Summer Bible Series
How to Amaze Jesus
Luke 7:1-10 (p. 886)
Introduction and regular offering
Today we kick off our Summer Bible Series.
And we’re going to use our new Bibles! There are about 1000 of them in the room—enough for everyone to have one, or to share with a neighbor. Instead of putting all the Scriptures up on the screen, we are going to help you find them in the Bible. Here’s why: we want to help you become more familiar and comfortable with the Bible.
Using a paper Bible helps you see the context. You see where the passage falls in the big story, and what’s immediately around it. You don’t see that on your phone, or digital device, or the big screens.
Using a paper Bible makes all of us Bible students, not just the speaker. Last fall, I was at a conference and heard Pastor Larry Osborne explain why they didn’t put the Scriptures up on the big screen and why they used paper Bibles instead. He shared a new thought for me. When a new person sees everyone with a Bible open and following along, he thinks, “Oh, reading the Bible is normal. Everyone does it. Everyone knows where to look.” But if he/she sees the verses only on the big screen, then he thinks, “The pastor is the expert; he knows the Bible; the rest of us don’t.” In other words, it democratizes Bible reading and knowledge. It makes “experts” of all of us, not just the pastor.
This means that it will take us a few moments longer to get to a passage, but that’s ok. And to help you find the passages, we will put the reference on the big screen with the page number! One last thing: please don’t take these home—leave them on your seat when we’re done. If you really want one, we bought extras and you can buy them at the Welcome Center for $10.
Open your Bibles to Luke 7 (p. 886).
Last summer, we started the gospel of Luke and got through the first 6 chapters, so we’re picking it up in chapter 7. Luke is one of four gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Luke was a doctor, a physician, and was a friend and traveling companion of the apostle Paul. We don’t know if he was Jewish or a Gentile—scholars argue for both. If he was a Gentile, then Luke is the only Gentile author in the New Testament. He certainly cared about Gentiles—they play a prominent role in his gospel, along with women and the poor and marginalized. We do know that Luke was highly educated—he wrote in beautiful polished Greek, and not surprisingly, uses many medical terms. Luke was the author of both the gospel that bears his name, and the book of Acts, a history of the early church. And in both Luke and Acts, he shows himself a careful and accurate historian. So this is Luke (ancient archived photo.)
We pick it up in chapter 7 with, appropriately, a story about a Gentile, a Roman centurion whose servant was deathly ill and seeks a favor from Jesus. Let’s read it together.
Luke 7:1-10 (p. 886)
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 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. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 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.”
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.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Offering here. Before we dive into the story, I’ll invite the ushers to come. Our offerings have been low lately—well below budget. I’m not sure if that’s because my preaching has bothered people, or if it’s the nice weather, or if people don’t think we need it. We need it! Thank you for being generous! This is our regular offering, and at the end of the talk, we’re going to hear from David and Danielle, our missionaries to Fiji, and receive a special offering for the work in Fiji.
Here are four take-aways from this story.
1. Do we deserve it?
Look at verse 4-5. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
The Jewish elders believe that this man deserved a favor from Jesus. “This man deserves to have you do this.” This Gentile—non-Jewish—soldier loved the Jews and built their synagogue. Most likely he didn’t build the whole thing, but may have been a major or significant contributor. They’re saying to Jesus, “We owe him one! He deserves to have you do this.”
Have you ever thought you deserved something from God? “You owe me one, Lord!” Have you ever asked God to do something for someone because they deserved it? “Please heal this person; they deserve it. Please provide for this person; they deserve it.”
ILL: I was praying for a friend, a pastor who was working hard and seeing little fruit. I asked the Lord to make his church grow and said, “Lord, he deserves it.” Immediately, I knew that was wrong. Don’t misunderstand me—my friend is a great guy. But God doesn’t bless us or save us or heal us because we deserve it or have earned it. He blesses us because of His own love and grace, not our goodness and efforts. I still prayed that God would bless his ministry, but not because he deserved it, but because God is so good. And that’s a more sure foundation for prayer!
So these men approached Jesus asking for a favor because the centurion deserved it. And Jesus went with them. But look what happens next: v. 6-7.
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. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.
The Jewish leaders said, “He deserves it.” But the centurion said, “I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. I’m not worthy.” This man understood the goodness and grace of God. He wasn’t asking for a favor because he deserved it but because Jesus is good.
Here is the conclusion I’ve come to: I don’t deserve any favor from God. But He showers me with favor anyway—it’s all grace! When people complain that they’re not getting what they deserve, I say, “Let’s talk about what we deserve.” Put your bookmark in Luke 7 and look at:
Romans 3:22-24 (p. 968) This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Look at verse 23. Who has sinned? All. How many of you are included in that all? Pretty much…all! We’ve all sinned, and what do we deserve?
Romas 6:23 (p. 970) For the wages of sin is death, but the git of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All of us have sinned, and what do we deserve? What have we earned? What is our wage? Death. That’s what we deserve. So let’s not go to God saying, “Give me what I deserve!” Instead, let’s be grateful that God gives us what we don’t deserve! We deserve death, but He gives us eternal life in Jesus. It’s a gift. It’s all grace. Here are three words you should know:
Justice: getting what we deserve.
Mercy: not getting what we deserve.
Grace: getting better than what we deserve.
So do we deserve it? Do we deserve that favor we’re asking from God? No! But aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give us what we deserve? He gives us better than what we deserve—that’s grace. So when I pray, I pray boldly, knowing that God won’t give me what I deserve, but will give me the good He wants for me. It’s a gift. And it’s based on His goodness, not mine.
2. Is Jesus ever amazed by my faith?
Back to Luke 7, and look again at v. 7-9. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 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.”
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.”
Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith. In fact, Jesus points out that this Gentile man exhibited greater faith than any Jew that Jesus had met! None of God’s chosen people had exhibited such great faith. Jesus was amazed!
The word “amazed” shows up often in the gospels and almost always of other people being amazed at Jesus. It’s only used twice of Jesus being amazed: here (and in Matthew 8) of Jesus being amazed at the centurion’s great faith, and in Mark 6:6, Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith in His own hometown of Nazareth. It makes me wonder, “Is Jesus ever amazed by my faith…or by my lack of faith?”
What made this man’s faith so great that it amazed Jesus? Two things.
First, this man had faith in the absolute goodness of Jesus. He knew that he wasn’t worthy, that he didn’t deserve anything, but asked on the basis of Jesus’ goodness, not his own. Think about it: if you know you don’t deserve something, but ask for it anyway, you are expressing great faith in the other person’s goodness and generosity. That’s what he did. When we ask only for what we think we deserve, we are trusting our own goodness to get what we want. When we ask for what we don’t deserve, we are trusting the other person’s goodness to give what we want.
ILL: Several of us were in Seattle this week for our annual denominational convention. During worship on Monday night, we were singing, “You are good, good, oh oh.” And I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s pure goodness. He is good through and through. There is no evil, no bad in Him. Pure goodness. I pictured a vat of pure chocolate. (Maybe I was hungry.) It’s chocolate, through and through. Nothing but chocolate. And I imagined myself falling into this vat of chocolate…but instead it was God’s goodness. No matter how fall I far or how deep I go, it’s all goodness. I thought, “I can surrender to a God who is pure goodness. I can trust a God who is good through and through.”
Great faith is falling into or trusting the absolute goodness of God. It’s the kind of faith that makes you bold to ask for something you know you don’t deserve just because God is good.
Second, this man had faith in the absolute authority of Jesus. This man understood authority. As a soldier, he was under authority and had authority. When he gave an order, it was obeyed. “I tell this one go and he goes. I tell another to do this and he does it.” He understood authority, and he knew that Jesus had it. “You don’t need to come to my house; just say the word, and it will be done. Just say the word—give the order. I know you have that kind of authority.”
I call this “just say the word faith.” You don’t need to be there; just say the word and it will happen.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 (p. 857), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus can just say the word and make things happen?
Back to our question: Is Jesus ever amazed by my faith? Do I have faith in the absolute goodness of Jesus? The kind of faith that leads me to ask for far more than I deserve. Do I have faith in the absolute authority of Jesus? The kind of faith that says, “Just say the word. It will happen.”
In a few minutes we’re going to pray, and I want you to pray with faith in Jesus’ goodness and authority. What do you need? Ask him…with faith in His goodness and authority.
3. Jesus is for everyone.
The miracle of this story is not simply that Jesus healed the servant from a distance; he bridged a much greater cultural distance in bringing a Gentile to faith. This is a cross cultural healing. This is Jesus moving toward the Other—someone of a different race and religion.
The Jews believed that they were God’s chosen people, and seemed to lose sight that God’s intention was that they would be His witnesses to bring the whole world to God. In their minds, it had become a closed circle: we four, no more. The Jews were in, everyone else was out. But in this story, Jesus included the outsider, and actually made him the hero of the story. “I’ve not seen such great faith even in Israel!”
It was very unusual for the Jewish leaders to represent an unclean Gentile. But they brought him to Jesus as one who had benefited their people, and so in their minds, was deserving of help. To them, it was all about what he had done for the Jews, for God’s people. It was still about them, not him. “He deserves it because he helped us.” Take away that help and they would never have brought him.
But as we’ve already seen, Jesus didn’t the heal the centurion’s servant because of the good he did for the Jews. Jesus healed him because God is good. Here, Jesus is good to the Other, the outsider, the person of a different race or religion. Jesus is for everyone.
Jesus moved toward the Other. But this man was the Other not just in terms of race and religion; he was the enemy in terms of politics and power. This Roman soldier is in Israel for one reason: because Rome had invaded and occupied the Jewish homeland. Rome had installed a Roman governor, set up garrisons of Roman soldiers to keep the peace, and then taxed the Jews to pay for the occupying army. This man was the enemy! Most Jews hated the Romans. Jesus moved toward an enemy to help him. Jesus is for everyone.
Just to add a little more spice to the story: this soldier worked for the Roman ruler, Herod Antipas—the same Herod who arrested and executed John the Baptist; the same Herod who was hoping to meet Jesus. Herod was dangerous, and that made this soldier dangerous. He wasn’t safe—but Jesus healed his servant anyway.
Jesus is for everyone. As we move through Luke’s gospel, you’ll see this over and over. Jesus is for everyone:
Not just the righteous, but sinners too;
Not just the Jews, but Gentiles too;
Not just men, but women and children too;
Not just the mainstream, but the marginalized too;
Not just the religious, but the irreligious too!
Jesus is for everyone. Two important applications:
First, Jesus is for you too! Jesus is for you! Maybe you’ve thought, “Jesus is for others, but not me.” Jesus is for you! Maybe you feel unworthy, or you feel like an outsider, or you feel that you don’t qualify—Jesus is for you too! Jesus is for everyone. So come to Jesus. I’m going to give you a chance to do that in just a few moments at the end of the talk. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus is for you.
Second, Jesus is for the Other! Who is your Other? Who is that person you don’t get? You don’t understand? You don’t like? You’d rather avoid? Jesus is for them too. Have you ever had someone you didn’t like, didn’t agree with, and you thought, “They can just go to hell.” Please look at 2 Peter 3:9 (p. 1052).
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Sometimes we get upset and wish someone would go to hell, but God “doesn’t want anyone to perish.” He wants everyone to come to repentance and life. Please feel the heart of God. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Jesus is for everyone—even the Other, that person you don’t like.
Jesus is for everyone.
4. Jesus can do anything.
Back to Luke 7 and look at verse 10. Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
The servant was healed! Jesus can do anything! He healed the man’s servant from a distance, with a word.
I said that the word “amazed” was used often in the gospels about Jesus. He amazed people over and over. Here in this story, Jesus is both amazed and amazing. Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith. And Jesus is amazing, healing this man’s servant with a word. And the man was a foreigner, an enemy, a stranger to boot. Jesus is amazing. Jesus can do anything.
ILL: When our children were small, we read them Bible stories and prayed with them at bedtime. Sometimes we acted out the stories, especially the miracle stories of Jesus. (EG: calming the storm.) I’d ask the kids, “What did you learn?” And they’d say, “Jesus can do anything.”
And that’s just as true to today as when this story happened. Jesus can do anything. The centurion believed that and asked for a miracle. Do you believe that Jesus can do anything? Are you willing to ask?
We’re going to sing a song, and then pray—just like this centurion, we’re going to bring our outrageous request to Jesus and see what He will do. Let’s sing and then I’ll come back and lead us in prayer. And then we’ll finish with something special from Fiji!