Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
The following reading is unique in several ways. Take the time to read it slowly.
“Now when He [Jesus] concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s [a centurion is a Roman army officer] 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.” (Luke 7.1-10).
First, it is unique because a person of great faith was identified who was not of Jewish descent. Israel considered herself to be the spiritual hub around which the rest of the world turned. While the bible does not bear this out (in fact it plainly teaches this was not the case), records of Gentile faith are rare in the scriptures. This is not because such people did not exist, it is just that the theme of the Bible centers around the Hebrew people and the promises that God made to their forefathers. Yet, Jesus said of this man, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” It is clear from this statement that faith among the Jews was common, but Jesus saw the strong faith of the centurion as a rare commodity!
Secondly, as McGarvey and Pendleton point out in their classic work, The Fourfold Gospel, Jesus was said to have marveled only twice. One instance is of course found in today's focus text, and perhaps not so coincidentally, the other occasion also had to do with faith. Here is Mark's record of this second event: “And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue [in Nazareth]. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?' And they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.' Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.” (Mark 6.2-6). The citizens of Nazareth were amazed that Jesus could speak such marvellous words, and Jesus marveled because their faith in God was almost nil!
Several lessons come to mind from these readings. One thing that we can take away is the fact that Jesus could marvel; He had feeling just like you and I have. Another thing, in His capacity during His earthly ministry, He was not omniscient; He chose to limit His knowledge while filling this role. Finally, faith is something that we can choose or refuse; it is not something that God forces upon us apart from our will. We choose whether our faith will be strong like the Centurion's or weak like the people of Nazareth!
1. What is a centurion? What did the Centurion say that demonstrated the strength of his faith?
2. Why might the Jews have found it strange that a Gentile would possess such faith?
3. What things can you think of that are implied by the fact that Jesus was able to marvel?
4. Why might it have been expected that the people of Nazareth might be people of great faith instead of being, as Jesus described them, faithless?
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