God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Chapters 7-17 form the middle section of Luke’s Gospel, although there are many ways of understanding the outline of the book. In these chapters we will see Jesus performing more miracles and preaching more with parables (chapters 7-8), and then he will withdraw from Galilee and perform his Judean ministry (chapters 11-14). After a section I think of as “the great parables (chapters 15-16), he will begin making his way through Samaria and the part of Galilee across the Jordan known as Perea.
Chapter 6 ended with a sermon by Jesus paralleling the Sermon on the Mount (we’ve already discussed whether or not they might be two accounts of the same sermon, which we don’t need to answer here). Jesus’ final warning was to be sure we’re building our faith on the solid bedrock of Jesus’ words. We also heard a warning from Luther about the danger of pride. Here in chapter 7, Luke shows us a Gentile who had built his faith on the words of Christ and was the very model of Christian humility.
As we did for much of chapters 1-6, we will be using the EHV (Evangelical Heritage Version) as our translation of Luke.
A Believing Centurion
7 After Jesus had finished saying all these things to the people who were listening, he went into Capernaum. 2 A centurion’s servant, who was valuable to him, was sick and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they begged him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 because he loves our nation, and he built our synagogue for us.”
Capernaum was Jesus’ regular stop at the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes he preached in the synagogue there (Mark 1:21, 3:1) and had even cast out a demon from a man in that synagogue (Mark 1:21-28). Now, a man connected to the synagogue had a problem. He was a Gentile, a Roman officer—a centurion had a similar authority to a captain in our armed forces today, or a navy lieutenant. This soldier had become a believer in the true God, and had also heard the words of Jesus and had become a Christian.
This man showed his faith, and he showed his humility. He showed his faith by the way he asked Jesus for help for his servant. He had also shown his faith by paying for the building of the synagogue in Capernaum. He showed his humility by not coming in person to make his request. Jews did not like to associate with Gentiles, and this soldier didn’t resent this fact. He lived according to it. He didn’t send his own servants, but respectable Jewish elders (whom he already knew) to go and intercede on his behalf. They were the ones who mentioned what he had done for them and for their synagogue; his was merely the request to help his servant.
Almost everyone in this story is in an intermediate relationship: centurion for his servant, elder for the centurion, and so on. In this way, it’s rather a courtly, honorable, master-and-servant approach to things. The Jewish scribes and Pharisees were from another culture. They would openly accuse Jesus or his disciples of things. Grieving families would rush up to Jesus in the middle of something and ask for help. The Jews usually called Jesus by his name rather than by his title, except for his closest companions, who used his title (many pastors encounter the same phenomenon today). But this centurion was completely different. He was used to being subordinate to officers and having authority over soldiers, and so he used others to carry the message. He didn’t do this because he was proud, but because he was humble.
Jesus tells us that we don’t need to do this anymore. When we want to pray, we don’t need to go through intermediaries. Jesus tells us that when we pray, we should pray directly to God the Father. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23). Also: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8), but he still invites us to ask him. Ask, and it will be given to you. Ask anything in the name of Jesus, and let the Father answer you according to his good pleasure. That’s one of the great joys of being his forgiven child.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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