Bert

(aka The Centurion)

 

Matt 8:5-13

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.

"Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering."

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

The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.

 

 

One truck roared out and another roared in to take it's place. The loading dock was still overflowing with the contents of the previous truck and workers scurried to clear the floor for the incoming load. The hotel still had another hour before it opened its doors to the public but this was one of the busiest times of the day. There was a lot to be done before the public could come in and partake of the hotel's offerings.

This hotel had built it's reputation on good fresh food in a family atmosphere, but there was a lot of work in making sure that the daily supplies came at the right time, at the right standard and in the right quantities. Liquor supplies were relatively easy to manage compared to the food, and for the most part more profitable, but without the right food, no-one would to drink - well not enough to make the hotel profitable anyway. Bert MacCluskey knew that and as the hotel manager he put a high priority on this part of the business. So much so that today he was on the dock with the rest of his staff helping get the supplies off the truck and stored away properly.

Normally he would leave that to his trusted foreman, Johnno, but last week Johnno had injured his back trying to help steady a shifting load. As soon as Bert found out, he sent him off to the doctor and then home to recover. It left them short-handed, but Bert did try to look after his staff and felt that Johnno was probably better off not working for the sake of his health. Today was Friday, which meant loading up for the weekend as well, so rather than let the rest of the staff struggle, Bert rolled up his sleeves and helped them. That was where Bert heard from the others that Jesus was flying into town later that day.

Bert knew about Jesus of course - who hadn't? - but he was the last one to be considered religious. He wasn't really into that sort of thing and with the hotel being open seven days as week, it didn't really leave too much free time on Sunday to go to church even if he was that way inclined. Still, he had seen the TV and newspaper reports and there had to be something to those stories about him healing people. There were just too many of them saying similar things for it all to be a total fabrication.

"It's worth a try." Bert thought to himself. "I'll go out and see this fellow and see if he can do anything for Johnno. If he can do half of what the press reckons he can do, Johnno should be better off."

Two hours later, Bert was at the airport waiting with the rest of the crowd to see the famed man. His spirits dropped when he saw so many people there, but he thought of Johnno and determined that nothing was going to stop him if it gave Johnno a chance. The air bridge doors opened and the buzz in the crowd intensified. The first few that walked through the doors raised false expectations, but soon the entourage that came with Jesus emerged. Bert craned his head to get a better view, and eventually saw Jesus in the middle of the "Dirty Dozen" as the press had dubbed Jesus' closest friends after they had uncovered their dubious backgrounds.

There were a lot of people trying to talk to Jesus, but what surprised Bert was the questions coming from the various Christian leaders that were there. He thought they would be the most supportive, but in fact asked the most venemous questions.

"Jesus, how can you claim to heal people when you haven't even done a First Aid course let alone proper medical qualifications?"

"Don't you think you are playing psychological tricks on those who are susceptible to them?"

"Why don't you even discuss your theological stance on issues such as Transcendental Rightousness Transference that are today's issues rather than that old stuff?"

Bert shook his head in disbelief at the questions, but nothing was going to divert him from his mission. Patiently he waited for Jesus to come in his direction. He knew if he waited by the steps Jesus would have to pass by sooner or later, and pass by Jesus did.

As soon as Jesus was within shouting range, Bert called out.

"Jesus! Over here! I need some help!"

Without breaking stride and completely ignoring the other around him, Jesus went over to Bert.

"How can I help you?" Jesus said.

"One of my staff has hurt his back badly, " Bert replied, "and he is pretty well confined to bed at his home."

"Can you take me to him? I will heal him there."

"Jesus, we're irreligious hotel people and don't really deserve a visit from you. But you just say the word and I know Johnno will be alright. I've got some authority at the hotel and if I tell someone to do something, they do it. I'm quite sure that you can do the same."

When Jesus heard the hotel manager, he shook his head and turned to the rest surrounding him.

"Mark my words", Jesus said, "I haven't come across anyone with faith like this in the whole of the church. Be warned, there will be all sorts of people, from all parts of society and from so many different cultures that will take their place in the Kingdom of Heaven. The sad fact is that while this is happening, so many from the religious set will be thrown outside, and the anguish and howling will be something you never ever want to hear.

"Bert, Johnno will have his back healed. He will be alright."

Bert's mobile phone went off. Embarrassed, he answered it and started walking away from the crowd only to run straight back to Jesus.

"Jesus!" he shouted. "Whatever you did worked and it worked straight away. That was Johnno's wife on the phone. All his pain just left - just like that - they can't understand it! He is going to have a shower and then come in to work." He paused, thinking about what had just happened, and then continued. "I'll help him understand what really happened. I wonder if  he'll believe it?"

Copyright 2000 Darryl Severn