Luke 7; 1 – 10 NLT
“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. 2 At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer (centurion) was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, 5 “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.”
This is an interesting story – a Gentile Roman centurion asks Jesus to heal his slave. We know a couple of things about this centurion. First, he understands his authority in the Roman army. He is the head of 100 men. He is very aware that when he gives a command, those under him “jump”. He understands that Jesus is a Jew with some authority/power, and so he asks respected Jewish leaders to approach Jesus for him. We also know that he makes sure the people under his command are satisfied. As a commander in Israel, he knows it would be a good idea to keep the Jews happy, so he had given the money and resources to build a synagogue. As well, he seems to care about those under him; he’s concerned about his slave’s health. If he was obsessed with his authority, he could have just ignored his slave’s illness and just purchased another one.
So, here we see a man in leadership who knows his power and influence. He has people under him who will do whatever he commands. He also understands the people he is ruling – he knows who the influential Jewish leaders are, and he knows how to make them go along with his command. He built the synagogue that they would cherish. He seems to have a heart for those working for him – the sick slave. Now, this sounds like an amazing leader, someone we would like to have in the businesses in our country or in our political parties. Confident and caring.
It’s interesting that he would turn to Jesus to heal his slave. He likely keeps an eye on what is happening in the area he is in charge of, and so he’s heard of Jesus. But you’d think he might be more wary of Jesus as someone who could challenge his authority, someone who might lead an uprising which would jeopardize his position. The Pharisees certainly looked at Jesus that way. We don’t know what was going on in the mind of that centurion, but it is interesting that he asked Jesus for a favour. He must have realized that Jesus was someone very special and not someone who was a threat to his command, perhaps even someone who he needed in his life. Even Jesus was amazed. “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”
This got me thinking about all the people I know who hold positions of some kind of authority. It could be our boss at work, our city council member, the principal at our kids’ school, our doctor, our lawyer, etc. Or it might be that neighbour who seems to have life under control – everything going well. Would I ever talk to them about Jesus? Would I ever invite them to church? Do I assume they wouldn’t be interested in the Christian faith? Maybe they are a little like the centurion, someone we think has it all together, but down deep they are looking for answers. Perhaps we should surprise ourselves and speak up. Maybe they are actually looking for meaning in life, looking for Jesus.
Luke 7: 11 – 17
“Soon afterwards Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” 17 And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.”
Here is an opposite situation. Here is a widow who has just lost her only son. She is devastated and not looking for any help. Then Jesus shows up with a large crowd following him. Can you imagine if you were in that situation – grieving and following your son’s body to the graveyard when a large crowd shows up? Women in Jesus’ day were low on the social scale; they needed men to keep their lives stable, to provide food and a home. This woman’s husband had died and now her only son has died. She’s completely bereft – no hope. She’s not like the centurion who has the confidence to ask for help. She doesn’t ask for anything. But, Jesus steps in and brings life back to her son. The crowd was in awe and left praising God.
Jesus knows when we’re broken inside. He knows even when we look like we have it all together, like the centurion. He knows when we are down and depressed, not thinking there is any help available.
He knows the moment to step in change everything.
Our song for today is He Knows by Jeremy Camp