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Luke 7:1-10


"Getting what we deserve?"

Luke 7:1-10

 

Introduction:

1. Our generation faces an issue of modern medical ethics never encountered by previous generations: How do you decide who gets organ transplants when there are more recipients than donors?

 

2. What if you had to choose between a wealthy, powerful very good person and a poor, unknown criminal in prison for capital murder? Would you say that one person deserves to get well and the other person deserves to die? What if the choice was less extreme? Would you transplant the heart, liver or kidney on the basis of medical condition or on the basis of who deserves the better deal?

 

3. Jesus had to decide. He wasn’t going to heal everyone. There were more requests than healings. One day he was indirectly approached with a request from a man who was ethnically the enemy but who was a really good guy. Should he be automatically refused or should he receive preferential treatment?

 

4. The man in question did something amazing. In fact there are only two times in the entire Bible when Jesus was said to have been amazed. The first time he was amazed at the unbelief of his neighbors in his own home town of Nazareth (Mark 6:6). The second time was Jesus’ encounter with the Roman centurion in Luke 7.

 

I. The man who amazed Jesus Luke 7:1-8

A. Powerful

1. The man who amazed Jesus was an officer in the Roman army which occupied Israel. His rank was "centurion" which originally meant a commander of 100 men, or a "century" of soldiers. However, the title stuck even when the numbers changed. It became roughly equivalent to a captain in a modern army, the officer in charge of a company consisting of at least two platoons.

2. He was apparently stationed in or around the town of Capernaum in the northern district of Galilee. He may well have been the ranking Roman officer in the area, which meant that he had both the power and authority to rule the area as if he were a local emperor. People had to do whatever he ordered them to do.

B. Kind

1. It is amazing that such a powerful man was also such a kind man. Especially that he was so kind to his servant.

2. Actually, "servant" is too nice a term. The Greek word used in this story is d o u l o s which means "slave." In Roman times slavery was common and slavery could often be cruel. Under Roman law slaves were considered to be property, giving the owner complete rights to do whatever he wanted without legal jeopardy. If he wanted to, he could kill a slave without getting into any trouble.

3. Sick slaves and old slaves were especially at risk. It was a frequent practice to just "put them out" when they couldn’t work any longer. This did not set them free, it let them die in desperation.

4. That the centurion so highly valued his slave and wanted to take the best care of him in his sickness is a most unusual expression of voluntary kindness. While this does not in any way condone slavery, it does say that he was comparatively good within an otherwise evil system.

 

C. Seeking

1. Add to the amazing list of characteristics of this amazing man that he was a spiritual seeker. What is so unusual is not that he was interested in religion but that he was interested in Jewish religion.

2. He was probably a well traveled and well informed veteran. Palestine was a hardship assignment and seasoned officers were needed. The chances are good that he had seen battle, that he had been to Rome and Athens, and that he was familiar with Roman religion and Greek philosophy. Yet, he was attracted to the Jewish faith.

3. Anti-Semitism is not a 20th century invention of the Nazi party or Adolph Hitler. It has been around for a very long time and was present in the first century. The animosity and violence between the Jews and the Romans was legendary. It is surprising that this centurion even considered checking out Jewish beliefs. Yet, he may have been among those Romans who were increasingly disgusted with the low morals and polytheism of the Roman culture. He found in Judaism an ethic and a theology which was far better and very attractive.

4. He was enough of a seeker to listen at the synagogue and to search out Jesus. While he had never met Jesus he must have heard about his reputation as one who spoke with authority and who could heal the sick. He had to find out for himself.

5. I am repeatedly impressed by the many seekers who come to Wooddale Church. Every week there are people from a whole array of beliefs representing the major world religions, typical American denominations and outright unbelief. They come to look and listen, to seek and maybe find, to check out Jesus and the Bible. They are like modern centurions.

D. Respected

1. While he checked out the God and people of the Bible, he won their respect. Even the elders of the synagogue looked up to this man.

2. It is hard for us to fully comprehend how surprising this was. Religious Jews in those days had virtually nothing to do with Gentiles. They would never go into a Gentile’s house and they would never permit a Gentile to come into their homes. It was unlikely that there would even be a conversation between a Jew and a Gentile. Each considered the other to be disgusting.

3. Yet the leaders of the synagogue respected and befriended this Roman officer. They were so impressed with who he was and the way he treated them that they made an exception to their distance from Gentiles. He was different. He was special.

E. Loving

1. Maybe it’s no wonder they respected him because he loved them. Imagine that, he loved the Jewish people. It wasn’t that he said he loved the Jewish people; it was obvious. The people themselves declared that "he loves our nation."

2. We must assume he was a loyal Roman or he would never have kept his commission in the army. The army considered the Hebrew nation rebellious and difficult. They were enemies. Yet he loved them.

3. It makes me wonder why. Probably not because they were so lovable to this or any other Roman soldier. Probably not because they were nice to him - - in fact the Jews who called themselves Zealots swore to injure or kill every Roman possible. Rather, it must have been something about the centurion. Because he was a loving person he saw the best, he hoped for the best, and he brought out the best in the Jewish people.

4. I don’t recall another reference in the Bible or anywhere else saying that any Roman loved the Hebrew people of God. He was certainly an amazing man.

F. Generous

1. And he was generous! He was so generous that he personally built a synagogue for the Jews of Capernaum, even though he was not allowed to be a member of the synagogue.

2. I doubt he could afford this on a centurion’s pay. Perhaps he was previously and privately wealthy. Maybe he came from a well-to-do Roman aristocratic family. Wherever he got his money, he used it to fund a new synagogue all by himself.

3. We shouldn’t be surprised by his generosity because we already knew he is loving. Those who love usually are generous.

4. Another generous person once told me: "Don’t ask me for my money. Ask me for my heart. If you get my heart, you’ll get my money." She put a good new spin on a line from Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount when he said "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21). It is true either way. Our hearts are where our treasures are and our treasures are where our hearts are. They usually go together.

5. The centurion was so generous to God’s people because he loved God’s people.

G. Humble

1. He was also humble. Imagine that! - - - for it seems he had good reasons to be proud. He was powerful, kind, respected, loving and generous. This man was very successful. With such success often comes a sense of self-importance and an expectation of special treatment.

2. One California psychologist has defined arrogance as the expectation of special treatment. It is the person who thinks he or she is not bound by the same rules that apply to everyone else. Because of money, position, success, eloquence or something else - - - the arrogant person wants to have the best seat, get special honors, arrive late, leave early, go to the head of the line, be treated like a VIP. It’s a common thing.

3. But the centurion was different. After convincing his friends to request a special visit from Jesus, he had some second thoughts. He wondered what right he had to expect Jesus to come over to his house and give him special attention. He knew that a Rabbi like Jesus wasn’t supposed to ever visit the house of a Gentile and that he was putting Jesus on the spot by asking him. In his own words: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof." (Luke 7:6).

4. This isn’t the way the synagogue elders saw the situation. They figured Jesus ought to give him special attention. They said: "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." (Luke 7:4-5). They figured that anyone who pays for a whole synagogue all by himself certainly deserves a special house call from Jesus and the healing of one sick slave.

5. What an amazing man - - loving, generous and humble. He insisted that he deserved no special treatment.

H. Insightful

1. Let’s face it, he was a most insightful person. Even though he was not technically a Jew, even though he was not raised on the Bible or in the synagogue, he had keen insight into life, what’s right and what’s wrong, and into spiritual matters.

2. The centurion told Jesus: 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.

He had astonishing understanding into who Jesus was and how God operates. He somehow knew that all that was needed was a word and Jesus’ will would be accomplished. He didn’t need a visit from Jesus he needed a word from Jesus. And, he somehow understood that all of creation is under Jesus command, even illness and life and death.

3. Such spiritual insight is hard to explain but common to see.

Some people look at Jesus and see an ordinary man. They read the Bible and it is just an ordinary if not boring book. Others see in Jesus the Son of God. They sense the power of God. To them the Bible is the living wonderful Word of God.

Some people come to church and experience music which is a combination of harmony and melody and words. It is a performance. Others experience God. You can see it on their faces. You can hear it in their voices. They are people of centurion spiritual insight.

Some people check out the church and find it to be another very human organization - - like a club, a school, an association. Others can tell that it is the supernatural Body of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit and the instrument of God on earth.

Some people hear a sermon and it is just another speech. Persons of spiritual insight hear the voice of God and learn divine truth.

Some come to communion and it is an empty ritual with something to eat and something to drink. Others taste the food of God. For them it is the physical means of experiencing the spiritual God. It is an indescribable supernatural encounter.

4. Some are like the centurion . . . persons of spiritual insight.

5. Let me tell you, I am amazed by this Roman soldier. He was so powerful, so kind, so seeking, so respected, so loving, so generous, so humble and so insightful. But, none of these are what amazed Jesus. Jesus was amazed by his faith.

 

II. Why Jesus was so amazed Luke 7:9-10

A. Faith in Jesus

1. He had no doubt that Jesus could do anything. He was convinced that the Jesus he had never seen was one of a kind, sent from God.

2. He was convinced that Jesus was infinitely superior. He knew that he deserved nothing from Jesus. Jesus owed him nothing. No amount of kindness, no large contribution, no expanse of human respect obligated Jesus to give him what he wanted.

3. While he never came out and said that Jesus was God, nor are there any hints that his faith was that highly developed, his trust in Jesus was stunning. More than any citizen of Israel. This man truly believed in Jesus. He wasn’t one of the twelve apostles but he believed more and better than any of the dozen at this point in time.

4. I can’t help but make a comparison to some of us. Like the centurion we may want something from Jesus - - - healing or help or money or something. But, unlike the centurion we don’t really trust Jesus. We figure that Jesus owes us something and we’re disappointed in him when he doesn’t give to us what we ask.

I know people who have abandoned God, rejected the Bible, left the church - all because they are disappointed with Jesus for not doing what they told him to do.

5. The centurion trusted Jesus to do what was right, whatever that might be. He acknowledged that he didn’t deserve a thing.

6. Jesus was amazed at his faith.

B. Faith in Jesus’ word

1. His faith in Jesus’ word was equally amazing. He didn’t need to see a miracle. He didn’t have to have Jesus come to his home. He firmly and fully believed that whatever Jesus said was the way it was going to be.

2. He’s like us. In our chapter of history we don’t have Jesus to see. He’s out of the range of our touch. But we still have his word. When we read the Bible and he promises us peace, promises us love, promises us forgiveness, promises us his best, and promises us eternal life - - - we believe him. All we need is his word. We take Jesus simply at his word. If he says it, it’s as good as done.

3. "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’"

Conclusion

1. The story ends with a very brief mention that "the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well."

2. When a dying person is quickly and completely cured, we are all impressed. But that is not what amazed Jesus. The big deal, the important thing, the greatest of all was not a sick person made well but faith.

 

3. I invite you to amaze Jesus this morning. Amaze him with your faith. Believe him so completely and trust him so fully that he turns to the angels of heaven and says, "Look at him. Look at her. Isn’t that amazing! See the way they believe in me. See the way they fully trust my word. I have not found such faith before. I am amazed."

8/30/98 Wooddale Church, ©Coyright, Leith Anderson.


 
 
 
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