Luke 7:1-10

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.

When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”

And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. Luke 7:1-10

Sometimes it is helpful for us to remember that none of the Bible was written with chapters and verses, carefully edited for publication, or designed to earn a living for its authors. (And the the Old Testament was written with little space between the words, no punctuation, and no vowels.)

I say this because, as we now turn to Chapter 7, we do well to remember the verses we heard yesterday. Jesus began by saying, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” That is the context that Luke would have us see as he tells us the story of the Roman centurion with the sick enslaved person.

The next thing we need to notice is how this story describes close social relationships. If we were to look at the characters as members of a “tribe” it is impossible to imagine the level of mutual respect and interdependence we see between a Roman centurion and the village elders. Yes, the Roman army was an occupying army. Yes, they could be brutal and oppressive. But here in this village they found a way to get along. The centurion built their synagogue. He reached out to the elders for help. They reached out to Jesus on his behalf. This is what working together – even among people with very different belief systems and agendas – looks like.

And then notice the humility and the respect that the centurion shows toward Jesus. A centurion was the leader of a group of 60-80 soldiers. More senior centurion would lead several groups like that. Bottom line, he was the boss. He knew what it was like to lead – and, like the best of leaders, he knew what it took to follow. He submitted himself to Jesus.

The story ends well. The servant is healed. The village, including the powerful among them, had seen Jesus in action. Let this be a reminder to us of the good that happens when we transcend tribal divisions and work together, each doing out part toward the common good.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, again today we realize the danger of paying lip service to what we believe without making that real in the relationships of our lives. Help us see through and beyond what divides us that we are able to preserve and protect the relationships that help all of us do better. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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