Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
No Greater Faith - June 2, 2013 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 04) - Text: Luke 7:1-10
Hopefully we are taught in confirmation that when we pray, we pray in faith, that is, we pray believing the words which we pray. Perhaps you have heard the antithesis of that statement as being, “when we doubt, we undo our prayers.” In our text for today we are brought to meet a man who is described as having a great faith, yet, I believe that we also will see a man who has a great love.
Our text begins by moving us past the previous chapter in the Gospel according to Luke in which Jesus was preaching to the people, and now we move into Capernaum where we will meet a Roman centurion, a Roman soldier. Luke describes the events as we read, “1After He had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was valued highly by him. 3When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant” (v. 1-3). We are told that there was a centurion whose servant was sick and about to die. The fact that this man was a centurion meant that he had a rank placing him over one hundred soldiers. He had the charge and responsibility for the lives of one hundred men. Evidently he had worked his way up in rank and was a good soldier.
This centurion, who is unnamed, had a servant who was ill and so ill in fact that he was about to die. Our text tells us that this centurion, who was a Gentile, not a Jew, had heard of Jesus and we might deduce that he had also heard of the many signs, wonders and miracles that Jesus had performed. His actions indicate his love for his servant as well as his faith in Jesus. The fact that this centurion had only heard of Jesus tells us that he probably had never personally met Jesus. The approach of the centurion was that he did not go himself to see Jesus, rather he sent a delegation. He sent a delegation consisting of Jewish elders, who were his ambassadors, who spoke for him. What he told them to tell Jesus was, “ask him, politely, nicely, humbly, to come and heal my servant.” He did not expect Jesus, a Jew, to defile Himself by coming into his Gentile house.
And so, this delegation of Jewish elders went to see Jesus. Continuing in our text Luke tells us, “4And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.’ 6And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed’” (v. 4-5). Did you notice the difference in what the centurion asked the elders to say compared to what the elders actually said. The centurion simply asked the delegation to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant. The message of the elders, with their embellishment, was that this man “deserved” to have Jesus come and heal his servant. Here we see the respect this centurion had among the people. They loved him as he loved them.
The delegation pleaded with Jesus, telling Him that this centurion, this person who is an outsider, a Gentile, loves our nation, even though he is not a Jew. This outsider built our temple, perhaps even suggesting that he built the temple from his own money. This man loved the people and we see that they loved him.
Jesus’ response was immediate and decisive, He set out to go to the home of the centurion. He left to go with the delegation, with the elders. He went to go to the house of the centurion in order to heal his servant.
But Jesus never made it to the centurion’s house. We continue reading in our text as Luke tells us, “6And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I too am a man set under authority, with 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’” (v. 6-8). So Jesus was on his way to the centurion’s house, but when the centurion found out that Jesus was coming to his house he sent a second delegation to Jesus. This second delegation was a group of friends who came to tell Jesus that He did not need to bother Himself with coming to his house, but simply that all He needed to do was to say the words and his servant would be healed.
Notice that when the centurion explains his position of authority saying, “For I say to this one go and he goes and to this one come and he comes,” he is not making a comparison of himself to Jesus, that is, that Jesus, too, is under someone else. No, rather he is expressing his faith in Jesus and His authority, saying that he himself, the centurion is under others, but that all are under Jesus.
Finally in verses nine and ten Luke tells us, “9When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well” (v. 9-10). Jesus’ response to this second delegation, to this delegation of friends, was a response of amazement. This centurion was not a Jew, but was a Gentile. This centurion came, asking in faith for his servant to be healed. This centurion believed that Jesus could heal him, and could heal him by simply saying the word. Yes, this man was a man of great faith, so great of faith, in fact, that Jesus says He has not found a greater faith among His own people, the children of Israel.
Jesus did not need to go to the centurion’s house and so He did not go. Jesus left to go to Nain and the delegations left and went back to the centurion’s house. And when they returned to his house they found the servant was already healed.
So the question we might ask is, “All that is fine and good, but what does this look like in our world today?” Today, this looks like an encouragement to us to “take it to the Lord in prayer,” but also to do so in humility and faith. We are to approach the Lord with all our earthly cares and concerns. We are to approach the Lord, with all boldness and confidence, not doubting, but firmly believing, but we are also to approach Him knowing that we are undeserving in having Him answer our prayers.
Today we are given a glimpse of who is Jesus. He is the one who is true man, but also who is true God. He does have authority over all the earth, as a matter of fact He has authority over all things. He hears and answers our prayers and we are thankful to Him, because as He answers our prayers, He does so not necessarily according to what we might ask, that is according to what we might think we need, or simply want, but even better, He answers according to what He knows is best for us, according to His good and gracious will.
Today, we are reminded once again that Jesus came to save. He came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike. He came to save even “outsiders.” He came to save us, you and me. It is our sin which separates us from God. It is our unbelief on which the devil preys. Thus we see our constant need to pray without ceasing, and our constant need to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, so that we might be strengthened in our faith, so that we might, with the help of the Holy Spirit, resist the temptations to unbelief from the devil.
Today we also have a lesson in faith and love. It was the love of the centurion for his servant as well as his faith in Jesus which moved him to send for Jesus to ask Him heal his servant. It is God’s love for us that moved Him to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die for us on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Notice that as always it is the Gospel which motivates us for our good. Certain the law may motivate with the negative consequences, at least on the short term, but it is truly the Gospel that motivates for the long term. In other words, the centurion was not motivated because of some threat of the law of not doing something, praying for his servant or the like, rather he was motivated by the Gospel, by the good news that Jesus is a man with authority, perhaps even that Jesus is truly God in human flesh, even the Savior of the world. It was the Gospel, the good news of something wonderful that he knew Jesus could do that motivated him to pray and ask in faith that Jesus would heal his servant. So too are we motivated, not by the dos and don’ts of the commandments, but by the good news of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus lived, died and rose for us, so we are motivated, to confess our sins, to live lives of faith, to always be ready to give an answer for our faith, and to always having an urgency about being given the gifts our Lord has to give.
Three weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and in two weeks we will celebrate Father’s Day. Perhaps, as mother’s and fathers, as parents we might see something in the centurions love for his servant and his faith in Jesus which reminds us of our love for our children. And we might also see an example to us as parents of how that love might be acted out. As this centurion loved his servant and as he demonstrated his love and faith by his prayer to Jesus, so as earthly parent’s we might see our need to be in constant prayer to our Father in heaven, praying for our children, for their faith, as well as for all their other needs. And that as we pray for them we might pray in faith, firmly believing and not doubting that our Father in heaven will answer our prayers for our children on earth.
Finally, my prayer for all of you, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that the Holy Spirit will stir in you a strong desire so that you might have an urgency about yourself to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, remembering your baptism, hearing and reading His Word, confessing your sins and hearing His words of absolution, and coming to the Lord’s Supper, so that you might be strengthened in your faith and so that you might resist the temptations to unbelief and so that you might stand firm until the end. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.