“An Astounding Faith Will Set You Free”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
May 29, 2016
Luke 7:1-10 7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
This my friends is a text geared at inclusion! A text that helps the Gentiles know that they were included in Christ’s great ministry. It’s a text that sets apart the necessary realm of the Gospel of Luke and for that, all the other Gospels as well.
You see, in this text, Jesus does the following! He follows the “go-getters” back to the Centurion’s home. Here, we have one of the most powerful members of the Roman army, a soldier, massive in stature I’m sure, and one who had been given the credit to have overseen the building of their synagogue. Yet, he does not feel worthy to be in the presence of Jesus! In fact, he goes as far as to tell Jesus, “just say the word.” He puts Jesus at bay and doesn’t even want him to enter his house. He wants the healing to take place in spite of the presence of the Holy One. He lays claim to the fact that his faith is so strong that his belief in Jesus will heal his slave. Not in so many words, but that is the essence of the message.
This is a text about being humble and being meek in the midst of your own strength!
The Gospel of Luke is a gospel that is set forth to proclaim that Jesus, the Messiah, was not only present for the people of Israel but was present for the Gentiles as well! He had come to fulfill Messianic hopes for Israel, but He also came to be a savior for the “common people”, the centurion, the slave, and others. He came, as we are reminded during our Advent journey, to “be a light to the Gentiles.”
We are extremely special people!! We have a great facility here and at St. Timothy’s. We have a beautiful structure, beautiful landscaping, a lake at STUMC to fish and enjoy, and the beauty of God’s creation all around us both here and there. For the most part we are financially stable, we don’t lack many programs, we have a great staff, we are blessed, we have a great church! It’s Ours!! Aren’t we special? We are the BEST!
Well, that was an easy sermon! Thank you!!
I wish it was that easy! We hear the scripture this morning in the midst of a world that wants to be individualistic where being the best is the way to go! Will Willimon tells the story of the first Bible verse he memorized, “For God so loved the Church and people who look like me that God gave me….” No, that’s not the way it goes! It’s “God so loved the WORLD!”
Why is it that we have to be reminded so very often about this lesson? Why do we need to be reminded that we are not the exclusive recipients of God’s love in Jesus Christ? The boundaries of God’s Kingdom does not end with the confines of our congregations.
We are reminded in this story in the Gospel of Luke that the greatest events in our life are sometimes the ones we realize we have no control over! Our angry, strong, Centurion is so concerned about the well-being of his slave that not only did he not leave his slave’s side, he sent emissaries to beckon Jesus. One may wonder, why wouldn’t a powerful man go to Jesus? or want Jesus to come into his presence? Did he not consider himself worthy? or was he so committed to caring for his slave he wouldn’t leave? Either way, he just asked Jesus to say the “word” and heal my servant, that’s all I ask.” When he could have opened his doors and welcomed him in.
But I think this is where the Good News of this text jumps out at us! He asked Jesus to say “the word”! Then the author of Luke pens these words of Jesus, “Even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this!” WOW! Not even in all of Israel, but from the mouth of a Gentile such faith is found.
Jesus was un-paralleled in that healing presence. He healed not so much for the sake of the slave but because of the faith of the Centurion. He, the Centurion, didn’t need a ticket punched but because he came to the mercy seat of Jesus healing occurred. The Centurion opened the door of mercy to be healed and made new because of his faith.
It was a step (or rather a “leap”) of mercy where Jesus showed the mission of the church. To empower and claim the faith of the powerless. For the church is not about those who are powerful and have it all, it’s about the least of those who have the faith to move it all! When we come into the presence of the Living God in Jesus Christ we must have the faith of the Centurion, we must have the faith that calling upon Jesus to say the “word” to heal is sufficient for us when touching is not an option.
Frederick Buechner, the famous theologian and author wrote these words that I believe ring so loud and clear for all of us when we are confronted by this passage, “Jesus didn’t come to merely speak words that were true, He is the Word that makes us true.” I think the essence of Jesus as the “Word” is the essence of the Gospel that heals US and the SLAVE.
When we claim to be a believer in the Living God through Jesus Christ, we claim that we believe in the word. We claim that we believe the healing power of Jesus, we claim that the Word has power, we claim that our lives can be changed by the power of the living Word in Christ! We claim to be the Centurion, the one who stood outside the norm of the community of believers and held the faith that changed the life of his servant.
How willing are we to stand in the doorway and ask Jesus to speak the Word? How willing are we to stand in a place and ask Jesus to heal someone whom we lord over? How willing are we to stand and ask Jesus to make new those whom we believe are not our equals? How willing are we to ask Jesus to heal us when we have fallen short of the mark?
My friends, the mission of the church and the mission of our being as Christians, as seen in this text this morning, is to have the solid faith that the Centurion possessed and to simply ask Jesus to “say the Word” that sets us free is the ultimate statement in a faithful life lived in Jesus Christ.