IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




How do You Amaze Jesus?

Date: May. 18, 2009

Author: Bob Henkins

Luke 7:1-10

Key Verse: Luke 7:9

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’”

Have you ever heard the phrase, or something like it, “You just got to have faith.” And how did that make you feel? Confused? Uncertain? Or want to hit them with a big stick? While this statement is true, if given without any explanation, it can leave a person in a state of confusion and uncertainty and not any better than before they heard it. In today’s passage, Jesus encounters a Roman soldier. And although he is not a Jew, but a Gentile, he has faith greater than anyone in Israel. So much so that even Jesus is amazed. I think that if we find something that amazes God it must be worth learning about. Let’s find faith that amazes Jesus.

Take a look at verse 1. “When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.” After Jesus had finished delivering “The Sermon on the Plain,” he wanted to get away from the crowd so he headed for Capernaum. Peter’s house was there and it became kind of like Jesus’ home base while He served the ministry in Galilee. But before He could get there something unexpected happened. Take a look at verses 2-3. “There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” They say that Rome moved on the backs of their centurions. The centurion was the mainstay of the Roman army. Each one commanded about 100 men. As a leader, like Maximus in the movie Gladiator, the centurion had to be well disciplined, well trained, and well respected. He had to be able to lead the men under his command to fight to the death if needed. And many times those under his command were people that Rome had conquered and “recruited” for their army. So needless to say, Roman centurions had to be tough, mentally and physically as well.

During this time, Rome ruled the world and practically centurions wielded the power. As a result they often abused their power and committed acts of brutality against the people they ruled. (Lk 3:14) Not only did they abuse the people they ruled, they often treated their slaves as property. Void of human rights, slaves had no choice but to submit to the whim of their masters. But the centurion in this story was different than most in several ways. Firstly, he was compassionate. According to verse 2, he saw his servant, not as a piece of property, but as a human being. Instead of getting rid of them when they were sick and not useful to him, he valued this servant highly and did his best to take care of him. Through this we can see that although he was a killing machine, he hadn’t lost his heart but had compassion for others.

Secondly, he found hope in Jesus. Look at verse 3. “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” Since Roman troops were not regularly stationed in Galilee until 44 AD, he may have served under Herod Antipas and heard about Jesus while he was there. As a commander, he had influence and must have tried his best to help his servant. But after exhausting all his options he had nowhere else to turn. Even though the situation looked hopeless, he found hope in Jesus. I am not sure of what he heard about Jesus but he believed that Jesus was able to heal his sick servant.

Thirdly, he was humble. Take a look at verses 4-7a. “When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” As a centurion ruling over conquered people, he could demand what he wanted when he wanted it. And who would stop him? But instead of demanding what he wanted, he sent some Jewish elders to make the request on his behalf. Through his military training he realized the importance of keeping order even in an emergency. Even though he was Roman, he respected Jewish society and was mindful of their traditions and how they would be ceremonially unclean if they entered a Gentile house. He did not try to force Jesus, but consulted the Jewish elders and asked their help to gain Jesus’ favor.

Not only that, he sent a second delegation with a more personal message to Jesus. He said that he was unworthy to come to Jesus and that he didn’t deserve Jesus’ coming. It might be ok for the centurion to say this to Jesus privately, but to tell it publically was dangerous. How would it look to his commanding officer, to see such actions from one of his commanders? He might consider the centurion weak or worse, maybe question his loyalty to Rome. But the centurion did not care about himself as long as he had a chance to heal his servant.

Also as a side note, we get some insight into the Jewish elders. It is interesting to see their reaction. The Jews valued outward action and considered the centurion as worthy and deserving of Jesus’ attention because of his service to their nation and for building their synagogue. On the other hand he felt that he was unworthy. Here we see the inner pride of the Jews and the humbleness of the Gentile.

Fourth, he loved others. Not only did he love his servant, he loved the nation Israel. This Roman centurion had won the hearts of the Jewish elders. The Jewish elders were quite perceptive and they wouldn’t help a Roman, especially a centurion, unless he was sincere and trustworthy. When they went to Jesus on the centurion’s behalf, they pleaded earnestly with Him because they recognized the centurion’s love for their nation. Usually conquerors exploit those they conquer but this centurion served them and he even went as far as to build their synagogue. If you know anything about the Jews you know that these were proud men not used to pleading earnestly for anything let alone for one of their oppressors. But because of them Jesus decided to go.

While all these qualities are well and good, there was one thing that made him different than everyone else around. What was it? It was his faith. Let’s read verse 9. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” Being God, Jesus was not easily amazed. He’d seen it all because he made it. Still there were times when he was amazed and it was usually by someone’s faith or their lack of it. And here we can see that Jesus was flat out amazed by the centurion’s faith. Why? What made his faith so special?

To better understand this let’s read verses 7b-8. “But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it.” The Roman army was renowned for its discipline and organization. And as a young soldier coming up through the ranks, the centurion learned absolute obedience to his commanding officer. He knew what it meant to be “under authority.” He had to obey his superior officer without question. There were no excuses, questions or alternatives. It was obey or die. Later, when the centurion gained authority, he expected the same obedience from the soldiers under his command. That was the only way the military could work.

Now, when Jesus was on the way to his house, the centurion saw him as more than just a man. He saw that Jesus is God Almighty. He saw Jesus as the Commander-in-Chief of all things. He may have understood Jesus better than Jesus’ disciples did. On the outside, Jesus looked like a poor carpenter from nowhere, but people mobbed him and followed Him wherever He went. And with just a word Jesus healed the sick, drove out demons, and compelled ordinary men to leave everything they had and follow Him. Yes sir, the centurion understood authority and he knew that Jesus had it. But Jesus’ authority wasn’t like anything he’d seen in the army. For Jesus’ authority went beyond men and commanded even nature itself. He knew that all Jesus had to do was just “say the word” and his servant would be healed.

Through this we see that faith and authority are related. The centurion was talking about authority but Jesus connected it to faith. Authority has its root in the word author. Authority comes from the author. And according to Acts 3:15, Jesus is the author of life and God  granted Him authority over all people to give eternal life. (Jn 17:2) And the centurion understood this and believed that if Jesus wanted his servant to live, his servant would live. Faith is believing in the authority and power of Jesus. Faith rests on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:5)

What does it mean to have faith? If we want to understand faith, where do we turn to find the best definition? Hebrews chapter 11 of course. Verse 1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When we say this verse we get all warm inside because it sounds so nice. But when we stop and think about it, it doesn’t make sense; sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see. At first someone might ask, “how can we be certain of what we don’t see?” How can we have faith?  On the surface this sounds like a good question but it’s not quite the right question to ask because each of us lives with the certainty of the things we don’t see. I’ll give you an example. We live with the certainty that our next breath will be there when we get ready to take it even though we can’t see it. We live with the certainty that they sun will rise tomorrow though we haven’t seen it. We even sit in the chair believing that we won’t end up rolling around on the ground. We live with faith everyday, so that’s not the question. The question is what do you have faith in? The centurion put his faith in the authority and power of Jesus but what do we put our faith in?

Some of us put our faith in our family or friendships. Others put their faith in their jobs or careers. And still others put their faith in their wife or husband. And even others put their faith in themselves. People put their faith in the stock market for future security, their kids to achieve something, or the new digitally enhanced TV. My point is that we put our faith in many things without realizing it. But all the things I mentioned will at one point or another let us down. They will all fail. But Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” (Mk 11:22) Unlike the things of the world that fail us, God won’t. 2 Chr 20:20 says, “…Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld;…” And Ps37:28 says, “For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;” When we put our faith in God, He will uphold us, protect us, and not forsake us.

What does it mean to have faith in God? Like the centurion, it means that we put our trust in God and believe that He will do what is best for us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We must believe that God works for the good of those who love Him. And in turn God shows His love for us by being faithful to us. (Ps 89:1)

Jesus does want us to have blind faith. This does not glorify Him. Jesus doesn’t want a bunch of mindless lemmings following him like robots. Jesus wants our trust, our hope, our faith in Him. He wants us to experience the power that comes from faith overcoming our situation and all our fears. In the Bible we see many examples of people who put their faith in Jesus. We see the faith of four men who dug a hole in some guy’s roof and lowered their paralytic friend in front of Jesus to be healed. When Jesus saw their faith He forgave their sins and healed their friend. (Mt 9:2) We see the faith of the woman suffering from 12 years of endless bleeding sneak up behind Jesus and touch His cloak and she was healed. Jesus told her, “Your faith has healed you.”(Mt 9:22) Jesus said that with faith as small as a mustard seed, if we tell a mountain to move, then it will move for us. (Mt 17:20) According to your faith will it be done to you. (Mt 9:29) For when we have faith, nothing is impossible.

The problem is our lack of faith in God. Once when Jesus and the disciples were crossing the lake in a boat a sudden storm arose. The disciples began to panic. They thought they were going to drown. But Jesus, as calm as could be, replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. ” (Mt 8:26) In another instance a man brought his demon possessed son to be healed but expressed unbelief when he was not healed at first. Jesus said, “"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Mk 9:19) Unbelief grieves God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb 11:6)

It took a while but eventually the disciples recognized their lack of faith. Finally the disciples cried out, “Increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5) They wanted to have faith they just didn’t know how. So how do we have faith in God? Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Faith in God comes when we hear and accept the word of God and believe it. The Bible promises that if we seek God, sincerely from our heart, we will find Him. Even having our worship service in here, the HUB, is God’s display to us that He wants us to put our faith in Him. All of us have struggles, fears, and insecurities; Dan, Peter, Mary, and Gideon with their jobs. Christian with his future direction, David with his law studies, Abigail and Jay with their visa problem and that is only scratching the surface. Each of us has problems, the question is do we have faith in God to solve these problems? Do we trust that God has our best interest in heart? Are we willing to trust Jesus believing that He has the power to work it all out? Or are we going to grieve Him with our unbelief?

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1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

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