Sermon: A Most Unexpected Disciple (Luke 7:1-10)

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A Most Unexpected Disciple

Today’s passage is about a Roman soldier who had heard about Jesus’ power to heal.  This Roman soldier was called a Centurion because he was in charge of 100 men.  He was also what was known in the technical sense a God-Fearer.  He was a Gentile worshipper.  This man was well loved by all who knew him even his enemies, the Israelites.

The Centurion Commander is Luke’s illustration of what Jesus had just finish teaching His disciples.  The Centurion is the one who did good deeds toward his enemies; he gave to his enemies as he built from his own funds the synagogue in Capernaum.  He behaved correctly whether or not this love was ever returned to him.  This man not only heard the Word of God but was Luke’s example of a man who built his house on the rock solid foundation of that Word…he sends for the Master.  He hears of Jesus and acts.  He is a doer and not a hearer only.  This Centurion is the example of one who loves supernaturally.  As Jesus told us to love without expecting anything in return, we see in this account one who loves his slave.  He loves someone who most would despise and mistreat.  He loves his servant.  He also loved the Nation of Israel.  Normally Roman Leaders hated their slaves and mistreated them.  They hated their enemies.  Here, this man loves those who are his enemies.

This Centurion is the theological connection between Jesus’ sermon to His disciples found in Luke 6.  Jesus preaches what a disciple is to be and do and then Luke records for us a wonderful example of Jesus’ teaching incarnate.  We see in Luke 6 the theory of discipleship and in Luke 7 a living example of discipleship. Truly, this Centurion is a most unexpected disciple.

This text teaches us about the power of Christ and the unworthiness of man.  It shows us that Jesus is amazed when great faith is exercised.  We also see that love transcends social ranks and Christian love especially is greater than any status or ranking we may see established in today’s society. 

Hear God’s Word to Today…

Luke 7:1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 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. 8 For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 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.

1. A Highly Valued Servant (Luke 7:1, 2)
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him.
Our text opens with the facts that there was a Centurion who had a highly valued servant who was at the point of death.
As we consider this text we should ask the question, what made this servant precious to his master?  What made the Centurion love and care for this slave as much as he did?
No doubt, the servant was trustworthy and hard working.  He was one that the Centurion could count on to carry out his desires.  He could probably leave his wife and family to go and fight in battle for Rome, knowing that his loved ones would be cared for and protected in his absence.  This servant and the Centurion were no doubt true friends.
The value of the servant did not depend on his status as an equal in society.  He was highly precious to his master even within the social hierarchy.
Luke tells us that this servant was just about to die.  The death watch had started.  Loved ones had gathered around his bedside as his breath was becoming more and more shallow.  Folks were weeping as I’m sure others loved him as well.  When would he pass?  When would he breathe his last breath?
Let’s leave the sick room for a moment and go out to the road where elders of the Jews were dispatched by the Centurion to bring help.
2. A Highly Valued Centurion
When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”
Centurions in the New Testament are spoken well of, even though they were leaders of the Roman Army.
*The Centurion at the cross- Matthew 27:54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
*The Centurion tells the truth about the body of Jesus- Mark 15:44-45 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.
*
The God-Fearing Centurion- Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
The centurion in the text today was doing the right thing by caring for his sick servant.
What is truly amazing in this passage is that when Jesus wanted a living breathing disciple to show others, He couldn’t turn to His own, He couldn’t turn to Israel for His example, He turned to a Gentile as the example of the sermon He just preached.
This particular Roman Centurion was loved by his Jewish counterparts.  He practiced out of love for God good deeds to the Jewish population.  The text tells us that He was well thought of in Capernaum because of how he loved their nation and had personally financed the building of the synagogue.  He was kind, loving, and generous.  All the traits Jesus commands a disciple to have, this man exhibited.
This synagogue is becoming famous in Luke’s Gospel…

Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Demon

Luke 4:31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
The problem however surfaced as we read the reason given for Jesus to go and heal the Centurion’s servant.  The Jews told Jesus that this man was worthy because he loved the Nation of Israel and built them their synagogue.
My question this morning is this…Do good deeds make someone worthy in the sight of God?  The Jews loved this man for one reason…what they could get from him.  They thought well of him because he was good to them.  They also believed God thought well of him because of how he treated them.  They were viewing things through works righteousness.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Over the years, the idea that God would be pleased if one did certain things deemed good or worthy.  Judaism became a works oriented religion.  This religion did not earn favor with God.  Jew and Gentile together stand guilty before God and good works is an oxymoron for those trying to work in order to be justified.  Judaism is a religion that gives folks something to do while they’re on their way to hell.  Only Jesus Christ saves lost sinners.  No amount of good deeds will get anyone one inch closer to heaven.
He is worthy to have you do this for him
What was Jesus’ motive for going to the aid of the Centurion’s servant?  It wasn’t because the Centurion was so good to the Jewish community.  Jesus was on a mission to seek and save the lost.  He came for the lost sheep.
3. A Highly Valued Savior (7:6-8)
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. 8 For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Jesus Christ was highly valued and highly worthy in the Centurion’s heart.  First, he calls Him, Lord.  Jesus had just preached the sermon where He asked the question, Why do you call Me Lord and do not do what I say?  This man understood the value of Christ.  He understood that Jesus was in supreme authority.
The Centurion was under the authority of Herod.  Herod was a steward of Rome’s interests.  As long as Herod played Rome’s game he was allowed to stay in power.  This Centurion understood that Jesus was Lord.  When Jesus commanded demons, sickness, blindness, paralysis, muteness, and all other diseases to go, they left immediately.  When Jesus spoke the universe was at His command.
The soldier’s view of Christ was very high.  Someone told him about Jesus and told him a lot about Jesus.  His worship and adoration of Christ was very strong.  He understood better than most who Jesus Christ really is.
The Centurion’s logic goes like this:  Jesus is in command of the universe; I am in command of soldiers.  When I tell a solder to advance, he advances.  I don’t have to be right there with him, he will follow my orders regardless of my location.  When I tell a soldier to fall back, he falls back.  When I tell my servants to do this or that they do it because I am in authority over them.  Because Jesus is in authority over the universe, He can command it whatever He wills and creation obeys.  He can say the word, give a command and creation listens and obeys.  The conclusion is, since He carries this kind of authority, He can command the sickness to leave my servant and it will leave.  He doesn’t have to do it Himself, by giving the command it will happen.
Do you see the faith of this Roman soldier?  Where did this type of faith come from?  Why didn’t Israel possess this type of faith?
4. Highly Valued Faith (Luke 7:9, 10)
 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.
The Centurion had heard about Jesus.  He heard about how He healed.  He heard some of the reports about how He healed everyone brought to Him.  The servant was too sick to be brought to Jesus, so Jesus was asked to make a house call.
Where did this man get this kind of faith?  It came from Jesus.  He looked to Jesus for help.  He looked to Jesus to help when there was no other hope.
Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, He heard of Jesus’ power to heal and how He commanded the evil spirits to leave their host and they immediately left and a spark of faith began in his heart.  Then he acted.  Because in Christ faith begins and in Christ our faith is perfected or increased, this man began to think so highly of Christ, he was much like Isaiah in the temple when he saw Jesus.  Isaiah said woe is me, I am an unclean man.  This was the Centurion’s thoughts as his faith was being perfected in Christ.
There were two huge glaring proofs that this Centurion possessed saving faith:
First, He realized his unworthiness.  He was not agreeing with those who told Jesus how worthy this man was because of all the good deeds he had done.  We can look worthy at times when we compare ourselves to others.  When I compare myself to men, there are times when I may view myself as being worthy.  He wasn’t comparing himself to men, he was looking to Christ.  He saw and understood that he was unworthy, unworthy to speak to Jesus and unworthy to have the Messiah enter his home.
Second, He understood the Lordship of Christ.  He believed that Jesus could do anything He wanted.  He believed that He had control of creation.  Lord, I am not worthy to have You enter my home.
Jesus was amazed because of this man’s faith.  To our Lord, faith is highly valued.  It is what is missing when we commit sin.  It’s what’s missing when we act in various stupid ways.  Faith is missing when we try to take matters into our own hands, when we cower in fear, when we go our own way.
We learn in this text that faith pleases Christ…And without faith it is impossible to please God
Our friend the Centurion had faith as he witnessed perhaps the miracles of Christ or heard reports of His healing power.  His faith was increased as he acted upon what Jesus had already given him.  He saw Jesus as the Perfector of his faith.
What about us?
We’ve never seen Jesus actually perform a healing where the man was paralyzed and at the word of Christ, stood up and took his mat and went home.  How is our faith secured and perfected.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Faith begins from taking in the Word of God.  Faith comes or begins by hearing the Word of Christ.
Are you advancing your faith by taking in God’s Word through Preaching, Bible Reading etc?
2 Timothy 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
How is faith started?  The Holy Spirit takes the Words of Christ either spoken words or written words and applies them to our heart and faith begins.  As we continue in the Word through preaching, teaching, and reading, our faith grows.
Is your faith growing?  Are you placing yourself in the environment to grow?
This Roman Gentile heard words about Christ and the spark of faith began in his heart.  He acted upon what he believed.  He called Jesus Lord and did what He said to do.  If you want to see what a true disciple look to the faith of this no-name Centurion.

Humility and Repentance- I’m not worthy
Generosity- He gave to others
Love for Truth- Built the synagogue
Obeying the Lord- Acted on His Word
Love for Enemies- Love slave, Israelites

It’s in this Roman Centurion that we witness a most unexpected disciple

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