Speak the Word

centurion
photo by Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales on flickr.com

Luke 7:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version)
1After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

ELCA Book of Faith Initiative Devotional Questions:

What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?

What delights me in this text?

What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  You might remember a time that you prayed for healing, or asked someone with more authority than you for a favor, for example.

What is God up to in this text?

I’m not sure that I like the centurion.  I know that it is in part because of the year and country that I live in, but something about the phrase “a slave whom he valued highly” rubs me the wrong way.  Then there is the way that he talks to Jesus, like he and Jesus are a part of a good old boys club, and that membership earns him a little healing.  To me, he is quite unlikable.

However, once I start to take a few of the other details in this story seriously, my opinion starts to change.  Here is a centurion, a Roman commander, who has worked to help Jews to build a place of worship.  Here is a man in authority who is willing to clear his schedule to help a slave.  Here is a person who humbles himself, who submits himself to Jesus’ authority, because he knows that he can’t solve this problem, and he believes that Jesus can.

I also have to take into account Jesus’ opinion here.  He exclaims, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  What am I missing?  What makes this guy so faithful?  What makes Jesus do what he asks?  I look forward to wrestling with these and other questions with you this month as we dwell in the Word in Bible study.  “Only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.”  What a remarkable profession of faith!

In Christ, Pastor Breen

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