Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
Thesis: Great faith begins with great humility.
Introduction: Last week, as we launched out into our study of Luke's record of the healing of the centurion's slave, we considered three main elements of his introduction to the record. First, we are to carry into this study the fact that Jesus had publicly thrown down the gauntlet of His perception of the Kingdom of God and what is required of its "disciples" along with His declaration of what would happen to those who embraced that perception and what would happen to those who rejected it. Second, we are to carry into this study the fact that, for Luke and Jesus, "embracing" the perspectives of the Word of God are rooted in the specific details of God's revelation. The issues of revelation and life are too complex to survive a "generalized" belief that has no "specific" roots. And, third, we are to carry into this study what Luke has already told us about "Capernaum".
So, this morning, as we move further into Luke's record of the centurion's faith, we are going to carry these three things with us and look into his words about the centurion's approach to his plight.
The large "point" of this paragraph is that the centurion demonstrated the kind of "faith" that Jesus was looking for in Israel and it is that kind of "faith" that is required of those who would seriously embrace the Kingdom of God as Jesus laid it out. One of the lesser "points" is the one before us this morning in the part of the record that deals with the centurion's plight and his response to it. The relationship between this lesser point and the larger idea seems to be this: how one views his plight, and what he does to address it, is the foundation of what his "faith" will ultimately be like. So, with this in mind, let's get into the study.
June 29, 2008
- I. The Plight of the Centurion.
- A. He had a slave who was dying.
- 1. The slave was "having badly".
- a. This is a figure of speech that, in this case, addresses the situation in which a person's body has been aggressively attacked by something in its environment and the body is having serious trouble defending itself.
- b. This figure of speech brings the situation into focus: life is full of conflict at every level, the physical being the most obvious.
- 2. The slave was about to be "at the end of his purpose".
- a. This is another figure of speech that reveals how those who used it viewed death: it was the event that signaled the end of a person's "purpose" in life.
- b. This figure blends the "war" motif of "having badly" with the fact that people are on this planet for a reason so that the view of "life" is one of purposes for which one must fight.
- 3. This slave was losing the fight and his purpose for being was about to come to its end [this is a particularly adept way of describing the situation in the household of a professional soldier].
- B. He was not "ready" to see this soldier "go down".
- 1. Centurion's, by definition, were leaders of one hundred soldiers whose task was to train their charges for battle and enforce the training when the battle rages.
- 2. Sometimes centurions were faced, in battle, with the "problem" of a soldier who did not accept his training and drew back from the fight.
- 3. It was the centurion's job to maintain the discipline in the fight by use of summary execution.
- 4. Centurions wasted few tears on those they executed; but they hated to see the stout-hearted go down.
- 5. In this centurion's household, this particular slave had gained his master's "honor" [see Philippians 2:29 for a context about "honor" in this sense] to the point that this centurion was ready to do whatever he could to keep the end from coming (in other words, the centurion was ready to "fight" to help the slave in his "fight").
- II. The Centurion's Approach to the Battle.
- A. Having heard of "this Jesus", he commissioned the highest ranking officials of the Jews of Capernaum to go to Him.
- 1. The issue of his "hearing": this Jesus had already established His identity in Capernaum as a "Big Winner" in the conflict over diseased bodies (4:40-41).
- a. This is a crucial point: the centurion was not operating in a blind setting with a nebulous "faith" concept.
- b. The centurion's "faith" in Jesus' ability was established by historical facts that could not be denied by anyone in Capernaum.
- 2. This issue of commissioning the highest ranking officials of the Jews of Capernaum to go to Jesus was rooted in the problem of ambiguity.
- a. There was no doubt about Jesus' ability.
- b. The doubts were raised in the area of Jesus' willingness [Note Mark 1:40].
- 1) The centurion was not a Jew.
- 2) He was a part of Rome's subjection of Israel.
- 3) Jesus was a Jew and His views on politics were assumed to be decidedly contrary to those of Rome.
- 4) There is no indication that the centurion had heard Jesus' description of how the Kingdom heir was to treat his/her "enemies".
- c. The solution was to send an appeal by the hands of those who were assumed to have the most "leverage" (the centurion was in a battle seeking "rescue").
- 1) He did not know it, but these emissaries were the least likely to have a "good" effect upon "this Jesus".
- a) Who, for example, was responsible for the sorry state of "theology" in Capernaum so that the people were shocked by Truth (4:36)?
- b) Who, for another example, was responsible for the fundamentally flawed response to Jesus in Capernaum (10:15)?
- 2) Being ignorant, he acted according to typical military protocol (when being overwhelmed, seek reinforcements by going to the "top").
- B. The commission included this instruction: "ask" Him to come to the "rescue".
- 1. The word used in reference to his appeal generally means "to ask", but its context often moves it into the sense of desperation.
- 2. The action is contrary to Roman military protocol.
- a. A centurion does not typically "ask" the vanquished; he demands.
- b. Roman military protocol brings the arrogance of the victor to the table.
- III. The Distinctiveness of the Centurion.
- A. The "elders of the Jews" did not "ask"; they "summoned".
- B. The "elders of the Jews" gave indication that they would not take "no" for an answer.
- C. The "elders of the Jews" unwittingly used the worst possible "argument" to attempt to keep Jesus from "offending" the centurion by a denial of his request.
- D. The "centurion" did not share the attitude of the "elders", nor did he live in their kind of "faith" (unbelief).
- IV. Luke's "Point": "Great Faith" Begins With Great Humility.
- A. Humility is the simple recognition that one does not have any "worthiness" (contrary to the "elders'" point of view).
- B. Humility, nonetheless, "asks".