"How many days has Simon been ill?" The Roman solder ask.
The Jewish servant girl bowed and replied."Two days less the month you've been away my lord.”
"Did you call the doctors?"
"Yes, my lord." The petite adolescent answered, "All those in Capernaum." Pausing briefly and seeing the masters concern for his servant she added, "My lord, the last one gave us medicine to ease Simon's queasiness then he said to keep him cool and give him fresh air."
"Tirzah, did he say Simon would recover?" the weary man asked.
She looked him in the eyes and replied softly, "My lord, the doctor was not hopeful."
Centurion Tarian turned away as he replied to the servant girl, "Do as he ordered. I will be in my chamber."
The soldier went to his sleeping room, sat on his chair and peered out the entrance to his porch. The chair arms were worn smooth by insistent rubbing as he considered his life during these last three years. The thin curtains gently swayed while the breeze blew in from the lake through his quarters. He looked at a goblet of wine and a simple cup sitting on the wooden table nearby. “Now is no time for a drink,” he thought to himself. Then he noticed a parchment copy of the letter of Isaiah given him by the rabbi from the nearby synagogue. Scanning it, he noticed some words he had underlined before he left for Jerusalem. The words rung loudly in his heart, "…and by His stripes we are healed."
I don't understand, he thought. “What does it mean; these stripes?” He stood and slowly turned around to face the chair. Then he bowed to his knees, knelt down to the chair, gripped the back, and began to pour out his heart to the One he served in spirit and in truth.
"O Holy Lord, I don't understand this. Why is Simon so sick? Why can't the doctors help?" Cupping his face in his calloused hands he continued, "My God, what does it mean '…by his stripes we are healed.' Can Simon be healed of this illness? Gracious One, he is more than my faithful servant; he is my friend and my teacher. He taught me of You and that these people Rome has conquered are Yours. And though we have defeated their armies, You poured out Your grace on them. The Emperors could have destroyed them, but You softened their hearts so that Caesars’ desire is that all men might become Roman. But You desire that men's hearts would become free. These Jews are the people through whom You would show to all men who You are. Simon told me of a man coming one day who will be called, ‘Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father.’ He has shown me that there is but one god and it is You."
Tears began to flow freely as the man of war cried out to the God of Peace. "He read to me from the great King David's prayers that You desire a broken spirit and a contrite heart. That You can create in me a clean heart. That You are my God, my refuge, my fortress, and my shield. My God, I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death many times and knew Your presence and felt no fear. You have been my Deliverer. I ask You to deliver Your servant and my friend Simon from this illness that seeks to steal his life. You have created all things and by You all things exist. All authority and power dwell with You. I ask You to make him whole again because he is one of Your own."
A knock at his door interrupted his outcries.
"Yes, what is it?" The man weakly replied. Wiping his face he walked slowly to the door, opened it, and asked the girl, "Yes, what is it child?"
Nervously, but assertively she replied, "It is Rabbi Benjamin and the elders from the synagogue. Should I let them in? They wish to thank you for your most recent kindness and generosity to the members of his congregation."
Pausing briefly he replied, "Let them in Tirzah and tell them I will be there shortly."
"Yes my lord." she replied and quickly left with her message.
As the men waited outside the courtyard gate Benjamin asked, "What compels a man of his rank to give so much to a vanquished people?" Not really seeking an answer from the others he continued. "What strange provision has Jehovah Jirah placed before us?"
An older man named Jacob answered, "Hmm. It is as in the days of Nehemiah." The elders were always amazed at the centurion’s support of the Jews in this northern city by the Sea of Galilee.
"Benjamin," Moshe spoke from the back, "I can't answer for any of this, I only know that our God has chosen to show His mercy to us through this man and I am grateful."
“Yes, yes." The small group replied affirming Moshe's comments and nodding their heads. "Blessed be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Spoke another voice.
Their quiet celebration was interrupted when Tirzah opened the door. "The Centurion will be with you shortly. Please come in and sit next to the pond. I will bring some refreshments."
In his chamber the battle-tested soldier prayed a different prayer. "God-of-all-Things, though You seem silent for now I know that you are not. Please give me the grace I need to give You the glory for what I have been able to do for these, Your people. As I have vowed my skills to Rome, I serve You with my heart. Thank You for not allowing me to continue in darkness." After he had finished he walked through his large home to the courtyard where the Jewish leaders were waiting.
"Our friend the Centurion!" Benjamin erupted.
"Yes, a friend of the people of God!" another spoke loudly.
"Please. Gentlemen. It is my pleasure to serve you. Your God has become mine and I serve Him willingly." Pointing to the refreshments brought in by Tirzah he continued, "Let us enjoy a meal. I have read something from Isaiah that puzzles me. Perhaps one of you can explain it."
"Please Centurion, if I may, first how is our brother Simon?" asked Jacob.
The soldiers countenance suddenly change as he replied, "His illness lingers and the doctors have given little hope. We simply keep him as comfortable as possible." Thinking about how he answered his face suddenly became purposeful and he said, "That is part of what I wanted to discuss."
"We will pray tonight in the synagogue." replied Benjamin.
"My thanks friends." Tarian answered gratefully.
"Moshe," the soldier asked, "in the letter of Isaiah there is a line that reads '… and by His stripes we are healed.' What was the prophet trying to tell the reader?"
The man frowned while his thoughts submersed completely immersed into the question. "Centurion, I have longed for Jehovah to show me this answer. Isaiah told us in his letter that the coming Messiah would be a longsuffering servant. But we struggle for our freedom and we need a warrior king. We have spent many late nights discussing the Messiah and how He might appear, but we have reached no conclusion. One thing I know, I am old and I know of no day when our land has not been ruled by others." Cautiously he continued, "Centurion, you have been generous beyond reason and I thank my God for you being sent to us, yet we long for our freedom and healing as a nation."
The Centurion listened intently, yet his purpose was elsewhere. "I recognize that some see us as their masters and please don't think of me as selfish but Simon is suffering. What stripes were the prophet speaking of that brought healing? Could it be something that has not yet happened?"
"Whoever the Messiah will be, we will be able to recognize Him by His deeds." Moshe said as he was picking up a date from the large dish.
"Centurion, there is a stranger in the city today. He has been here before and there is something very disturbing about him." Benjamin said.
"Please, continue my friend.” asked Tarian.
"I have heard many things from others. I remember them speaking of a caravan of foreigners many years ago. They spoke of a child whose birth, well,…"
"Go on, please." the soldier encouraged.
"I was told that the mother had not had relations with the father; that God had touched her miraculously and the angels of the Living God announced this child’s birth."
Tarian sat listening intently, and then he interrupted the rabbi, "In Isaiah I've read that a child will be born in Bethlehem. Is that where this child was born?"
"That is how I understand the things I've been told." the rabbi replied.
"Please continue." Tarian said has he leaned forward desiring to capture each word spoken.
"Well, some years had passed and I hadn't heard anything until I was visiting the temple in Jerusalem. A young boy, not more than perhaps 12, walked right up to Rabbi Josef and I as we were talking. He was a simple looking lad, clearly the son of a commoner, but he said the most incredible things. It seemed he had, well, I know wisdom is the word, but it doesn't seem quite right. The wisdom he had was not of men. I forgot about him until now. Perhaps he is grown."
"Do you remember his name Benjamin?" The soldier asked.
"The name of the boy? No my lord. It was nearly twenty years ago."
"I have heard this stranger’s name. It is common enough. It's Jesus." Jacob said.
"You know, I believe that was the boy’s name.” said Benjamin thinking out loud. "I have heard much gossip about this itinerant preacher. There is much talk of miracles and strange words."
"What kind of miracles?" Tarian asked.
Moshe replied, "Tarian, if you think he may help Simon, please reconsider. I've heard He even makes Himself equal with God."
Tarian's face showed determination as he asked, "Moshe, you and these men have been most gracious to me in the past but I must ask you to visit the man called Jesus. If the stories are true then he could be the Messiah you look for. He may even be willing to heal Simon."
There was a strained quiet on the porch. Each of the elders began to turn right, left, and then to Benjamin. Unexpectedly Moshe asked Tarian, "If we find him what should we ask?"
"Ask him to come and heal one of His own. If what Benjamin has said about this man is true, he can heal. Friends, I don't ask for myself but for the one who is sick among us" the soldier replied.
Reluctant, the small group of religious leaders stood from their seats and turned to walk away. Benjamin stopped, turned to look at Tarian and said, "We will do what we can for you and Simon." Then he walked to the gate and joined the others.
As the men began their search for Jesus, Benjamin questioned Moshe, "Why did you obligate us to find one who seems so contrary to our faith?”
"Yes Moshe." another questioned, "Even if this Jew can heal, how can we ask him to heal the servant of a gentile?"
"Judah, I ask you to reconsider your question." replied the rabbi. "Tarian asks us to do a hard thing I confess, but he is more Jew than many born in Israel. Come let us plead his case before this man. If he is of God we will know. It is near mid-day, perhaps he will be buying food in the marketplace or at the well for water."
The streets of Capernaum were hard packed from the years of traffic. This day however, there seemed to be far fewer customers. Rounding the corner the synagogue elders discovered why. A crowd seemed to be walking in their direction.
"Well Moshe, he must be part of this crowd, but how do we tell him from the others?" A young rabbi named Aaron asked.
"Perhaps he is the one holding the hands of the children? The older man replied.
Benjamin knew when he saw the eyes of the man in front that He was Jesus. He seemed to know this small group had a question to ask. Both crowds advanced, but never mixed, as an invisible wall seemed to separate them.
"Greetings Rabbi and peace to each of the elders." Jesus said.
"Peace to you as well. Are you the man called Jesus?" Benjamin replied with unintended curtness.
"I am. How may I help you Rabbi?" He answered.
"We have come in the name of our friend and fellow believer in our God. He has asked us, to ask you, to heal his friend and servant." Benjamin replied.
"Is he a Jew?" Jesus asked.
"Please, he is not. But he knows the God of Israel." Simon pled, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation. He is the Roman Centurion Tarian."
Many in the crowd began to shake their head and whisper among themselves.
"Please," Benjamin said as he saw their response, "He has pled our case many times to the governor and has built our synagogue. I know of no man more generous than the Centurion."
"I will go to him." Jesus said and went with them.
"Jesus, what will you do?" a young girl asked.
"What glorifies my Father and teaches Israel about Him." He replied.
Back at Tarian's home the soldier had begun to prayer again. "My God, I have seen Your greatness in the sky, Your wisdom in the seasons, and Your compassion on these people. I am reminded of King David's words as he wept for forgiveness. As he prayed so do I, "Be gracious to me O' God, according to Thy loving-kindness. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me."
His prayer reminded him of his unworthiness to ask this man of God to visit Simon. He quickly stood up and went to Tirzah. "Child, go to the preacher and tell Him this. Tell Him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the words, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, "Come,' and he comes; that one 'Go' and he goes. I say to my servant, 'Do this and he does it." Then he said, "Go quickly child."
Tirzah did not have far to go because Jesus was very near the house.
The girl cautiously approached Jesus and gave him the soldier’s message. After Jesus heard her words he was amazed at the centurion, and turning to the crowd following Him, he said, "I tell you, I have not seen such great faith even in Israel."
At the house Tarian continued to pray in his chamber. "My God, I know you have authority to give life and take it, either way You choose for Simon I will serve You still." Benjamin’s voice from the courtyard broke his prayer.
"Centurion, we have done as you asked."
"Benjamin, you talked to the man Jesus?" Tarian asked.
"Yes, and He is strange indeed." replied the rabbi. He had not finished talking to us when Tirzah came with her message from you."
"What did He say?"
"He only spoke of your great faith. He spoke of your faith being greater than all others in Israel. It is said..." He was suddenly interrupted.
"My lord! Simon is awake!" Tirzah shouted.
"Come my friends, let's see what the Lord has done." Tarian said as he quickly got up and went to the servant’s room.
"Simon! Simon!" Tarian shouted as he rushed in front of the Jewish elders.
Standing at his table bringing water to his face stood the Roman’s servant. "Welcome home Centurion. I apologize for not being awake when you arrived."
Smiling broadly the soldier walked to his friend and embraced him fully saying, "God has worked His work in you my friend. Don't you know what has happened these many weeks?"
"Weeks?" the servant replied confused. "I remember falling asleep and nothing else."
Tarian released his hug and turned to the room entrance. "Look friends! Our God is God. Rejoice with me over our God and our friend’s recovery."
Benjamin felt drawn to the parchment on Tarian's table. After his eyes left the letter he said, "Tarian, come here friend and look at what I have found in Isaiah's letter. Benjamin read, '…My ways are not yours neither are My thoughts your thoughts declares the Lord.'"
"Benjamin, God has indeed shown us that His ways." Moshe whispered to Benjamin.
The Centurion then spoke, "Gentleman, let's pray." After the men had gathered together Tarian began to speak, "God in heaven, I have no words to express my joy. We have witnessed Your healing hand and though we don't understand by what stripes your prophet speaks of, You have brought healing through them. We praise you for Your faithfulness to Your word."