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Friday, January 29, 2010

1/29/10- Luke 7:1-10 Healing at a Distance

(Paolo Verenese 16th century)

   Capernaum synagogue today                                                      1/29/10- Lk 7:1-10 (pp. Mt 8:5-13)

1 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.

Calvin abridged: Matthew and Luke do not differ in substance. The only perceived difference is whether the centurion came to him (Mt) or if he sent some Jews in his name (Lk). There are not two miracles here, for the manner of speaking in that day was your representatives spoke on your behalf as if you were there. The band of soldiers under the centurion’s command were no doubt in Capernaum. It is clear he exposed himself to some risk by building a synagogue for the Jews; It is also clear that he loved the nation because he worshiped their God. The servant was very dear to him, indicating this was not an ordinary slave of that time. There is a question about whether those who spoke so highly of the centurion, commending him to Christ- also accepted his grace. The centurion requests Christ to not trouble himself, and also recognizes his power to accomplish things without not necessarily being present. There was astonishing humility in exalting so highly above himself a man who belonged to a conquered and enslaved nation. The good man, having been informed about the uncommon and truly divine works of Christ, simply acknowledged in him the power of God. He ascribes his power to a word- not of moral man, but of God. Jesus exclamation that he had “not found such great faith even in Israel” is because he knew little substance but still was able to have great trust.

Thoughts: Today you can see part of the first century synagogue in Capernaum that the centurion built and in which Jesus spoke. One of the great things about this miracle is that it did not require Jesus’ touch, formula, or even presence. Luke and Matthew differ about the centurion’s presence because in Roman thinking your representatives made you in effect present. And so Jesus also became present through his mere word to the servant. Jewish rules forbade them to enter into a Gentile’s house, and the centurion was respectful of that rule. Ironically, the centurion had built a house for the people of God (shadows of 2 Sam. 7 when David said he would build a house for God and God said he would give David a house- ie. lineage). The centurion’s ability to put tremendous trust in Jesus though he knew little about him and never really got to know him; along with his belief in Jesus’ power to heal even at a distance is a lesson for us today. We have become a semi-gnostic society- believing that knowledge is power, and giving little room for faith. We feel that we must know the answers to hard questions (why is there evil, how does predestination and free will work, how can God be three yet one, etc.) before we will put our faith in the Lord and in his power. Blessed is the one who can trust Jesus even though they cannot understand everything first (and who really can?). There is a point where knowledge ends and faith must make a leap. For the centurion, this point was very early. For most of us, it is very late in our journey, and we still want more information.

Prayer: Say the word, Lord, and your help will come to me. Come to me today in the presence of your Spirit. Use me to bear fruit for you, and help me to deeply trust in you.

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