You Can Handle the Truth
With An Amazing Faith!
A sermon based on Luke 7:1-10
Sunday, May 29th, 2016 – Pentecost 3C
Capernaum is amazing! It was by far my favorite city to visit on my Holy Land tour. The "Village of Comfort," as it's known, was where Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Matthew all called home before they left it to become Jesus' disciples. It was the town that Jesus made his headquarters for a large part of his ministry, and where he called home for that time.
And yet, what amazed me was that in spite of the prominence of this city in the Bible and, in particular, in Jesus' ministry, when I visited this place almost 2,000 years after Jesus did, it still looked remarkably the same. Of course, the buildings were in ruins and a modern church had been constructed over Peter's house (which was used as a church—a place for believers to gather—ever since our Savior met believers there).
But unlike Jerusalem or Bethleham or most of the rest of the Holy Land, it wasn't covered in gift shops. Vendors didn't line the streets selling vials of water from the Sea of Galilee or T-shirts that read, "I walked where Jesus walked." In fact, even with the lone gift shop that sat near the entrance to the small town, it was easy to imagine 1st century fishermen and tradesmen coming and going on the busy streets of that active little fishing village, with tax collectors and Roman soldiers keeping busy on the town that sat right on the trade route to the rest of the world.
It really was my favorite place. It was easy to imagine Jesus there in the small village that must have been a lot like Kenai. I found it truly amazing and I do long to go back there someday.
But… far more amazing than the ruins of that ancient city, are the events that took place there. Can you imagine visiting Peter's sick mother-in-law in bed, not wanting to say it out loud lest you upset Peter, but secretly wondering if she would survive this one, then having her serve you some food that same day after Jesus miraculously made the fever leave her? Can you imagine fishing out on a small boat with a man from whom Jesus had cast out a demon, now perfectly sane and helping you cast out the net while he talks about that day? Can you imagine eating some fish at the house of man once crippled, but lowered through a roof to meet Jesus and not only be healed, but also forgiven of all his sin? Can you imagine hosting Jairus at a party at your house and hearing him tell the story for umpteenth time of how Jesus brought his daughter back to life after she'd died? What amazing things happened in Capernaum!
Now thinking of all the amazing things that Jesus did at Capernaum, can you think of anything that could possibly amaze him?! After all, what could be done to impress the one who has literally seen it all before? How can you astonish the God who created the cosmos? Can anything amaze Jesus? Actually, yes. That amazing feat was also carried out in Capernaum, and by a Roman centurion, nonetheless, not a Jew!
Do you want to know his secret? Do you want to impress, astound, and amaze Jesus too? You can. Listen to our text for this morning, recorded for us in Luke 7:1-10, and hear about this centurion's amazing faith that left Jesus himself stunned…
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.
I. Have a Humble Faith
How do you wow Jesus? The Jewish elders thought they knew how: show Jesus your power. If you can command 100 men to jump and they ask, "How high?" well, that's impressive. Want to wow Jesus? Show him your wealth. Do you have the cash to single-handedly pay for the construction of your own church building (or, in this case, synagogue)? Wow! Now that's a lot of money! Want to wow Jesus? Show him your dedication. Do you love the nation of Israel, even though you're not an Israelite yourself? Do you love them enough to spend your cash to build them a synagogue?
If you had these things, power, wealth, and dedication, then you could really impress Jesus. Then you would be worthy of his help in your time of need. Then this miracle worker sort of owed you something. "This man deserves to have you do this," they said "because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."
But none of these things impressed Jesus all that much. No. It was the humble faith with which the centurion approached Jesus that impressed him so much. When everyone else said, "Wow! What a great guy this is! Look at all he's done! If anyone is worthy of Jesus' time and attention it's this guy!' He sent messengers to say on his behalf, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you."
Not puffed up by pride, but full of humility, he recognized how unworthy he was to come before Jesus. And Jesus was amazed at this man's humble faith!
How about you? Do you want to impress Jesus? Then it's not to be done by showing him all the great things you've done. "Look, Jesus, I may not have the power to command 100 men, but… I do have the power to command my own schedule. And thought I could be anywhere else right now, doing 100 other things, I'm here in your house, worshiping you. No, I may not be that wealthy, certainly not wealthy enough to single-handedly build two more classrooms at Grace on my own dime, but… doesn't that make the few dollars that I do give you an even more generous gift as I give from the little that I have? And dedication? Well, just look at all the things I've done for you, Jesus! I've not only given my time and dollars, but my efforts. Look at the countless hours I've spent serving you, the friendships I've risked in talking about you, the ways I've gone out of my way to serve you! Jesus, arent' you impressed by all I've given and done?"
And he answers bluntly, "No. Not really. Not at all." As he told his disciples in Luke 17(:7-10), he says to us: "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"
No. Jesus is not impressed by all the "great things" we do when we're supposed to be doing these things perfectly all the time every day!
So how do you impress Jesus? How could you ever impress him? Ironically, you impress Jesus the most when you admit that you're not very impressive. Humble yourself before God. Confess to him that you are not worthy of his love because of your perfect church attendance record. Confess to him that you're not worthy of his blessings because of all of the offerings that you've brought to him from those blessings. Confess that you're not worthy of his kindness because of all the kind things you've done for others. Confess that you are completely and entirely unworthy of Jesus because you are, by your very nature sinful and unclean, and because you have given ample evidence of that sinful nature by your sinful thoughts, words, and actions. Humbly cry to God, "Lord… I do not deserve to have you come under my roof… I [do] not… consider myself worthy to come to you." Humble yourself before God and you'll amaze Jesus!
II. Have a Confident Faith
Now this centurion didn't just amaze Jesus by his humble faith. Plenty of sad and depressed people have considered themselves unworthy of Jesus and his love. And plenty of people have died despairing under the weight of their own unworthiness. But this centurion's faith didn't end with his own unworthiness. It also clung to God's graciousness. It's wasn't just a humble faith, it was also a confident faith, that trusted that Jesus had the power and authority and willingness to help in his need. He trusted that Jesus could help when no one else could. He trusted that Jesus would help when no one else could.
"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."
This man not only confessed that he was unworthy to have Jesus come under his roof, but he also confessed that it was entirely unnecessary for Jesus to do so! He recognized that Jesus power extended beyond what he could see, that Jesus could heal sickness and disease remotely! He didn't even need to visit the patient to diagnose the problem. And he had full confidence that Jesus could do it! He didn't say, "Say the word, and my servant will be healed," or "Say the word, and my servant," has a chance! But he expressed his confident faith: "Say the word, and my servant will be healed." What an amazing faith!
And verse 3 tells us how this centurion could have such an amazing faith: "The centurion heard of Jesus…" Of course, we don't know exactly how much this man heard about Jesus, but we do know that the Word worked! "Faith comes by hearing the message…" (Romans 10:17) He heard and he believed! He felt unworthy, and indeed he was unworthy. But his unworthiness didn't stop him from making his bold request. He trusted in Jesus' power and in Jesus' grace. And Jesus was amazed at his confident faith!
And you too, dear friends, have heard the message. You have seen who Jesus is even more clearly than this centurion had that day. You know he is more than just a miracle worker! He is your Savior! He, who is the only one truly worthy of God's praise, gave up his heavenly Kingdom to live in a little fishing village like Capernaum. Why? So that he might live a perfect life in your place! He came that he might take your unworthiness on himself, that he might pay for it all on the cross, that he might endure hell itself to take away your sin! That's how much you are worth to Jesus!
So don't let your unworthiness stop you from having a confident faith! In fact, your faith can only be that confident when you realize that your salvation doesn't depend on you or your worthiness, but only and entirely on Jesus and what he's done for you in living perfectly, dying innocently, and rising victoriously.
And if he loves you enough to endure hell for you, then you can be absolutely certain that he will keep the promise that he's made to you in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." You can be absolutely certain that he will keep the promise that he's made to you in John 14:13: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name…" You can be absolutely certain that he will keep the promise that he's made to you in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." You too can have such a confident faith that boldly trusts God's promises and clings to his Word. And you too can amaze Jesus!
III. Have a Selfless Faith
And finally, the third aspect of this centurion's faith that was so amazing, was how selfless it was. Notice what he did—and did not—ask for: "The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant."
Now, in verse 3, the word that's translated "servant" could be translated "servant" or "slave." But the word in verse 7, that's translated "servant" is really "son." That's significant because it shows the centurion's selfless heart.
You see, he wasn't asking Jesus to heal the servant because the death of this man would mean financial loss or because it meant a hassle if he had to go to market to get a new slave. He didn't ask Jesus to heal the man because he was such a faithful worker and it would be a huge inconvenience to find a new employee as loyal and hardworking as this man. He didn't ask for Jesus' help for his own gain, but for someone else. He valued this man, not just for the work that he did, but for who he was. This centurion had a selfless faith that put the needs of others first, ahead of his own. And that selfless faith left Jesus amazed!
So too, we know how much Jesus cares for us. We place all our confidence in him and know that we have nothing to worry about. That confidence then frees us to stop worrying about ourselves so much! It frees us to stop worry about ourselves at all! Now we too can live to serve others. We can pray to God on behalf of others.
And instead of praying, "Give me this, God. Give me that," we can pray, "Thank you, God, for giving me all that I need in Christ. Thank you, God, for giving me so much more! Now help me use the gifts that you give me to serve others. Help me to share with them the truths of their own unworthiness and of your amazing grace that they too can put their complete confidence in you. Help me to provide for the physical needs of others that it might open the door to enable to me to meet their spiritual needs as well. Help me to give generously of the gifts that you've given to me to carry out that work! "
We too can have a selfless faith. And we too can amaze Jesus!
What amazing things took place in Capernaum! Jesus healed another man of his disease! And he did it remotely, without even meeting the man! A centurion amazed Jesus himself with his humble faith, with his confident faith, with his selfless faith. Now, let us go do some amazing things! Let's wow Jesus with our amazing that recognizes our unworthiness before him, that puts our complete trust in him, that puts others and their needs ahead of ourselves. In Jesus' name, dear friends, let's go amaze him! Amen!