3rd Sunday After Pentecost June 17, 2012
1 Kings 8:26-43
2 Timothy 2:19-26
240, 381, 457, 353
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.” When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
Who would have thought that our Lord would praise a Roman soldier so highly? Luke gives ample reason for Jesus’ praise of this unique Roman. The Centurion was a captain of a hundred
soldiers. He was a down-to-earth, practical fellow. His servant is sick, but he does not complain, looking for pity. Instead, he immediately sends for this miracle-working Healer he had heard so much about. “So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.” [v.3]
The centurion sent some Jewish elders to plead his case to Jesus. They are most willing to do so because this Roman centurion loved the Jewish people and had even built a synagogue for them. [cf. v.5] It was probably the centurion’s humility that led him to ask the Jewish elders to intercede for him—already a hint of his great faith.
This Roman soldier does not only speak of his faith in Jesus, he shows it: “Say the word, and my servant shall be healed, for I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go!’ and he goes.” [vv.7-8] Like a soldier, he believes that the Great Commander of heavenly armies only needs to speak and whatever He speaks shall be done! Such a compliment from a Gentile army captain was astounding! So Jesus says: “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” [v.9]
“Great faith” is a great gift of the Holy Spirit—a gift we all need. This account is meant to encourage and strengthen our own faith, since it is full of the Gospel of Christ, our Savior. So we consider A SOLDIER’S FAITH.
The soldier’s servant was in great need. He was very sick and unable to help himself. Matthew tells us that this servant was “paralyzed” and “dreadfully tormented” (Matthew 8:6).
When it comes to the spiritual and deadly disease of sin, people are often completely unconscious and unaware of the deadliness of their condition. They feel no pains of conscience, no inner torment, no fear of death as they go about satisfying the sinful desires of their flesh in this world. They are far too busy having a good time to be bothered with the thought of how they will stand before the holy God on the Day of Judgment. But then disease and pain strike the sinner so that he becomes more aware of his mortality, and begins to think of his relationship with God. If the physical suffering of the soldier’s servant now made him think about his sinful past, then his torment was a blessing in disguise. If He suddenly understood that his disease had brought him to the point of death and the very edge of eternity, and that he was in danger of perishing at any moment, then there was still hope for the salvation of his soul.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there are countless souls in this world that are in the same terrible situation. Some are still spiritually unconscious—unaware of the damnableness of their sins. Others, because of their suffering, are very much aware of how short, painful, and passing this life really is. They are beginning to think of eternity, and wonder how they might be eternally saved from the judgment of God.
Some of these needy souls we know, others we have never seen. What are we doing for them? Are we praying to their God and Savior for them, that they might be saved not only from their physical diseases, but also from their sins? Do we care enough? This soldier in Capernaum cared a great deal. Behold his soldier-like prayer…
The Centurion had heard about Jesus’ miracles of healing and about His teachings. Verse 3 tells us that when he heard Jesus was in the city, he sent Jewish elders to plead with Jesus to come and heal his servant. This soldier wasted no time. Getting help and healing for his servant was too important, the hour too late—his servant was at the point of death!
How many do you know who may be at the point of death? The urgency of the situation combined with the centurion’s love for his servant so that he pleaded with Jesus. There was no concern about the proper wording of his prayer, only a simple plea—a humble plea—for mercy on behalf of another soul.
The Jewish elders could not help but mention what a fine fellow the soldier was. He, a Roman, had shown such great love for the nation of Judah that he had actually provided the financial means to help them build a synagogue.
Remember how Solomon prayed in the Old Testament lesson? He prayed for those of other nations who would come to worship the true God of Israel. The Roman Centurion was one of these who by the gracious working of God’s Spirit through the Old Testament Scriptures had come to hope in the promised Messiah, the Christ!
Yet, no matter how the Jewish elders and the people thought of him, the Roman soldier mentions his own unworthiness twice in verses 6-7. He doesn’t think that his prayer for his servant will be heard because of anything in him for when he looked into the mirror of God’s holy Law he found nothing but sin in himself. You see, in the sight of God, unworthiness sincerely felt is worthiness clearly seen. When Old Testament King Saul was little in his own sight the Lord exalted him (cf. 1 Samuel 15:17). Later, when King Saul became big in his own sight, the Lord brought him down (cf. 1 Samuel 15:18ff).
So many people have the idea that since God commands us to pray, the activity of praying is a work that earns God’s attention—especially if it is done with lots of words, sweat, repetition or volume!
The story is told of a woman whose daughter had died after a painful illness. She came to her pastor and said:
“I’m afraid that I have lost my faith in prayer. I used to believe that anything I asked for in the name of Christ, I would receive. When my child was sick, I prayed so hard to God for her recovery. I believed that God would answer my prayer. When she died, I was stunned, not only because of my grief, but because it seemed to me that God had failed me. I still pray, but the old faith in prayer is gone.”
This woman was the victim of wrong teaching. She had been led to substitute faith in prayer for faith in God! The Roman soldier of our text does not do that. He only wants Jesus to “…say the word and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.” [vv.7-8]
Faith always has to do with the Word and promises of God and nothing else. Faith knows that God’s Word cannot fail. His Word cannot fail us, even when we are tempted to think that He has not heard our prayer. So many look for signs and feelings that the Lord is with them, instead of acting and praying with confidence in His unchanging Word and promises alone.
Our Lord has already spoken many words that exactly fit our every need and situation. Do we hear them? Jesus says in John 6:63: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” So, let us do as this Roman soldier did. Let us, whenever we approach the throne of God’s grace in prayer, come firmly believing His promise. For remember, the Savior’s quick response…
“Jesus went with them,” [v.6] The grace and truth that comes with Jesus Christ never comes too late. The Christian’s prayer made with sincere faith will find a response in God’s love. For if “in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6), how will He not also in due time answer the cry of faith, especially when we pray so unselfishly for others in their great need?
Jesus’ response is encouraging: “I have not found such great faith, no not even in Israel.” [v.9] Jesus marveled at the soldier’s faith. Neither does He does He scold the Roman for asking too much! Isn’t that amazing to you? The soldier asks Jesus to save his servant from death, and Jesus does not say: “You ask too much, since you are not even an Israelite, but a Roman!”
Jesus’ response to the soldier’s faith was effective. “His servant was healed in the same hour,” we are told in Matthew’s account of this miracle (Matthew 8:13). Jesus sent His Word and healed the servant.
“As you have believed, so let it be done unto you.” This is like the absolution so often spoken in our worship services. Jesus announces the forgiveness of our sins immediately after we have sincerely confessed them. If He chooses not to do what we ask immediately, strong faith knows that its prayer will be answered in God’s time, and according to His perfect, good and gracious will.
“Amen” is the “So it shall be done” of Christ to the Christian’s prayer of faith. Christ Himself
is God’s “Amen” to the believing cry of His troubled children.
Little faith belittles the Christ of God and narrows up the channel of blessing. Doubting hearts may say, “God is great, God is good,” and yet have little faith. But may our gracious God in Heaven grant that we may be like the Roman soldier in our text. For our Lord is always ready to bless such great faith that humbly trusts His Word and promises! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.