesus in our lives fills our minds with His great power and mercy to change us and mold us into His character. Our trust in His power is like that of the centurion. We do not trust in our worldly pursuits and desires but the saving power of a powerful Lord.
Jesus can change our lives like those who were healed not only from physical disease but the sickness of the heart. Sin is not a death sentence but an opportunity for the Son of God to show His power in our lives. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not crushed nor in despair; we are not forsaken and we are not destroyed because we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). Jesus has come to town and we are HIS!