Sunday

29 May 2016

“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.” (vv. 3-6a)

Psalm: Psalm 96


Background

In Luke chapter 6 Jesus spent time teaching those he was with. As he finished this teaching he made his way into Capernaum, a village where he had already spent some time (Luke 4:31). It was here that the people had begged him to stay in order to continue carry on ministering amongst them. But Jesus had stood firm and told them he had to leave to teach elsewhere (Luke 4:43).

Upon his return to this village he is approached by some of the Jewish elders (verse 3) who ask Jesus to come and heal one of the local Roman centurion's servants. This moment takes some unpacking as it is a strange happening when understood in the context of Jesus' day. The Centurion, who is praised so highly in verse 9, never actually appears on the scene but only speaks through other people. On top of this he is an officer of the enemy state, even if he is said to love the nation (verse 4). Rome was the invader of the promised land and the Romans were disliked by many of the Jews, particularly the pharisees and some other religious leaders.

The Jewish elders who come to greet Jesus with the centurion's invitation are also an interesting group. When Jesus begins his public ministry (Luke 4:14-30), he is driven to a cliff by those in the synagogue who had heard him speak and been offended by his words. They had challenged him by asking him to do in Nazareth what he had done in Capernaum: in response Jesus had told them of how Elijah and Elisha had been sent to foreigners and not to Israelites (Luke 4:23-27). As the people of Nazareth had heard of what Jesus had done in Capernaum we would expect that these elders would have heard what had happened in Nazareth.

Whereas in Nazareth the people had chased Jesus away as he spoke of the prophets who ministered to foreigners, here the elders are sent by a foreigner and a representative of the Roman Empire to ask Jesus to heal his servant. It is a strange turn of events that amazes Jesus and leads to him praising the centurion's faith as he tells Jesus he just needs to say the word and his servant will be healed (verse 7).


Background

  • Have you been surprised by seeing faith in someone? To what extent is that a good or a bad thing?
  • Has God ever led you to a person or group of people you would not have expected him to? If so, what happened?
  • What does it mean for us as Christians to live under God's authority? What does Matthew 28:18 contribute to this?

 
Bible notes author:  The Revd David Wynd 

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