Grace For The Journey
We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke, believing studying and preaching through Books of the Bible is the best way to learn the Word of God. Today we are in chapter 7 where we read about a miraculous healing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 9 tells us what Jesus does after hearing this centurion soldier speak to Him. Him.
The Bible says in verse 9, “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him—at the centurion—and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.’” It is the statement in the beginning of verse 9 that is real interesting. Luke writes, “When Jesus heard these things (that the centurion said), He marveled at him.” He “marveled” at him.
That is an amazing statement to me. Imagine causing the Son of God to marvel for just the slightest moment. Jesus knows all things and has all power, so, in the strictest sense, nothing really surprises Him. He is never caught off guard, but it is a fascinating thing to note here that this Roman soldier caused the all-powerful Son of God to marvel at him.
There is only one other place in the entire New Testament where we read of Jesus’ marveling at something and it is used in the opposite way. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus marvels at the lack of faith of the people in Nazareth. It says in Mark 6:6, “He marveled because of their unbelief.” The Bible presents only two instances of Jesus’ marveling: once in response to lack of faith and then here in response to having faith. Jesus marvels at the centurion’s great faith. Imagine what it would be like to be that centurion and to be able to tell all your friends that you caused Jesus, the eternal Son of God, even if just for a moment, you caused Jesus to “marvel!”
I want to share with you some principles that help us have a kind of great faith that causes our Lord to marvel, but first I want us to make our way back through these verses and I have a simple two-point outline that divides the passage evenly in half.
First . . .
I. Consider The Humility Of The Centurion: Verses 1-5.
In verse 2, Luke tells us that this centurion had a servant who was “dear to him.” That alone tells us a lot about this centurion. In a day when roman soldiers treated their servants like property, the same way they treated their armor or their weapons, this statement describes a uniquely kind centurion. His servant was “sick and ready to die” and no one would have blamed the centurion if he had just let the servant die as this was what roman soldiers did. But not this centurion. He was different. Verse 3 tells us that he sent men to Jesus to help. He had heard of Jesus, so he sent “elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.”
Matthew’s Gospel records the same incident in Matthew 8. But Matthew reports the incident a bit differently. He has it that the centurion himself comes to Jesus and pleads with Him. Now this seems to present a problem. Luke tells us the man sent other men to Jesus to talk with Him, but Matthew says the centurion came to Jesus. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?
We know that the Bible does not contradict itself. The Bible is without error and completely true in all that it records. So, just as in other places where we have more than one account of an incident, we understand that we are getting a different perspective. Luke tells us that this centurion sends men to Jesus. Matthew tells us that the centurion came to Jesus. Matthew is interested in the conversation between the centurion and Jesus while Luke is concerned that his account is verified by the “eyewitnesses’ who were there. Matthew writes no differently than a journalist today would write. In reporting on a meeting of the President, he might write that “the president of the United States spoke today with the president of China.” He does not tell you that there were others present who were part of his cabinet and others who were translating what the presidents were saying to each other. Remember when you read and study the Bible that it never once errors in anything it records.
Luke shows us the reason that the centurion brought the Jewish elders with him – to testify of the centurion’s kindness, to give Jesus a reason why He should come and see this centurion and heal his servant. After all, they say in verse 5, “He loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.” The very fact that Jewish elders were running an errand for a Roman Gentile speaks volumes about the kindness of the centurion. He was a kind man.
Secondly . . .
II. Consider The Power Of Christ: Verses 6-10.
Jesus is on His way to the centurion’s house to heal his servant. When Jesus is very close to the house, the centurion sends friends to Jesus and says to Him, “Look, I am not worthy that You should come to my household. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” He says this because he recognizes that Jesus is operating under divine authority. He seems to understand that Jesus is submitting to the authority of the Heavenly Father and just as Jesus is a man under authority so is he as a Roman soldier. The centurion says in verse 8, “I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.”
The centurion says, “Jesus, You do not need to come Yourself. I am not worthy that You should enter into my house. You just say the word and my servant will be healed.’” Jesus marvels at him and says, “I have not seen such great faith!” And the Bible says in verse 10 that when those who were sent, returned to the house, they found the servant well. Why? Because of the power of Christ. Jesus need only say the word and the servant is healed.
Jesus is God in the flesh. He is the Son of God with the Heavenly Father at creation who called the stars of the sky into being. The psalmist says in Psalm 33, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” … “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” He just “says the word.” Jesus can say the word this morning and heal your sin. He can say the word and heal your marriage. He can say the word and bring you joy and peace. He need only say the word.
The larger point of this passage is that Jesus Christ has authority and power over everything, demonstrated here in His ability to not only heal a sick person at the point of death, but to heal that person at a distance just by saying the word. But the more immediate point of the passage is this centurion’s “great faith.”
Most of us want great faith. We want to believe that everything’s possible and God can fix it all. We identify with the disciples who asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Jesus said to them, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (17:6).
We can have that faith and this passage will help. I want to give you some truths that are found in this passage, things not just about the centurion, but about great faith, in general. I want to share these things with you by putting them before you in the form of tests. Let’s ask ourselves whether we pass these three tests concerning great faith.
First, ask . . .
- Do I Pass The Missional Test?
Now this first test may not be so obvious at the beginning. The missional aspect is not seen so much in the centurion as in the events surrounding the centurion. We see that in verse 2 where the Bible says that the centurion “heard about Jesus.” If he heard about Jesus, then someone had to . . . What? . . . Tell him about Jesus.
He is Gentile, and, as a gentile he was considered by the Jewish people as a spiritually unclean man. This is at least one reason he likely said, “Jesus I am not worthy that You should come into my house.” He knew that Jews regarded Gentiles as unclean and he did not want Jesus to defile Himself by entering a Gentile home.
It is remarkable how Jesus brings people together. He breaks down the barrier between Jew and Gentile. You have got Jews and a Gentile here getting along. You have got people from “opposite sides of the tracks” getting along. The Jews go to bat for the Gentile. They tell Jesus that this Gentile loves them and even built himself their Jewish synagogue, and even foot the bill himself! Luke writes in verse 4 that these Jews beg Jesus to come. God has a way of bringing people together. He brings together people of different backgrounds, skills, talents, genders, and ethnicities. Jesus brings people together.
The Gospel is making its way to Gentiles, and we are seeing fulfillment of the prophecy of Simeon way back in Chapter 2. Remember when Jesus was born and Simeon takes baby Jesus into his arms and he says in chapter 2:32 that Jesus will be “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” Jesus brings hope and salvation to all people. He is a light, not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, too. And this Roman soldier is a Gentile who sees the light. And how did he see the light? Somebody told him.
Underline those four words in verse 3, “He heard about Jesus.” Have you told someone recently about Jesus? Have you shared with a family member about Jesus? Have you told a co-worker what a difference Jesus has made in your job? Tell someone at work this week about Jesus. Work His name into the conversation. Tell about Jesus at work. Tell about Jesus at school. When did you last text a friend about the Lord Jesus Christ?
Some unnamed person told the centurion about Jesus and God wants to use you to tell people about Jesus this week. He wants to use every one of us as His missionaries, fulfilling His Acts 1:8 Commission to us, telling others about Jesus in our community, in our commonwealth, in the country, and across the continents. In spite of the fact that a light has come to the Gentiles, to the nations, one third of the earth’s population remains in darkness. We must tell others about Jesus.
The great need of the hour is for those who are saved to have hearts that beat for the souls of lost people across the street and across the seas. Do I pass the missional test?
Secondly . . .
- Do I Pass The Humility Test?
The Jewish elders tell Jesus in verses 4 and 5 that this centurion deserves to have Jesus come and heal his servant. Imagine telling Jesus: “You have to come. This man deserves it. He has earned it.” The reason is in the later part of verse 5, “for He loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Doesn’t this characterize popular understandings of religion today? “Well, God should be pleased with me. After all, I’ve given money to the poor. I’ve been good to others. I’ve come to church today. I deserve God’s blessing.” This is human nature. And it is wrong.
None of us deserves any grace or mercy from God. It is not that we are to go around talking about how “really bad” we are or that we are incapable of any good, but it is to admit that we are sinners and that we deserve nothing but what our sins require: punishment and separation from a holy and perfect God. That is what we deserve. All the money and goodness in the world cannot change that. We can give our money, be morally upright, be good citizens, and be kind to our neighbors, but we are still sinners.
Some who are reading this blog may not be saved this morning because you think you deserve God’s blessing and you have not yet come to terms with the fact that you are a sinner deserving nothing but hell.
This centurion passed the humility test. Despite what the Jewish elders said about his deserving that Jesus should come, he says, “No, I don’t deserve that Jesus should come.” In verses 6 and 7 he says, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof” . . . “Therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to You.” That is the right approach.
Listen to what a person talks about and you can tell whether he passes the humility test. Some talk about what they do; what they do at their church or what they do in their community or what they do for the less fortunate. It is as though they are reading you their personal resume of moral goodness. You never once hear any brokenness in their conversation because what they are really saying is, “I deserve God’s blessing because of all these things I do.”
Contrast that with the humble centurion; contrast that with every true child of faith who daily says something like, “God, thank You for saving me from my sins. Thank You for “bringing me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and setting my feet upon a rock, and establishing my steps, and putting a new song in my mouth.” (Psalm 40:2-3)
Are you saved? Do you pass the humility test?
Thirdly, we must ask ourselves . . .
- Do I Pass The Faith Test?
The centurion says, “Lord, You need not come into my house to heal my servant. Just say the word, just speak the word, and my servant will be healed.” Verse 9 tells us, “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed him—and in this sense He is saying this to you and me as followers standing in the crowd – ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” The Greek word order is turned around for emphasis. Jesus says, “Not even in Israel have I found such great faith!” The point being, “We would expect God’s people, the Jews, to have this kind of faith, but here is a Gentile whose faith is greater than any Jew on the face of the planet!”
And it may be said that this Gentile, this Roman soldier, has a faith greater than most of us. He believed in the power of God’s word without requiring any special signs. He did not require that our Lord give him visible, tangible guarantees that what He said would take place. He did not think that Jesus had to actually be there to heal his servant. He did not think that Jesus had to be present physically like another Gentile, Naaman of the Old Testament, who expressed his displeasure when he said, “You know, I thought God’s man would come over here and wave his hand over the place that needed healing>” (2 Kings 5). No, this Gentile, this Roman centurion believed God did not need to be physically present but needed only to say the word and the result would be healing. He does not require supernatural signs; he takes God at His word.
Is it not enough for us that Jesus has given us His Word? Do we really need Him to “spell it out in the sky for us” or to “send some miraculous sign” to confirm that He is there? Is not enough that He speaks the Word when He says, “I will never leave you?” Is His Word not enough, the One who says, “I will meet all of your needs? Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest?” Is His Word not enough this week?
Many Christians misunderstand the power of great faith. The power of great faith is not the subjective element, what is inside. I do not have great faith just because I say, I “really, really, really believe.” That is how most Christians define great faith. They say, “Man, if I just close my eyes and grit my teeth and just really, really, really believe, then it is going to happen.” That is not great faith. That may be great energy or great emotion, but it is not great faith. Why? Because it is not the subjective, inner element that makes for great faith, but the objective, outer element – not faith inside me, but faith outside me, faith in an outer object, or faith in the objective reality, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what makes faith great.
That is why Jesus says in Luke 17:6, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this big mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted!’” Why? Because you really, really, really believed the tree was going to be uprooted? No . . .
Because your faith was placed in the right object.
Your faith rested in the objective power of the Lord.
It is not the amount of your faith that matters,
What matters is
The size of the one in whom your faith rests.
I recently heard a preacher tell it this way. He said there were two hikers coming down from a mountain and as they were slowly and carefully stepping down from the mountain, they saw that they could either step on one rock or the other. One hiker really believed the one rock to be more secure and the other hiker really believed the other rock to be more secure. The first hiker stepped on a rock and when he stepped on it, the rock slipped out from under his foot and the hiker fell. The other hiker stepped out on the other rock and safely made his way down the mountain. Now, which had great faith? The one who really, really, really believed? No, it was the one who stepped on the right rock. That is it. That is great faith.
It is not the size of your faith that matters,
What matters is the greatness of the
One in whom your faith rests.
We do not need to be spiritual superstars. We just need to look to and lean on God. Just take God at His Word this morning and every day.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”