Notes on Sermon preached at PCF on 16 January 2011 “Jesus is Amazed” (Luke 7 v 1-10)
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Having finished the “Sermon on the Plain” we return to the narrative of what Jesus did during the early days of the Galilean Ministry. He is back in what had become the base of his operations, Capernaum, and we are about to look at an event which had Jesus amazed.
Jesus amazed? Is this really possible? If Jesus is God, how could anything amaze Him? We need to remember that Jesus also operated as a man, and that He was capable of all the emotions that God has built into humanity – including amazement. What was it that amazed Jesus? It was the faith of the Roman centurion. This is our main consideration today. What is it about the faith of the Roman centurion that amazed Jesus? How can we emulate that faith? And how can we see the same results?
Let’s go step by step through the passage and see what we can learn from it.
1. An Amazing Man
A less likely hero of faith you could not imagine. As a centurion, this man was in charge of one hundred soldiers, responsible for discipline in a ruthless, despotic regime noted for its cruelty and barbarism. And yet, here we have a situation where he has identified with the religion of the land he has occupied, he has shown that he loves the nation of Israel, and he has contributed financially to the building of the local place of worship, the synagogue. So much so, in fact, that elders of the Jews are not only happy to be carriers of the plea for help, but earnestly ask Jesus to help. We learn too, that he has a servant about whom he cares deeply. So often the servant in a soldier’s household would be treated as property, discarded or even executed at the whim of the owner – but not here.
Such conduct would surely have risked his own position within the Roman world. This is clearly some man! Let’s not write someone off simply because they are identified with a regime that trades in cruelty. Jesus didn’t. And, to their credit, the Jewish elders didn’t.
2. An Amazing Response
The short phrase from verse 6 “So Jesus went with them” speaks volumes. We know that it is not possible for someone to deserve that Jesus blesses them. Yet it appears that the pleas of the Jewish elders persuaded Jesus that, yes, he should help here. Our good deeds, paltry thought they may be, can make an impact on the Lord’s decision to give or withhold His intervention.
But even more amazing is the fact that Jesus starts to go to this man’s home. It was against every Jewish convention and rule to associate with Gentiles. Add to that the fact that we are talking about an officer of the despised Romans, and the situation becomes unthinkable.
What does this show? It shows that there is absolutely no one that is outside the care, the reach and the concern of Jesus. If Jesus was willing to intervene in the life of this Roman, then He is willing to intervene in your life and the life of those you love.
3. An Amazing Faith
This is the key point in this story. The faith of this man that astounds Jesus. What is about the faith of the centurion that is so remarkable?
- He Understood who Jesus was. Remarkably, probably without understanding the full picture, the Roman seems to have had a grasp of the reality of who Jesus was – maybe as Nicodemus had when he said “We know you are a man who has come from God”. Our faith starts with an understanding of who Jesus is – no more and no less than God in the flesh. Therefore anything is possible.
- He understood the need to take things to Jesus. This is such an obvious point, but when we have a need, our first response (not our last resort) needs to be to bring it to Jesus. This is the case when we come with our own need, or on behalf of others. Do we “take it to the Lord in prayer”? We don’t need to send messengers, we don’t need to overcome cultural conventions, and we can simply, on our own, go to Jesus. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
- He understood his own unworthiness. Part of the package of faith is that we understand that there is not one item of self-congratulations to be done. Our acceptance by God, and our ability to respond to his grace comes because our trust in who Jesus is. The centurion understood this when he said “I am not worthy to have you under my roof”. There is no need for false humility. Real humility comes from recognising that we bring nothing to the party – only Jesus.
- He understood authority. Maybe the centurion had seen Jesus in action, maybe he had heard stories of Him. But He understood that this was a man who was able to exercise the authority of Almighty God.
However, not only did he understand the fact that Jesus was able to move in the authority of God – he understood why! Using his own job as a centurion as an example, he know that because he was under the authority of Rome, he had authority over the lives of his men. He could see that because Jesus was under the authority of His Father, He was able to exercise the authority of his Father. What a lesson! Have we learned it? Do you want to see God’s authority released in your life, and in the life of those around you? Well, are you living under the authority of God? And not just under the authority of God, but under his delegated authority, whether in the home, in the workplace in the church or in the world.
Are you and I living under the authority of God – direct and delegated?
5. He understood the authority of Jesus’ word. The Roman understood that when Jesus spoke – it happened. In other words he believed in the kingdom of God. When Jesus speaks, it happens. Do we believe that?
So this was an amazing faith. There is no infallible package that means that we can get God to do what we want. But a common element throughout the gospels, and in fact through both Old and New Testaments is that it is faith causes God to act.
4. An Amazing Outcome
Jesus is amazed and moved by the faith of the centurion, and comments that even amongst the people of God, those steeped in the Scriptures and the ways of God, he had not encountered this type of faith.
God breaking into the lives of those who come to him is not the province only of those who have been in church all their lives! It belongs to anyone who can approach Jesus with faith.
When the messengers return, they find that the servant is fit and well. What a result! Is this kind of outcome possible for us? Emphatically yes. When anyone approaches Jesus in childlike faith and expectation we can see the intervention of God in our circumstances and in the circumstances of those around us. We can’t always anticipate what shape that intervention may take – but we can be sure that God will intervene.
So we return to our initial thought – Jesus is amazed. He is amazed, excited and prompted to act.
We do have to point out another passage where the word “amazed” is applied to Jesus:
In Mark 6 we read:
”He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
What a contrast – a Gentile “unbeliever”, who believed God and saw God work in his life, and Jewish “believers” who amazed Jesus with their lack of faith, and who didn’t see what they could have done.
Who are you most like?