Read: Luke 7:1-17
Wouldn’t you like to have the faith of the centurion in this story? Or perhaps the widow who has no words to even ask Jesus for the impossible, yet receives her son back alive?
Luke provides these two vignettes to highlight the love of Christ for us and to emphasize, at least from my point of view, that faith can be something seen internally as well as externally. Yesterday’s post included Luke 6:27-49, all red letters in my Bible, the very words of Jesus. Today, in these 17 verses we see just 23 words in red. Interesting. Let’s take a quick look at these two stories.
The Centurion: Luke 7:1-10
This great story of the faith of a Gentile is one for us to consider as we reflect on our own faith, having received the Holy Spirit. Here we see a prominent figure, likely a wealthy man, who’s heard stories about Jesus. He has a problem that only Jesus can solve: his highly valued servant is dying. He appeals to Jesus through those with whom he associated:
But say the word, and my servant will be healed. Luke 7:7
This is interesting on many levels, but let me highlight a few. The centurion must have confided with the Jews he asked to reach out to Jesus, they had some conversation. I wonder if the Jews suggested he consider asking Jesus or if the Centurion asked the Jews for their thoughts. You see the interaction? Some conversation took place well before the meeting with Jesus.
It’s these conversations that I’m looking for each day. How do I get myself integrated with society to such a degree that someone would ask me for advice. I’m not talking about some lofty position, but from a relationship that’s been built over time. You don’t get to be a Centurion by accident and Jewish elders only earn their positions through time. Together, these people know each other and have established some level of respect that leads to the event Luke captured.
The envoys for the Centurion are quick to point out that he loves Israel, that he even contributed to the building of their synagogue. There’s no indication that the Centurion is opting for the religion of the Jews, but he is obviously willing to support their customs. Up to this point I suspect his allegiance was fairly practical, that is, a peaceful coexistence was maintained by contributing to the temple and establishing relations with the Jews. But I think the particular event, his favored servant on his deathbed, changed the Centurion’s heart. He was moved from a sympathizer to a believer.
This is crucial: the relationship that the Jews had with the Centurion allowed room for his conversion.
We can’t force religion down anyone’s throat. Waving Bibles and passing out tracts is fruitless compared to loving people the way Jesus demonstrates over and over again.
The Widow: Luke 7:11-17
Luke puts these two stories together for a reason, and even though this post is getting too long, I think it’s important to consider both at the same time. Story One: rich man, commander of military strength and might. Story Two: widow, most likely poor, only son is dead, she is on the verge of becoming one of the least of these, the outcasts, the needy in society.
The Centurion has friends to send along to find Jesus. The widow has many friends helping her to mourn the loss of her son, but has few words and does not even attempt to seek out Jesus.
Here’s something you don’t read every day:
The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:15
Jesus did the unthinkable, He touched the bier they were carrying the dead man on — thus He would be unclean by Jewish laws. The bearers stood still. This was not normal! But wait, if he’s not dead, He’s not unclean. No one expected that.
The widow didn’t ask for anything, at least not verbally. Jesus intersected her procession to restore her place in society with little fanfare.
Jesus shows no partiality to the rich or the poor. From one extreme to the next, He knows no boundaries. He looks beyond the outside and speaks to the heart. May we go and do likewise.
One final note: Death is not the end of life for those who are in Christ. The number of those not miraculously healed, even children with cancer or victims of horrible accidents, still haunt us, our friends and our families. May we find ways to reassure them that death is not the final answer.