Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Ordinary 2

"Serving God and Country"

Luke 7:2-10

May 29, 2016

This is Memorial Day weekend. Tomorrow is our national day of remembrance for those who gave their lives for the protection of the freedoms we enjoy. For most of us, there is no conflict between being a Christian and serving in the armed forces. Yet, for the first Christians living under Roman rule, this was a question. Could a Christian also be a soldier? Most of the early Christians were either Jews or non-Roman Gentiles. Rome was both feared and hated. The Roman army was often brutal and ruthless in carrying out Roman law. How could a Christian be part of such an organization?

As the numbers of Christians grew, many soldiers also converted. When Constantine became a Christian and made Christianity a legitimate religion, more and more military members joined the church. Over the course of time, the answer became more and more strongly: yes, it is possible to be a Christian and a soldier. Some would point to the Gospel reading for this morning as evidence that Jesus did not reject those who served even in the Roman army.

Luke 7:2-10. And a centurion's slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue."

Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

This is one of two times in the Gospels where our Lord speaks of great faith. In both cases it was speaking of Gentiles. What was it that seemed so remarkable about the faith of the Centurion to our Lord?

Here we look at the man. Although he is a Roman, he is also what the Jews called a "God-fearer." This was a person who worshiped God but did not fully convert to Judaism by submitting to circumcism. Unlike many Romans and particularly Roman soldiers, the Centurion did not hate Jews. His faith and kindness were rewarded by the elders of the Jews who pleaded with Jesus to help him out.

Normally, Jewish elders would have nothing to do with a Roman, especially a Roman soldier. Yet, in making their case to Jesus they pointed out to Him that the Centurion had made a sizable donation to the synagogue building project. Certainly back then, as now, money talks. However, nothing in the narrative indicates this was a factor in our Lord's willingness to help. The nature of our Lord is to show mercy. This mercy would also include Gentiles along with Jews.

We get a better glimpse into the Centurion's faith with the arrival of the second delegation.

He tells Jesus not to bother to come all the way to His house. "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. Note that not once but twice the Centurion refers to himself as unworthy.

This is remarkable when you think about it. Here is an example of real humility. Think of the politicians and people who think of themselves as being in authority today. How many of them would honestly call themselves unworthy? On, maybe a couple of them might give lip service to the notion of being unworthy but for the most part, they would bristle at the idea that they should humble themselves before the Lord.

The Centurion is not exhibiting a false piety. Humility is a virtue that today we have turned into a negative. True humility flows out of strength of character. No matter how rich or famous or powerful you are humility allows you to put the needs of others above your own.

In this case, the Centurion was putting the welfare of his slave above his own ego. This soldier recognized in Jesus a high authority. Although He looked like a poor, itinerate rabbi,

The Centurion calls Him "Lord." Not even the Jewish elders did that.

Because he recognizes the authority of Jesus, the Centurion can honestly say, "Just say the word and my servant will be made well." He further explains himself by referring to that same authority. As a commanding officer, he knows his orders will be followed without question. Tell one to go and he goes. Command another to come and he comes. When his men are ordered to do something, they do it. This guy knows his position and authority and does not in any way diminish his responsibilities as a commander.

He applies this reasoning to the authority of Jesus. He understands that most rabbis would never set foot in the house of a Gentile. This would make them ritually unclean. Rather than putting Jesus in this compromising situation, the Centurion simply tells him to say the word. That will more than suffice.

At this Jesus marvels. Here is one of two times that our Lord remarks on the great faith of an individual. The other is also a Gentile, the Canaanite woman who begged him to heal her demon possessed daughter. It is interesting that in the narrative Jesus never does just say the word. If anything, he tells the delegation to return to the Centurion's home. When they arrive, they find the servant fully recovered.

Here's another case of healing that is not based in the faith of the one healed. As in the case of the Canaanite woman, the faith is based in the petitioner not in the one who in the end is healed. Both the Centurion and the Canaanite woman recognized and yielded themselves to the power and authority of Jesus.

Humility, especially in our culture, is a difficult lesson to learn. Human nature is selfish and wants to have its own way, all the time. It is only by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit that we learn the blessings of humility. It is then that we can serve others in Christ's name. It is our responsibility to protect and defend one another from any kind of tyranny, bullying and evil intimidation. Like the faithful Centurion, God gives us faith to humble ourselves to Him and trust He will come to our aid. Amen.


September
09/24/2017
09/17/2017
09/10/2017
09/03/2017
August
08/27/2017
08/20/2017
08/13/2017
08/06/2017
July
07/30/2017
07/23/2017
07/16/2017
07/09/2017
June
06/25/2017
06/18/2017
06/11/2017
06/04/2017
May
05/21/2017
05/14/2017
05/07/2017
April
04/23/2017
04/16/2017
04/09/2017
04/02/2017
March
03/26/2017
03/19/2017
03/12/2017
03/05/2017
February
02/26/2017
02/05/2017
January
01/29/2017
01/22/2017
01/15/2017
01/08/2017
01/01/2017

December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
12/11/2016
12/04/2016
November
11/27/2016
11/20/2016
11/13/2016
11/06/2016
October
10/30/2016
10/23/2016
10/16/2016
10/09/2016
10/02/2016
September
09/25/2016
09/18/2016
09/11/2016
09/04/2016
August
08/28/2016
08/21/2016
July
07/31/2016
07/24/2016
07/17/2016
07/03/2016
June
06/26/2016
06/19/2016
06/05/2016
May
05/29/2016
05/22/2016
05/15/2016
05/08/2016
05/01/2016
April
04/17/2016
04/10/2016
04/03/2016
March
03/27/2016
03/20/2016
03/13/2016
03/06/2016
February
02/28/2016
02/21/2016
02/17/2016
02/14/2016
02/07/2016
January
01/31/2016
01/24/2016
01/03/2016
01/01/2016

December
12/27/2015
12/20/2015
12/13/2015
12/06/2015
November
11/22/2015
11/15/2015
11/08/2015
11/01/2015
October
10/25/2015
10/18/2015
10/11/2015
10/04/2015
September
09/27/2015
09/20/2015
09/13/2015
09/06/2015
August
08/30/2015
08/23/2015
08/16/2015
08/09/2015
08/02/2015
July
07/26/2015
07/19/2015
07/12/2015
07/05/2015
June
06/28/2015
06/21/2015
06/14/2015
06/07/2015
May
05/31/2015
05/24/2015
05/17/2015
05/10/2015
April
04/19/2015
04/12/2015
04/12/2015
04/05/2015
March
03/29/2015
03/22/2015
03/15/2015
03/08/2015
February
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/08/2015
02/01/2015
January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
01/18/2015
01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
12/14/2014
12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
06/22/2014
06/15/2014
06/08/2014
06/01/2014
May
05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014