Friday, March 26, 2010

Worthy of Jesus?

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue." And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying 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 say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too 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 servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. (Luke 7:1-10 ESV)

As I read this text this morning I was struck by the words of the Jewish elders and how they contrasted with the centurion's words. The Jewish elders, the insiders to Jesus' world as it were, offer appeal to Jesus that the centurion is "worthy" to have Jesus heal his servant because of his good works for the Jewish people. Surprising to us evangelicals, Jesus goes with them without comment.

The real shocker comes when the centurion shows himself far more aware of his true state, far more broken than the Jewish elders when he says that he is "not worthy" to have Jesus even come into his home. He then utters the kind of faith confession that not only gets the attention of Jesus, but amazes him.

The centurion saw himself in relation to Jesus as one who was not worthy. He also saw himself like Jesus as a man under authority, able to command reality with uttering words. What a intriguing picture of a "heathen" soldier! No wonder Jesus was fascinated by him!

I guess it makes me wonder what demands we place on Jesus when we come to him. How much of what we ask him to do is because of some "worthiness" that we perceive in ourselves - maybe we have earned favor with him through suffering certain things for periods of time, maybe it's good things we have done or said, etc. Of course we aren't usually consciously aware of these "unspoken merits" but they are there. How I long for the heart-faith that the centurion had - one of brokenness (I am not worthy of you Jesus) and authority (I too am a man under authority).

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