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What We Can Learn From A Soldier

March 7, 2013

[7:1] After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. [2] Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. [3] When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. [4] And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, [5] for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” [6] And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. [7] Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. [8] For I too am a man set 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.” [9] When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” [10] And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.      (Luke 7:1-10 ESV)

This is a positively gripping story with many lessons for us as Christians. It is also a story with much to say to those outside the faith. Here are a few of these:

What we learn about the soldier:

1. Care – In Luke’s account of this story, the centurion uses the Greek word for “son” or “boy.” This was not typical in this time. Most servants were thought of as mere workman who were treated poorly. Instead, this centurion who has come to know Christ regards those who work under him with affection. Life in Christ produces new affection for all people, especially those of lower social standing.

2. Humility – What is obvious from the cultural context is the centurions deep personal humility. He gave money to build a synagogue. As a Gentile, he could not even enter parts of it. Upon hearing that Jesus is actually coming to heal the boy, he sends friends out to discourage his coming. He does not think of himself as worthy of having Jesus come under his roof. As a Gentile, he knew that Jews were not allowed to come into his house. He has clearly been deeply affected by the lordship and authority of Jesus in his life.

What we learn about Jesus:

1. Jesus marvels  – Jesus says this man’s faith is greater than any he has seen. This is saying a lot! Jesus has encountered many faithful people at this point. The centurions faith in what he has not yet seen is remarkable and Jesus commends him for this.

2. Jesus comforts – One of Jesus’ primary concerns is the comfort of the Gentile audience. In Matthew’s version of this story (Matt 8:5-13), Jesus makes explicit that the Gentiles too will have a place of honor next to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though he was not able to enter certain parts of the synagogue and was considered an outcast on many social levels by the Jews, he was welcomed in as a son by the only true living God.

3. Jesus confronts – Far from being uninterested in the Jews at this point, Jesus confronts them by calling them to humble themselves like the Gentile. He even says in Matthew’s account that many will experience punishment instead of blessing. Jews, and for that matter anyone, are not to presume upon heritage but must place their faith in Christ for salvation.

4. Jesus vision casts – In Matthew’s account, Jesus envisions people coming from the east and from the west to take their place at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s mission has always been for the nations and it is the same with Jesus. In a sense, the faith of this Gentile is a forecast of the faithfulness of the kingdom of heaven where there will be many Gentiles from every race, tongue, and tribe joined together with the Jews who have professed faith in Christ.

What we can learn:

1. God’s fingerprints are all over – Jesus delights in the centurion as an image bearer of God. Because he is an image bearer, there are good qualities in him. The fingerprints of God are all over humanity whether they have professed faith or not. We need to look for these beautiful qualities in people and affirm them as we look for God’s redemptive action in this world. To only focus on the fallen aspects is to give glory to satan and to further acknowledge the obvious. Oftentimes, acknowledging the beauty in another is a launching pad from where we can begin conversations with people about ultimate truth.

2. God is for the socially despised – Centurions were not popular people. They were Gentiles and they were soldiers in an invading and occupying Roman army. However, Jesus is not concerned with social standing but the condition of one’s heart. This story is merely Jesus living out what was prophesied about him in Luke 1: He has scattered the proud…and exalted those of humble estate. How are you helping those of low social standing to know the manifold ways the father delights over them?

 

 

 

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