Matthew 8:5

ESV When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him,
NIV When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
NASB And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, begging Him,
CSB When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, pleading with him,
NLT When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him,
KJV And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

What does Matthew 8:5 mean?

Matthew is describing a collection of incidents in which Jesus displayed His access to the power of God. In the previous verses, he told of a time Jesus healed a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1–4). Now he will describe a remarkable interaction between Jesus and a Roman soldier.

Jesus, still in Galilee, in northern Israel, returns to His adopted hometown of Capernaum on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. He is approached by a Roman centurion. A centurion was an officer in charge of groups ranging from one hundred to several hundred soldiers; this was a powerful position in the Roman army. The Romans, of course, were occupying Israel as a conquered nation. Rome did not station soldiers in every town, necessarily, but Capernaum's location gave it some importance in the region.

It is significant, then, that such a powerful person would come to Jesus with a request for help. In Luke's report on this exchange (Luke 7:1–10), the centurion does not come to see Jesus himself. Instead, he sends respected Jewish elders on his behalf. Matthew often shortens his accounts, and he leaves out the fact that the centurion spoke to Jesus through others.

Those Jewish elders, in Luke's report, describe this centurion as "worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue" (Luke 7:4–5). The centurion's respect for the Jewish people, their customs, and for Jesus will become apparent in the following verses.
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