Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 7 Study Notes
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 June 29, 2008 Lincolnton, NC
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and at the point of death.
3 And when he heard concerning Jesus, he sent unto him elders of the Jews, asking him that he would come and save his servant.
4 And they, when they came to Jesus, besought him earnestly, saying, He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him;
5 for he loveth our nation, and himself built us our synagogue.
I. The Circumstance.
A. A Roman centurion.
1. Not Jewish.
2. Like unto Cornelius of Acts 10:1; a man of spiritual sensitivity.
B. A bondslave, who remains unnamed, was "having badly" (a Greek way of describing one who is, in this case, seriously ill).
1. He was on the verge of coming to the end of his purpose (this also is a Greek way of describing one's physical death).
2. As a "bondslave", he apparently did not "rate" having his name recorded, nor was his identity for himself a critical element in our story ... the story is about the centurion who also remains unnamed.
II. The Attitudes.
A. The centurion did not consider himself "worthy" (vs. 6-7) to approach Jesus.
1. The motivation for any kind of approach was his attitude toward his slave.
a. The text says that the slave was "precious" to him (the AV's translation of this descriptive word in 1 Peter 2:4 and 6). Paul used the same term in Philippians 2:29 where he urged the Philippians to "hold" Epaphroditus "in reputation" because he did not regard his own life as of greater value than that of the Philippians. Luke used the word in one other place (14:8) where the issue is whether one was to be held in honor by another so that he is willing to display the "honor" with which he regards him in the view of others.
b. It is clear from the text that the Jews had a similar attitude toward the centurion. A fairly clear case of reaping as one has sown. Showing "honor" results in being shown honor.
2. For the centurion, the appeal to the elders was "protocol" based upon a true grasp of reality.
a. He knew he had no claim of any kind upon the "Jewish" Christ, even though he represented the Roman Empire and its authority over the nation of Israel. He had to have known that he had the authority to "demand" that Jesus serve the need of his slave. But he did not approach the "problem" from that direction: he saw, in some way, his "need" as beyond his own resources. There is a significant difference in "attitude" between those who think their "needs" ought to be met and those who are simply caught between "need" and lack of merit.
b. The centurion was actually meeting John's "repentance" requirements: he did not feel like he "had no need", nor did he succumb to "despair" in the face of what he had heard regarding Jesus.
3. The centurion was operating under the terms of what he had heard of Jesus. This fits into Luke's concept of "faith": deciding to act upon a particular "truth" made manifest by the actions of God.
B. The elders of the Jews had no problem thinking in terms of "worthiness" based upon the "performance" issues of the centurion in respect to how those "elders" had profited from his attitudes and actions.
1. Their "insistent appeal" was rooted in the fact that this centurion had built the synagogue in Capernaum. One has to wonder if these "elders" would have been as willing to go to Jesus for someone of lesser status and generosity.
a. Elders, by every description of the term, are supposed to be men whose wisdom and understanding is sufficient to guide the godly along the paths of grace.
b. That these "elders" make such an argument indicates that they are not of the spirit of "biblical eldership".
c. That the "centurion" had a better grasp of "faith" than did these "elders" of Israel means something profound: these elders had taken some kind of "detour" in their theological development that prevented them from growing in faith. A man like unto these "elders" said, having learned from their errors, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).
2. It is endemic to legal theology that God only gives "grace" to those who are "worthy" of it. It does not seem to matter that this mindset is completely contrary to the essential nature of "grace", nor does it seem to matter that "worthiness" begins at such a fundamental level as "love for God". Loving God is not "using God to get what I want". Rather, it is being willing to lay down one's very life for His purposes ... even if those purposes include someone's participation in Hell itself. Jesus was willing to suffer "Hell" in the purposes of God because He loved His Father. Paul was also willing to suffer "Hell" in those purposes because He, too, loved His Father. It is the essence of "love" that one is willing to pay any price to meet the need(s) of those who are "beloved".
3. The "elders", who had neither "grace" nor "love" in their theology or in their own hearts, were willing to "argue" the centurion's case to Jesus based upon their own perverse way of thinking. Theirs was a "he scratched our backs" and, in light of his authority to affect our quality of existence, we need to "scratch his". In other words, he "rated" with them because of how he could affect them and because of how he had shown them favor. In case someone wonders if I am being too hard on these men, let me make this observation: It was the "elders" of Israel who had developed the theology of Israel so that the murder of the Messiah was pretty much an automatic act. Whose responsibility was it that the theology of the synagogue of Capernaum was in such a mess that a resident "demon" could challenge Jesus' teaching of the Word of God in that setting? (Note Matthew 11:23 and Luke 4:31-36.)