What did the officer think? – Healing the centurion’s servant

Bible base:

Luke 7:1-10

Teaching objectives:

To introduce pupils to someone powerful in the Bible who recognised that Jesus was also a powerful person.

You will need:

  • Cards with the following words written on them: Set 1: ‘pop band’, ‘Prime Minister’, ‘head teacher’, ‘officer’, ‘football manager’. Set 2: ‘fans’, ‘Britain’, ‘school’, ‘soldiers’, ‘football team’.
  • Picture (download here) photocopied onto card.
  • Posters of the words ‘What did the officer think?’ and ‘What do you think?’

Introductory activity:

Invite two pupils to come to the front and give one the first set of cards described above and the other the second set.

Who has power over what? As pupil one holds up their ‘person’ card, the rest of the assembly should choose which of pupil two’s cards they have power over.

Choose one or two of the people mentioned on the card, e.g. the Prime Minister, an officer.

How could these people show their power over others? For example, what decisions can a football manager make for his team? Eg who is going to play in a match, what position each person plays, when they will have training etc.

To develop the idea of authority, play a game of ‘Simon says’. Give the assembly various instructions, for example, ‘Simon says touch your nose’, ‘Simn says clap your hands’, etc. Pupils should do exactly as you say so long as the instruction is preceded by ‘Simon says’. You may wish to bring some pupils to the front to help you spot others who get it wrong.

Because you all know the rules of the game, you know that you must obey whatever ‘Simon’ tells you to do. In today’s Bible story we will meet someone who had authority to tell people what to do.

Display the poster, ‘What did the officer think?’

Today’s story is about an army officer. An officer has authority over his soldiers. He could tell them what to do and could make decisions for them. If you were all soldiers and I was your officer, you would have to do exactly what I said. And because this officer was quite important, he also had lots of servants to look after him. In this story we will meet one of them.

Choose six pupils to be servants and ask them to come to the front. The last pupil to mime each of the following orders as you call them out is eliminated until only one pupil remains:

  • Scrub the floor
  • Polish my shoes
  • Wash the dishes
  • Stand up straight
  • Bring me a chair
  • Vacuum the carpet

(You may wish to add in one or two other commands as a ‘warm up’.) Ask the pupils to sit down again.

Show the picture.

An officer could tell his servants to do anything he liked – they were more like slaves.

Even though the servants had to do everything the officer told them to do, some things were still out of his control. The servant in our story became ill and was close to death, and no matter how many times the officer told him to get better, he couldn’t obey.

We can’t get rid of illness just by telling it to go away! What could the officer do? Think of some possibilities (eg he could get some medicine, he could call a doctor, he could give him some time off work). I imagine he tried all these things, but no one and nothing seemed to be able to help – the servant was dying.

The officer did believe there was still one more person he hadn’t tried who might be able to help: Jesus. Jesus was not a doctor, but the officer had heard some amazing stories about some of the things that Jesus had done. (If you have been doing a series of stories from Luke’s Gospel, you may wish to re-cap here and find out what pupils remember about previous assemblies).

The officer knew that he had power over people to tell them what to do, but he believed that Jesus had power over more than just people – he had power over illness too.

In fact, the officer had so much faith in Jesus that he believed he could help his servant without even being there! The officer’s friends told Jesus that the officer believed that if Jesus just said the word, his servant would get better! And that is what happened. Jesus never actually went to the officer’s home or met the servant.

Show the picture.

The Bible says the servant was completely healed! When we played ‘Simon says’, I asked you to do very simple tasks and you did them. But Jesus ordered an illness to go away from someone whom he had never even met and it did!

What do you think the army officer thought? The officer was a very important man, who gave orders to people and knew that they would obey him. In Jesus the officer saw someone who could control things the officer couldn’t even dream of controlling. He believed that Jesus could help his servant.

Display the poster, ‘What do you think?’

What do you think you would have thought if you had been there? It would have been strange to see someone so ill getting well just because someone told them to! Do you think you would have been amazed?

Optional prayer time:

Pray that we would discover more about Jesus and the amazing things that he did.


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