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Trinity 1- 29/5/16Luke 7:1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, 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.
A Roman soldier was imprisoned for murdering and eating his wife. When asked why he did this he said he was sorry he had killed her but was glad he ate her (gladiator, gettit!)
Luke had just recorded his version of the Sermon on the Mount, 6.17-46. Like Matthew, he ends this with the parable of the wise and foolish builders, encouraging his disciples to follow his teaching.
The Centurion is an example of someone who radically trusts in Jesus. This contrasts with the Pharisees and teachers of the law who opposed and questioned Jesus, something Luke records from 5.21.
The Centurion was, of course, part of the Roman occupying forces. He commanded 100 men. He was used to giving and taking orders. If he did not obey the orders he was given, and if his orders were not obeyed then his, and other people's lives were at risk.
The Romans were hated by the Jews and those who worked with them, like tax collectors, were also despised. Morally the Romans took part in practices that would be offensive to the Jews. Spiritually, they worshipped many gods thinking that if they observed sacrifices and ceremonies the gods would help them.
But the centurion in today's gospel was different. He shows great compassion for the servant, who was a Jew. Servants were regarded as pieces of property to be used, sold, discarded. But this Centurion is different. He also shows great respect for the Jewish nation and religion. He would have been known by the Jews as a "God-fearer", a Gentile who worshipped God. This led him to pay for a synagogue to be built vs5.
The elders come to Jesus commending this man, telling Jesus to heal the servant because the centurion deserved it. They thought his good works meant he had earned Jesus' favour.
The false teachers in Galatia thought that trust in Jesus and living according to the Old Testament law put people right with God. Galatians 1.6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 which is really no gospel at all.
The Centurion knew he deserved nothing, not even to have Jesus come to his home. He had great humility. Even though he was a man of authority, he recognised Jesus greater authority. Even though he had power, he knew that was nothing compared to the power of Jesus. Even though he was considered by many to be a good person, this paled into insignificance before the holiness of Jesus. He could only throw himself onto the mercy of Christ and trust in Him. In so doing he exercised great faith, evidenced by his belief Jesus could heal his servant at a distance.
Jesus said "I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel." vs9. The showed great humility in trusting in Jesus. Jesus showed his grace and power and met the centurion's confidence when he healed the servant at a distance.
"The scintillating faith of the centurion was second only in importance to the matchless power of Christ." Ivor Powell Commentaries – Luke's Thrilling Gospel.
In Galatians 1.6 Paul refers to "the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ " We are invited to receive the grace of Christ and then live in it. Having received the grace of Christ by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus' life death and resurrection, we are called to live in the light of this.
Sir Alexander Fleming, upon introducing his newly discovered drug, penicillin, warned against taking too little of it. An under-dose, he said would permit germs to remain in the system thereby allowing one to build up an immunity to the drug. These immune germs could be "passed on to other individuals so that the thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatments may be responsible for the death of another" if not himself as well. The news this week had featured reports that antibiotic prescriptions have fallen to address the problem of resistance to antibiotics.
Similarly, faith that does not go far enough, is not radical enough can be dangerous. It can build up an immunity. It may provide a false sense of security, a code of conduct, or religious ritual that keeps people from a genuine and thorough encounter with God.
If you have been living according to a set of moral rules, being religious, attending church meetings, giving money, serving in some way, praying and reading the Bible, and thinking that this makes you a follower of Jesus then turn away from this. It is not the gospel. It is Pharisaism, salvation by works. Repent. Receive the grace of Christ.
Like the centurion come to Jesus aware of your own unworthiness, your sin, your lack of power, and receive his grace, his forgiveness, his undeserved favour, his healing.
Come to the cross and rise from it, living in the grace of Christ. This will lead you to an inward compulsion to worship him, read his word, apply it to your life, give, serve, love, empowered by His indwelling Spirit.
Family Service 20/10/96 - Luke 7:1-10
Introductory talk - play "Simon says".
Do it when Simon says. Do not if I say Do this/that.
Ideas : stand up; SS scratch head; SS close eyes; touch nose with eyes closed. SS hold left ear with right hand; cross arms; SS put your right hand up; now your left hand; SS hands down; sit down.
Talk : we played Simon says. Anyone know who Simon is/was ? Yet we accept the command to do something when it is prefaced by his name !
Today thinking about authority. Defined as "the power or right to enforce obedience".
On OHP make list of people who have authority over us. egs parents; teachers; boss; spouse ! police; customs & excise; doctors; armed forces; judges;
In today's Bible reading we have the account of someone who had authority. A Roman centurion who had been given the power of Caesar to command 100 soldiers. He was used to giving orders, and taking orders. If he did not obey the orders he was given, and if his orders were not obeyed then his, and other people's lives were at risk.
Yet despite his authority, he had humility. He recognised that Jesus had greater authority. That is why he sent other people to talk to Jesus, he did not consider himself worthy to even meet Jesus vs3. That is why he suggests that Jesus heal the servant from a distance vs6f.
The centurion trusted that Jesus had authority over sickness. He knew Jesus just had to say the word and the servant would be healed. That was an authority that he did not have himself. He could have felt threatened by this, he was a Roman centurion, Jesus a foreign carpenter in a land he was occupying. Yet he comes to Jesus trusting .
Jesus had the authority of God the Father. He gave the word and the servant was healed. At a distance. Like a remote control on a Television ! Just press the button and it changes channels ! Jesus said the words and the healing took place. When God says something it happens. we saw this when we looked at the creation accounts in Genesis last month.
The centurion was a Gentile, a non-Jew. He was a soldier , a member of the occupying forces whom the Jews would have wanted out of their land. Yet he shows great compassion for the servant, who was a Jew. He shows great respect for the Jewish nation and religion. He paid for a synagogue to be built vs5. He shows great faith in Jesus. Jesus said "I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel." vs9. He showed great humility in trusting in Jesus.
We live in a generation where the word authority is seen by some as a dirty word. Some people rightly think this because they have encountered someone who has misused the authority they had been entrusted with.
Yet we can trust in Jesus. Trust him because he loves us and wants the best for us. A self-giving love that cost him his life, separation from God as he hung on the cross. Taking upon himself the punishment that we deserve for everything that we have ever done wrong. Like the centurion we need to respond to Jesus. We have to respond to his authority. We either accept, or reject it. There is no sitting on the fence, because that is a rejection of Jesus' authority.
Some of us here today have already taken the step of humbling ourself. Acknowledging that we need Jesus' help in our lives. Realising that he is God and calls us to follow him. Yet we cannot rest of our laurels. We are called to acknowledge Jesus' authority over every area of our lives. We need to bring our thoughts, our words, our actions, our motivation for living before Jesus and submit to his authority. Every day.
There may be some here who have decided to follow Jesus, yet your relationship with him has not gone the way it should have. Perhaps the pressures of life have taken the place that Jesus should have. Yet a life without Jesus at the centre is no life at all. If that is the case and you want to do something about this then there will be a chance in a few moments to say a prayer committing ourselves afresh to Jesus.
Perhaps there may be someone here today who has never totally accepted Jesus' authority for themselves. Perhaps you know something of his teaching. Perhaps you think that being a Christian is all about trying to live a good life. But the Bible says that being a Christian is about realising that you can never be good enough for God.
The centurion realised that he was not good enough ! Even though we will look at him today and say what a nice man he was. He respected God, the Jewish people, and cared for his slave.
But only Jesus has attained the perfection that is needed to be put right with God. The only route to God is by accepting Jesus' authority. Making him boss of your life. That is what makes someone a Christian. Showing humility about yourself, your unworthiness before God. Recognising the authority of Jesus, and the need to say "Yes, Lord I trust you." to him.
If there is anyone here today who wants to take that step of making Jesus number one in your life for the first time, or to rededicate your life to Jesus there will be a chance to do that by praying with me a prayer.
Repeat line by line in you head after me in silence. Then see me later.
Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sorry that I have been going my own way instead of your way,
Thank you for dying to take away my sin,
Please come into my life, and make me the person you want me to be,