Saturday, June 1, 2013

Proper 4 - Pentecost 2

Proper 4
Luke 7:1-10

June 2, 2013

Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.

O God, by Your almighty Word You set in order all things in heaven and on earth.  Put away from us all things hurtful, and give us those things that are beneficial for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

A popular view is that to get help from Jesus you must come directly in contact with him, make your appeal, and confess your faith. That may happen in the life of a Christian but in today’s Gospel we have an exception. A Roman Centurion whose servant as near death needed Jesus’ help. Time was of the essence. Come Lord Jesus! Come quickly.

But that’s not how the story goes. Jesus never saw the servant. Never touched the servant.  Never spoke to the servant!  Jesus never spoke directly to the centurion either! That the servant was, indeed, healed, is made clear, however, in the last words of the reading: "When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well."

This healing brings comfort and hope. We are a people separated from Jesus by twenty-one centuries by heaven and earth.  Jesus can help regardless of the faith of the person. Jesus will help even if…

1.     1.   There is no physical contact. 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. Vs. 6

A.        Jesus did not even come into the centurion’s home. Jesus never sees this Centurion. He never meets with the Centurion face to face. The Centurion's absence is remarkable. It is a sign of his deep-felt sense that Jesus was greater even than he was.  He’s a man under authority. He understands this. He knows Jesus is a man set under authority. Jesus has authority set from His Father.
B.         Nor does Jesus, for that matter, ever see the servant that He was being asked to heal.   The centurion and his servant will sink further and further into the background while Jesus is pushed further and further into the front.
C.        Though Jesus is in heaven. He can still help us on earth.  Jesus was as near to the centurion by virtue of that centurion's faith as He could have been by entering his house! The centurion had drawn Jesus into his house merely by his confidence in what Jesus would do if he had in fact entered that house! Jesus never had any personal or verbal exchange with this sick servant!
The presence of Christ in the faith of that centurion became a healing force of its own.  The one for whom the centurion cared so deeply is healed by the one who is the way the truth and the life!

2.        2. Jesus will help even if there is no direct communication. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. Vs3.

A.        The Centurion sends a delegation to serve as mediators. Maybe they could persuade the Savior.
B.        Through them, Jesus got the message of need and of the Centurion’s faith.  Centurions were generally hardened men of war. Long years of service, often in violent and dangerous situations, had pretty well made them immune to suffering - their own suffering as well as the suffering of others.
C.        Here we need the value of intercessory prayer – taking the need of others to Jesus for His healing touch. Jesus is never said to have spoken a word concerning the servant's healing! That on which the Centurion had based all his hope and invitation never took place as he had first envisioned it! 

3.      3.  Jesus will help even if there is no expression of faith by the one healed. Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. Vs. 10

A.        The slave never saw or spoke to Jesus. He never cried out for mercy. It didn’t matter. The Savior came.
B.        This slave never offered an expression of faith. It didn’t matter. The Savior came. The slave was healed because of the Centurion’s faith, which came to Jesus second-hand. The Centurion's confidence that Jesus could do that which he was asked to do is the mark of a profound faith.
C.      Christ is good even to unbelievers for the sake of those who do believe. There is where we are called to respond in kind.  It seems to me this is an excellent opportunity for us to discuss why we pray for those we may not know. Do you pray the stranger down the street? The one who curses you to your face one week and then, the next, you learn they have stage 4 cancer? Do we pray for them? Of course we do. We pray, even if they are outside the family. We pray. Even if they are weak in faith. We pray. Even if their presence in our lives bothers us. . People of God – pray without ceasing! Not only for yourselves but also for the one outside the faith. For God gives daily bread to all even to the wicked…
D.       Using this Centurion as your guide, you must have faith enough for yourself AND for that person involved. You must also have faith enough to bear their sin when they can't. You must have faith to ask for forgiveness when they are unable. Such a faith is essential if we are serious about upholding one another. If you’re serious about taking your needs, burdens, joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace we need such a faith as this. Again, we have a pagan, Roman Centurion to show us what a strong faith does.
Is there a need today? Take it to the Lord in Prayer. He helps all those of faith and even those of little or no faith. We are called to cry out to the Lord not only for ourselves but also especially for those who have yet not confessed the name of Jesus. By receiving mercy they can be warmed and wooed to the tender mercies of the Savior


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