Text: Luke 7:1-10
6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.
The Medal of Honor was created in 1861, and it is awarded by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress at a ceremony attended by senior military personnel, members of Congress and other leaders.
It is, the highest honor for military valor and is awarded for “Gallantry in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during combat against an enemy.
On Sept. 29, 2006 in an extraordinary act of courage, Michael Anthony Monsoor 25, petty officer of the U.S. Navy's Special Operations Command, shielded three of his U.S colleagues and three other Iraqi soldiers from the imminent blast by throwing himself onto the grenade. The resultant blast killed him.
President Bush praised Monsoor for his valor and selfless service to the nation at the ceremony. "Michael had two options," said the president, "save his life or those who were with him, but he chose to lay down his life for them."
On this Memorial Day weekend we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice laying down their life for their fellow man and for the freedom we so cherish and enjoy. We also think of Jesus who also laid down his life for the many so that by faith in him we too may know and trust all that Jesus came to do on our behalf.
So, who is Jesus? What is the truth? Do you believe? These and many other questions have been asked over the centuries. Last week we looked into the mystery of the Trinity, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit; the oneness of unity and the uniqueness of persons.
Today, in our lesson the question goes beyond the apprehending of the mystery of the Godhead to the truth of Jesus and His work.
2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him.
This Roman officer had a servant or a slave that was important to him. He valued his work or where he served and this servant was now near death. Now, the idea of losing a valued worker is nothing new. Smart business people know that it is better and easier to keep good workers than to find and train good replacements.
But in our story today the centurion certainly valued not only his servant but also the Jews and their religion, having built their synagogue and loving their nation.
There is the story of:
"The German Oriental society, which was carrying on excavations in Egypt (in the late 1800s in), Babylonia, and Assyria, undertook the investigation of the remains of ancient synagogues in Galilee. Among these they excavated the ruins of the synagogue at Tell Hum on the Sea of Galilee, the probable site of Capernaum. Here they found the remains of a once beautiful synagogue which was probably built in the fourth century A. D. But, beneath this synagogue is the floor of a still older building. The last is probably the synagogue in which so many of the incidents of the ministry of Christ in Capernaum took place … even the one built by a Roman centurion."
Kretzmann NT vol. 1 pg.300
Now, this Roman officer had the elders of the Jews come to Jesus on his behalf to plead with Christ to come and heal this servant. The Jewish leaders feel that this centurion is worthy to have Christ come to him and they plede with Jesus … but look at the centurion’s own view of himself.
When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. Luke 7:6b-7
He knows that he is unworthy but by faith he also knows that Jesus can provide what he needs.
Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you feel lost at times? Do you even sometimes feel useless?
When Irving S. Olds was chairman of the U.S. Steel Corporation, he arrived for a stockholders' meeting and was confronted by a woman who asked, "Exactly who are you and what do you do?" Without batting an eye, Olds replied, "I am your chairman. Of course, you know the duties of a chairman--that's someone who is roughly the equivalent of parsley on a platter of fish."
Bits and Pieces, June 27, 1991, p.7.
The bigger problem is: Do you feel worthy? Do you feel in tune with the world? Do you feel useful or maybe at times very important? This is a problem that is faced by everyone at one time or another. Do you take yourself too seriously? Do you think higher of yourself than you should? Do you think that if you don’t do it, no one else will and it won’t get done?
Sin causes us to overestimate our own worth and to diminish the worth of others. In the lesson today, this Roman officer knows that he is a man under authority and also has those who are under his own authority.
This man recognizes the authority of Jesus Christ but more importantly he has faith to trust that this word of God - Jesus Christ - can heal his servant.
Do you fall short? Do you see your sin always before you? Do you do as Paul says in Romans 6:16-18:
16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Servant or slave …? Either, you are a servant to sin and corruption and the working of the devil or you are a servant to the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit in you?
The tension is there for all as we wrestle as both saint and sinner in this life and we all at times fallback into the sin nature that we all possess from birth, doing that which we don’t want to do, instead of that which we want to do. But the law of God which is written on our hearts is there to point us, as a mirror does to our sin, causing us to be burdened by guilt and by the Spirit’s work in us bringing us to repentance.
Through the Spirit’s work you once again see a savior who can meet your every need whether in sickness or health, rich or poor and as Paul reminds the Philippians:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always … 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The centurion knew and trusted that through the word of the Lord his servant would be healed. True faith, not wavering and by God’s word he was healed. He saw in Christ the same one who as Saint John beheld in the vision on the Isle of Patmos in the book of Revelation:
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev. 1:17-18)
Death could not have conquest over the centurion’s servant because, in Christ - by faith - spiritual death is conquered and new life is given through the working of the Holy Spirit.
“Lord, do not trouble yourself … But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” Luke 7:6b-7
9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
As we recognize today all of those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy we honor their memory but you and I too need to recognize Jesus for who He is; the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the one who has taken away the sins of the world and in Him you have life eternal in Him. The good news is that through the working of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and through the means of grace, of word and sacrament, you are continually built up in Christ being made holy in Him.
The truth we are given in Christ is not fiction, it is not a story. It is the true and blessed working of our Lord to redeem the lost. You have been forgiven and are him. Rejoice in the works of God!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.