Passage: Luke 7:1–7:10
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 7:1-10
Date: May 29th, 2016; Pentecost 2; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We learn from our Gospel lesson this morning that there is a big difference between the way that the world judges people and the way that we are judged by God.
We heard of the encounter between Jesus and a centurion.
A centurion was an army officer who, as his title implies, typically had command over one hundred soldiers.
A centurion led his soldiers by example. He didn’t sit back protected but he led the charge in battle.
When they breeched enemy defences, he was usually one of the first through the opening.
He was responsible for training his soldiers and for ensuring that they properly represented the Roman Empire.
By the time a Roman soldier rose to the rank of centurion, he had demonstrated both virtue and heroism.
As deadly as a centurion could be on the battlefield, he was also expected to be a gentleman in society. He had to be able to read and write. He had to have a good grasp of the laws of the Empire. He had to know how to behave in the Emperor’s court. He had to be well respected.
But, having said all of that, centurions were also officers in the army that occupied the land.
No matter how exemplary a centurion was, he was still the local leader of the occupying forces. He was still the enemy who was carrying out the policies and procedures of the Roman occupation.
Further, as a Roman army officer who grew up in Roman culture, we would expect him to worship the gods of Roman mythology.
The devout Jews would label this man as unclean.
How strange it is then, that a Roman centurion would send a group of Jewish leaders to Jesus with a request.
And even more strange is that the Jewish leaders judged this gentile army officer as worthy. What is going on here?
Well, we don’t know too much about this particular centurion, but it seems he was God-fearing. It seems he had respect for the Jewish faith.
So much so, that we are told in our text that he is the one who built the Jews their synagogue.
It is on this basis that the Jewish leaders judged this man as worthy.
The Jewish leaders judged the centurion the same way that the world judges people.
According to the world, you are judged as worthy based on what you do, on what you produce, on what you can provide for others.
So, as the one who built the synagogue for the Jewish people, the leaders figured he was worthy enough to have Jesus hear and answer his request to have his servant healed: “And when [the Jewish leaders] came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “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.”
In other words, they were saying, “Listen Lord, he was good and did this for you and your people, so now you owe him and you should do this for him. He is worthy.”
This is how many people view our relationship with God. “Listen God, I have been a good Christian and have done a lot of good things for you, now you owe me and should answer my prayers and give me eternal life. I am worthy.”
Well, the centurion knew better. He knew that God owed him nothing.
In fact, the centurion was likely aware that all that he was owed from God was eternal punishment for his sins.
We heard in our text that as Jesus approached his home, he sent a message, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”
Of all people, this Roman officer recognized clearly that he was in no way worthy of God’s favour. He readily admitted that he had no right to ask Jesus for anything.
He simply relied on the grace and mercy of Jesus.
The centurion expressed his faith in Jesus’ ability to grant this healing by using his own authority in the Roman army as a metaphor.
He spoke of his own authority to give orders to the soldiers in his command. They did what he said.
With these words he was confessing that Jesus had complete authority over all things. He was confessing that Jesus is the commander even over sickness and death and was able to heal his servant.
At this point, Jesus marveled at the work that the Holy Spirit had done in this man.
He had created faith in a gentile army officer.
The Jews had the words of the prophets of old - but many did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
This gentile army officer, however, was able to recognize Jesus as the promised Saviour through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We too are only able to have faith in Jesus as our Saviour through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As with the centurion, the Holy Spirit’s process for working faith in us begins with the recognition that we are helpless, hopeless sinners, who are desperately in need of a Saviour.
Our experience in life helps us to become aware of our sin and need for a Saviour.
But we also hear the words of the Bible that agrees with our experience. We hear in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
We hear in Romans 3, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We hear in 1 John 1, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Unlike the world that tries to rationalize and excuse its sin, the Holy Spirit enables us to hear God’s Word and see that it truthfully diagnoses our sinfulness.
The Holy Spirit works in our hearts and our minds so that we may join the centurion in confessing that, “We are not worthy for Christ to come under our roofs.”
But, fortunately, the Holy Spirit not only enables us to recognize the truth of our sin and unworthiness - he also brings us to believe and confess the truth of God’s love, grace, and mercy towards us.
The Holy Spirit enables us to recognize that as God’s people we are not judged the same way as the world judges people.
God does not show us his favour because we have been a bunch of good Christians, who have done a bunch of good things.
He does not forgive us our sins because we have built his people a synagogue, or because of anything else we have done.
Like the centurion, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy.
It is only through Jesus Christ – his life, death, and resurrection that we are worthy.
It is only because Jesus surrendered his worth on the cross that we are now worthy to receive God’s gift of salvation.
Jesus paid for our sins, all of them, with the worth of his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
Now, we are free from sin and its consequences. Now we are free from death.
Now we are free to live according to God’s will – loving him above all things, loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.
We love and serve God not to become worthy - but because, in Christ, we are worthy.
This is what we learn from the Roman centurion and his encounter with Jesus.
Although we are not worthy, Jesus has more than enough worth for all of us and freely gives it to us by grace through faith. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.