Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Captain's Servant, the Widow's Son, and the Woman Who Was a Sinner

Matthew viii: 5 to 13; Luke vii: 1 to 17; 36 to 50.

dropcap image HERE was at Capernaum an officer of the Roman army, a man who had under him a company of a hundred men. They called him "a centurion," a word which means "having a hundred," but we should call him "a captain." This man was not a Jew, but was what the Jews called "a Gentile," "a foreigner," a name which the Jews gave to all people outside of their own race. All the world, except the Jews themselves, were Gentiles.

This Roman centurion was a good man, and he loved the Jews, because through them he had heard of God, and had learned how to worship God. Out of his love for the Jews he had built for them, with his own money, a synagogue, which may have been the very synagogue in which Jesus taught on the Sabbath-days.

The centurion had a young servant, a boy, whom he loved greatly; and this boy was very sick with a palsy, and near to death. The centurion had heard that Jesus could cure those who were sick; and he asked the chief men of the synagogue, who were called its "elders," to go to Jesus, and ask him to come and cure his young servant.

The elders spoke to Jesus just as he came again to Capernaum, after the Sermon on the Mount. They asked Jesus to go with them to the centurion's house; and they said, "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 synagogue."


A Centurion comes to Jesus

Then Jesus said, "I will go and heal him."

But while he was on his way, and with him were the elders, and his disciples, and a great crowd of people, who hoped to see the work of healing, the centurion sent some other friends to Jesus with this message:

"Lord, do not take the trouble to come to my house; for I am not worthy that one so high as thou art should come under my roof; and I did not think that I was worthy to go and speak to thee. But speak only a word where you are, and my servant shall be made well. For I also am a man under rule, and I have soldiers under me, and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it. You, too, have power to speak and to be obeyed. Speak the word, and my servant will be cured."

When Jesus heard this he wondered at this man's faith. He turned to the people following him, and said, "In truth I say to you, I have not found such faith as this in all Israel!"

Then he spoke to the friends of the centurion who had brought word from him:

"Go and say to this man, As you have believed in me, so shall it be done to you."

Then those who had been sent went again to the centurion's house, and found that in that very hour his servant had been made perfectly well.

On the day after this, Jesus, with his disciples and many people, went out from Capernaum, and turned southward, and came to a city called Nain. Just as Jesus and his disciples came near to the gate of the city they were met by a company who were carrying out the body of a dead man to be buried. He was a young man, and the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. All the people felt sad for this woman who had lost her only son.

When the Lord Jesus saw the mother in her grief, he pitied her, and said, "Do not weep."

He drew near, and touched the frame on which they were carrying the body, wrapped round and round with long strips of linen. The bearers looked with wonder on this stranger, and set down the frame with its body, and stood still. Standing beside the body, Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, Rise up!"

And in a moment the young man sat up and began to speak. Jesus gave him to his mother, who now saw that her son, who had been dead, was alive again.

A great fear came upon all who had looked upon this wonderful work of Jesus. They praised God, and said, "God had indeed come to his people, and has given us a great prophet!"

And the news that Jesus had raised a dead man to life again went through all the land.

While Jesus was on this journey through southern Galilee, at one place a Pharisee, whose name was Simon, asked Jesus to come and dine at his house. This man did not believe in Jesus, but he wanted to watch him, and, if possible, to find some fault in him. He did not show Jesus the respect due to a guest, did not welcome him, nor did he bring water to wash Jesus' feet, as was done to people when they came in from walking. For in that land they wore no shoes or stockings, but only sandals, covering the soles of their feet; and they often washed their feet when they came into the house.

At meals they did not sit up around the table, but leaned on couches, with their heads toward the table and their feet away from it. While Jesus was leaning in this manner upon his couch at the table, a woman came into the dining room, bringing a flask of ointment, such as was used to anoint people of high rank. She knelt down at the feet of Jesus, weeping, and began to wet his feet with her tears, and then to wipe them with her long hair. She anointed his feet with the ointment, and kissed them over and over again.


The woman washing the feet of Jesus in the house of Simon

This woman had not been a good woman. She had led a wicked life; but by her act she showed that in her heart she was truly sorry for her sins. When Simon, the Pharisee, saw her at the Saviour's feet he thought within himself, though he did not say it, "If this man were really a prophet coming from God, he would have known how wicked this woman is, and he would not have allowed her to touch him."

Jesus knew this man's thought, and he said, "Simon, I have something to say to you."

And Simon said, "Master, say on."

Then Jesus said, "There was a certain lender of money to whom two men were owing. One man owed him five hundred shillings, and the other owed him fifty. When he found that they could not pay their debts, he freely forgave them, and let them both go free. Which of these two will love that man most?"

"Why," said Simon, "I suppose that the one to whom he forgave the most will love him the most."

"You are right," said Jesus. Then he turned toward the woman, and added, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wetted my feet with her tears, and has wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of welcome, but she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head even with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. You have acted as though you owed me little, and you have loved me little; but she feels that she owes me much, and she loves me greatly. I say to you, 'Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.' "

Then he spoke to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven."

Those who were around the table whispered to each other, "Who is this man that dares to act as God, and even to forgive sins?"

But Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace!"

And Jesus went through all that part of Galilee, preaching and teaching in all the villages, telling the people everywhere the good news of the kingdom of God.