Have you ever made Jesus “marvel”? How would you know if you had?
Moving through Luke we’ve been following this gospel writer’s broad theme of discipleship. What does it look like to follow Jesus and bring others along?
Now in chapters 7-8, we come to a series of passages that ask and answer the question: Whom does Jesus include as His disciples? After His sobering sermon in chapter 6, you’d think Jesus would include the material poor, those who suffer material loss for their association to Him. And so He will, but Luke has a surprise for us in 7.1-10.
Jesus returns to Capernaum (:1). This account takes place as Jesus moves back to Capernaum. You’d expect Him to move among the materially poor of His own people. Maybe, He’ll preach a sermon in the synagogue. Instead, He receives an envoy from a centurion who doesn’t seem to fit the demographic Jesus is talking about. This man comes from Israel’s enemies, for one thing—the very kind of person Jesus has commanded His followers to love. On top of that, this surprise follower is wealthy.
Jesus responds to humility (:2-6a). In addition to Jesus there’s three figures or sets of players in this account.
Jesus receives a message from a centurion. He’d like Jesus to come and heal his special servant. Commanding 100 soldiers this middle-level commander would be like a captain or major in our military system. We find out in the dialogue that he’s a lover of the Jewish people; and, he respects the Jewish practice of not allowing a non-Jew to come under the roof of a Jewish home. Jesus is apparently reaching into the upper strata of society. More important, He has found someone who is not materially poor but is yet humble toward God in a spiritual way.
There’s also the centurion’s servant. He’s described as “highly valued,” a word indicating that he’s not just useful, but loved. This man “lingers to die,” and it grieves the centurion. We never meet the servant, but he’s the catalyst for the story.
Then there’s the local Jewish leadership. These men come to Jesus urging Him to act on the part of the centurion. He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue” (:4-5, ESV), they assure Jesus. By their estimation of the centurion, he has earned an audience with Jesus. And, it’s not hard to see how there might be advantage in this for them, too. Today, we could imagine them pressing for a photo opportunity or a “selfie”—them, Jesus, and the Roman centurion. “Don’t mess this up, Jesus,” we imagine them thinking.
And Jesus went with them …
Jesus reacts to recognition of His authority (:6b-9). As Jesus draws near the house, the centurion sends a group of friends with a message. Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof … But say the word and my servant will be healed (:6 … 7b).
Ironic, isn’t it? The man who built the synagogue won’t show off his own house. Contrary to the claim of the Jewish elders, the centurion doesn’t believe himself to be worthy of Jesus.
This centurion understands something about authority. We catch it in his reasoning, also recorded in the message: For I am too a man 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” (:8). The centurion understood that all legitimate authority is granted from God. And, he recognizes what he controls: soldiers here, and there; the occupying force of Israel, in fact. But, there are things he has no authority over: DEATH, in fact! And, in Jesus, the centurion recognizes one with authority over life and death! Just as his soldiers obey him, so sickness and death will obey the Son of God!
Jesus turns to the crowd and “marveled”: I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith (:9).
This is beautiful, because the centurion has just made a picture of the Gospel. When we come to Jesus we bring nothing but our sin. We can’t leverage God, or give Him an assignment. All we can do is “ask”. That’s humility, like the centurion’s. And, when we come to Jesus rightly we throw ourselves on His authority. And God will receive us based on Jesus’ work, not our own.
Jesus restores the sick man (:10). And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. In the anti-climactic ending to the account we have no record of Jesus “saying the word”. Jesus doesn’t meet the sick man. It’s a remote healing! And Jesus doesn’t meet the centurion, either. The emphasis here is not on how you get things from Jesus but on what commendable faith looks like. And this faith makes Jesus marvel!
Jesus commends the faith of those who are humble and recognize His authority.
Here’s a few questions to guide your thinking on this passage:
- What observations or insights have you made about this account that are helpful for you?
- What are you trusting God for?
- How does the Gospel inform how we go about trusting God? (Think about the place of HUMILITY in the Gospel. We bring nothing to God but our sin. Also, consider Jesus’ AUTHORITY that is His based on God’s acceptance of His work on the cross.)
- What things can we pray for that God has already promised to grant those who come to Him?
- When we pray according to God’s will (think: John 15.7), we recognize that God can say “yes,” and He can say “not yet”. How is this distinction helpful?
- How do passages like Luke 11.9-13 and Galatians 4.6-7 further inform the way we “ask” God for what is dear to our hearts?
- Now, how would you describe the kind of faith that makes Jesus marvel?
Have a blessed week, in the Lord!