In Luke 7, we read this interesting story:
7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. 2 At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, 5 “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.
This is an odd but refreshing text, let me explain. The person of great faith is a Roman officer, a Centurion, who is a symbol of an occupying enemy of Israel. Yet, the officer has proven himself to be both respectful and friendly to Israel. First, he built them a synagogue. Second, he knew enough to talk to respected Jewish elders and have them address Jesus on his behalf. Third, the officer understood the ramifications of a Jewish teacher entering the home of a Gentile, and so the officer asks Jesus not to enter his house because he realizes the “honor” it would be and concludes that he is unworthy of it. Of course, in this story the officer shows great respect for Jesus and even respect for Jesus’ power to heal from a distance as much as from physically being present.
When you read the text, did you notice how surprised Jesus was? Jesus is described as “amazed” and turns to tell the crowd how much the faith of the Roman officer had impacted him. Just to be clear, the story starts off with a brief description of the problem for a foreign occupying nation’s officer. His slave is sick to the point of death, but why should Jesus care? Well, this enemy has shown great respect to the Jewish people, and is known and respected by the elders. Yet, here is a man that has no feelings of entitlement to Jesus, and he actually teaches us how to trust Jesus.
Does Jesus owe you something? Are you part of the special group to which Jesus should cater? If I am honest with myself, I sometimes feel that my work and dedication to Jesus is not a debt I owe God, but builds a debt that God owes me. However, the Roman officer didn’t know of such mind games, but knew there was a slim chance that this Jewish healer would even look his way. And when Jesus not only looked his way, but healed his slave and took notice of his faith; We gain some insight into what Jesus means when he asks us to, “Love our enemies.” (Luke 6:27) And you might be thinking that this was easier to do because the enemy officer was so respectful and kind, but the other side of that thought is that this would be harder to do because we cannot stereotype and hate a person who breaks the conventional image of an enemy!
Lord, help us love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, especially since you have been there and done that!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.