New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant
7 After Jesushad finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say 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 only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
For many of us Christians, we find ourselves measuring our faith against others. I know a woman who positively glows – she has an outwardly obvious faith and we have discussed many a serious theological issue together, proving to me that my impression of her faith is an accurate one. And when I look in the mirror, I am a bit envious of the ease with which she seems to navigate the challenges of life through the lens of her faith. Instinctively, I want to be more like that person and be able to live out my life so to represent that level of faith. Somehow, it makes me seem more “worthy” in my relationship with Christ.
Silly me…and maybe even silly you if you’ve ever had a similar experience! First of all, this isn’t a contest. The one with the most faith or who is the most worthy wins no additional grace from God. Secondly, we don’t have to be worthy in any way – our Lord loves us for us, without condition and without compromise. What a beautiful gift – God’s grace and mercy.
In Luke’s Gospel reading for today, Jesus illustrates this in a powerful story. A Roman military leader calls for Jesus to come heal his slave. This is an interesting twist on Jesus’ healing ministry, as this Centurion is not a believer of Jesus as savior. He just believes in his power to heal. In the face of it, that seems to defy any logic applied – who does he think he is demanding Jesus come and heal when the soldier doesn’t even believe or understand Jesus in relationship to God? It just wasn’t necessary to be “worthy” in this story; all that was needed was faith. Jesus didn’t even have to get close to the slave to heal him – he shared with his followers that the faith of this man was the most faith he had seen. The faith of the soldier must have been an unusual occurrence, even as it compared to the Jews who were gifted with Jesus’ presence for him to make such a statement as he does about all he has met in Israel.
Don’t be confused by this…this isn’t a story about someone deserving to be healed. Rather this is a tale of believing in Jesus for no other reason than that he makes the impossible seem possible. Those of us with faithful hearts can use a lesson or two from this Centurion. For me, my faith is foundational to who I am as a person. Yet still, I struggle with life’s challenges and have been known to question a thing or two that I thought God might have missed! And I reflect on my sinful self and can find myself believing that I’m not worthy of any blessing or gift too. But Jesus’ interaction with the Centurion and his request is a reminder to keep the faith. Focus less on our worthiness and more on our belief that in God we are well blessed. We can expect him to heal the parts of us in need and lead us down the path of following his will. It just takes the faith of one who BELIEVES in him.
Lord of healing and strength, we thank you for your grace and mercy that we do not do anything to deserve. Help us to believe in your power and will for us and to count on you with unwavering faith. We can do all things through you, Jesus Christ. Your grace is enough. AMEN.