Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that in Christ Jesus we are new creatures. Praise God that we can, therefore, own a new nature that, if we invest in it, will mean that we gain a good reputation with others to the glory of Christ. (Colossians 3:12-17, Ephesians 4:17-32).
Confess the sin of not always having an eye to the glory of God when speaking and acting. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to increasingly do so.
Let's read Luke 7:1-5. A good reputation!
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
Well, we are moving this morning out of what was principally the Sermon on the Mount, back into town, that is Capernaum, where Jesus lived.
V2. The Centurion.
We are introduced to a centurion, but we are not given his name. Who he is and what unfolds here is fascinating. Centurions were Roman soldiers of ability and character who had command of a hundred men. The historian Polybius writes of them, that they were men who were not "seekers of danger" but who "can command, steady in action and reliable; they ought not to be over anxious to rush into the fight; but when hard pressed they must be ready to hold their ground and die at their post." So, we are talking here about a well-balanced, mature, serious, competent man. Someone who had the capacity and ability to analyze a situation, discern the priorities, and then communicate with, and manage, a body of men to get important things done. This guy was not your average individual. It's worth noting that the New Testament always speaks well of centurions. The six other references to them in the New Testament, i.e., beyond this one and the parallel passage in Matthew 8:5-13, speak highly of their character. (Luke 23:37, Acts 10:22; 22:26 ;23:17,23; 24:23; 27:1,43 – note that they are all from Luke’s writings.) What nationality is he? We are not told, but probably he was a Roman seconded to serve with Herod Antipas's forces. He may have had Roman soldiers under his command, but in peacetime Capernaum wouldn't have had any Roman soldiers stationed there, hence the reason for the possible secondment idea. What do we know of him as a person? Well, by deduction, is he is a gentile, a god-fearing man, possibly a proselyte of the Jewish faith and a wealthy one at that, given the fact that he had paid for the building of the Capernaum synagogue.
V2. The Servant.
Why do the 'paths' of Jesus and this Centurion cross? Regarding the servant, Luke tells us that he is highly valued. From what transpires, it is obvious that the Centurion, in addition to everything else, is an exceptionally caring person. However, it is also reasonable to assume that this servant was also a gifted man. Men of genuine ability tend to gather other men of ability around them because they understand that work is not a competition, but a collaboration. It's not about proving my ability but achieving what we can together. So, this servant, although living at a different tier of the social stratum, was a competent and essential member of this Centurion's 'work-life' family, not someone who would be easily missed if no longer around.
V2. The Sickness.
Matthew tells us that an illness had paralyzed the man and that he was in immense suffering. Luke interestingly doesn't mention the actual disease but cuts to the point; the man is dying. Debate over the nature of the illness is pointless; it's time to act, and now. And that is what the Centurion does. He acts. Sometimes in life, we just need to stop talking and act.
It is intriguing the route the Centurion takes to get Jesus involved. I said earlier that their 'paths' crossed, but as we will see, they didn't actually meet on this occasion. That doesn't mean that the Centurion had never heard or met Jesus. John Calvin makes the point that he must have come to faith in Christ at some point before this, for him to have sought Jesus out – "So before Christ healed his servant, he himself had been healed by the Lord." (Harmony of the Gospels Vol 1 p. 247). So, the Centurion knew of Jesus, but he does something which speaks enormously to his humility. He sends a delegation to Jesus, not because he sees himself as being superior, but because he views himself as unworthy of being in Jesus' company. This is worth pausing to think about. Here is a man who, because of his profession and rank, could have held a strong sense of his personal dignity and worth. Such men were given to discharging orders and expecting people to respond without questioning. That was the principal part of their job. Jesus may have been a Rabbi with twelve disciples, but he was a centurion with one hundred men under his direct command. It is a measure of this man's honest humility that this encounter develops as it does.
Again, men of real character do not need to parade their ability and status; they just make wise decisions and behave correctly. Please be thankful to God that our congregation is endowed with men like this.
V3-5. The intermediaries.
Who are these men who go on behalf of the Centurion? They are Jews, but not any Jews; they are the elders from the local synagogue. Now think about that; here is a Roman centurion, a gentile, possibly a Jewish proselyte, a man who may have come to faith in Christ and these Jewish Elders are not only willing to go and speak with Jesus on his behalf, but to plead earnestly as they do so. That's remarkable. What a reputation this man must have gained with these men. Luke tells us why this is the case. First, he loved them, i.e., the Jews, as a nation, and second, he had invested in the building of the town synagogue. So, there is more to this than just the town dignitaries doing a good turn for a man who had helped them in the past. These Jewish Elders cared for this man. They loved him. It's evident from the level of engagement and the nature of the interaction they had with Jesus. Their words to Jesus say it all; having presented the specific request they add, "He is worthy to have you do this for him." That's a high commendation.
By the way, Matthew doesn't mention these intermediaries, which some take to be a discrepancy. Still, we have seen before that such differences in human perspective do not cast doubt, but rather affirm the authenticity of what took place.
Godly men and godly women develop good reputations with others. It is just a fact, and while not all will speak well of you, because inevitably some will not like your honesty and integrity, the reality is that even the most belligerent will know the truth of who you are. I would encourage you to work hard to keep a good reputation; it is hard-gained and can be easily lost. So, guard your heart and be mindful of the steps you take. For sin will not only steal your good name; it will also impact the household of Christ and, most significantly, speak negatively of his glorious honour.
Tomorrow we will see how Jesus responds.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 27D. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
'Hiding' the Word of God in your heart will bless you in ways you will never expect.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 44 - What does the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?
Answer - The preface to the Ten Commandments teaches us that because God is the LORD and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you find proof texts.
Thank God that we can live our lives, by his grace, that will speak well to others. Pray that we would be diligent to guard our hearts in these days when we are more vulnerable because of the situation.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley