Compassion For The Centurion

What Is Happening

So Jesus has been busy. He has been gathering his rag-tag band of disciples. He’s been teaching them, helping and healing others. He probably got a little discouraged when his hometown of Nazareth kicked him out. And so Jesus decided to set up a “home base” in Capernaum, if you will. He has just finished going through the entire be-attitude teaching tour and is returning to the city when a group of thugs (Jewish religious leaders) confront him.

Luke 7:1-5 (CSB)

7 When he had concluded saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion’s servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, requesting him to come and save the life of his servant. 4 When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy for you to grant this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.”

So, unlike most confrontations with the Jewish leaders, they aren’t trying to trap him but demanding something from them this time. Let’s also keep in mind that Luke, the doctor, is telling us that someone is about to die (Luke 7:1-5). We should believe that is literal; he would know.

We have all known people about to die. Perhaps after visiting the elderly from the hospital with skin wrapped around their bones. Hospice is called in and tells us there are only a few days left. We’ve encountered an emergency, and the ambulance is on its way as we stand over someone injured, staring into space. We know what this looks like. And here you have a centurion, a military Roman war hero/leader sending the Jewish elders to Jesus, a homeless man (Matt 8:20).

Demand From Jesus

This always works, correct? Demanding from someone else. These Jewish leaders go to Jesus to speak to him. However, instead of saying something like, “Jesus, we know we’ve been difficult to get along with. We’re sorry. We’re scared because believing in you means accepting we’ve been wrong. We want to learn more, but we have an urgent request. Increase our faith that you are the Son of God and heal our friend’s servant. You alone can do this!”

They come to Jesus and say, “You owe this man because he is worthy of your help.”

Sweet Moses. That’s how the religious ask of favor? This Roman loves our nation and has built the holy temple we use to reject God. You, Jesus, are fortunate to know him (Luke 7:5).

God doesn’t owe us anything. He does not need us to give money to build churches. He does not care to have a fancy home. If he were hungry, he would not tell us. The only real thing we deserve from God is the judgment of our sins. Anything else He, in His mercy, gives you is grace. Thank you, God, for your grace.

2 Samual 7:6 (CSB)

6 From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today I have not dwelt in a house; instead, I have been moving around with a tent as my dwelling.

Jesus Has Compassion On The Centurion

So, after these Jewish leaders botch the request and demand Jesus to do what they say, what does Jesus do? What would you have done?

Luke 7:6-10 (CSB)

6 Jesus went with them, and when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, since I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.

Jesus goes with them to the centurion. Jesus must be tried; he just finished a preaching tour. He wants to go home and go to bed. Watch some TV. Grab a wine and relax, right? But, no. Jesus wants to see them, sick man. And Jesus has compassion.

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