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In the 7th chapter of Luke we come to the story of the Centurion’s encounter with Jesus: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But 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."
NOTE first that the centurion is a Roman soldier who was stationed at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Here in Capernaum he has heard a lot about Jesus and maybe even heard Him speak or seen Him do His miracles in the area.
The second thing I note about him is that the centurion was a good man who had endeared himself to the Jewish community because of his love for the nation of Israel and by building the synagogue in Capernaum. Every time I have been to Capernaum I think of this encounter, because of the foundation of the synagogue he built is still there.
Thirdly, the centurion didn’t feel worthy to come to Jesus himself nor did he feel worthy to have Jesus make a house call. As a military man he respected Jesus’ power to work through His servants to get things done—even miracles. What’s so interesting to me is that he believed that Jesus was the only way his servant had any chance of living and he believed that all Jesus needed to do was to give the order and his servant would be healed.
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." Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
The fourth observation regarding this encounter is the man’s faith. His faith really stood out to Jesus and He said, “I have not found such great faith, even among the Jewish people.” You see, this soldier was an outsider in most every way. He was a gentile and not Jewish. He didn’t grow up under the teachings of any rabbi and certainly didn’t have a working knowledge with the Scriptures.
The centurion was an outsider, yet his faith in Jesus was genuine and totally accepted by Jesus as authentic and adequate. This is one of the many instances where Jesus accepts an outsider’s faith and applauds this faith as being outstanding.
Although I will make this point in several upcoming passages, it is so important to realize what’s really going on here. The Jews were the chosen people alright, but they weren’t chosen to be the exclusive people who would come into a relationship with the God of gods. They were to practice such a dynamic and authentic relationship with God so that they would serve as lights to the world. Jesus didn’t come for the Jews, but came for the entire world. He came to reach out and touch every nation and tribe. The Jewish people were to be conduits for such a touch.
However, the Jews then and the Christians today seem to be missing the point. Jesus is all inclusive. He came for everyone. The Jews then and the Christians today believe they “own” the word of God, that they are right and the rest of the world sits in darkness and are wrong. I think this is why Jesus sprinkles these scenes throughout His teaching in order to make the point as clear as He can make it. For today, the principle is CHRISTIANS DON’T OWN JESUS. He is for every cultural and religious background. He is universally the Son of God and is irresistible as He is lifted up within any and all cultures of the world.
NOTE Jesus doesn’t make the centurion join Judaism or become a member of the synagogue. He isn’t interested in “converting” him out of his Roman culture and religious system, but to commend his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus is interested in “converting” or transforming his heart through the centurion’s encounter with Jesus personally.
It’s not about certain propositions or doctrines to believe. It is totally and completely and only about a person. His name is Jesus.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
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