Monday 29 January 2024

Bible Book:

'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.' (v. 8)

Luke 7:1-10 Monday 29 January 2024

Psalm 72


We join Jesus as he enters Capernaum having delivered the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49). It is here that Jesus is faced with something that catches even him by surprise. 

Capernaum, like the rest of Israel, was occupied by the Roman Empire. In order to keep the peace and make sure no part of the vast empire rebelled, Rome had soldiers stationed across the land. In Capernaum one of those soldiers was a centurion, who would have been in charge of around 80 men. We do not know much about this centurion, other than he had cultivated a good relationship with the local Jewish population, even building the synagogue for them. He also owned slaves, as many with his social status would have done. One of these slaves, who was highly thought of by his owner, was gravely ill and near death when Jesus came to the village.

Hearing Jesus is close by, the centurion first sends the Jewish elders to speak on his behalf. Jesus agrees to go to visit the centurion and goes with the Jewish elders. Jesus is then met by more representatives of the soldier. This time the message is for Jesus to come no further. The centurion, out of reverence, or maybe because he is aware of Jewish purity laws, tells Jesus not to come into his house. Instead he asks Jesus to say the word and his slave would be healed in that moment. The centurion uses the imagery of his position in the Roman army.  He is in charge of numerous men, but this authority was given to him by people higher up in command.

In this explanation the centurion grasps something of the authority Jesus holds from God and shows faith ‘greater than any in Israel’. It is this that amazes Jesus. If we step back and reassess this story we see that there are blurred lines throughout. A Gentile (non-Jew) instructing Jewish elders to approach Jesus, a Jewish healer who some in their position have already shown hostility towards (Luke 4:28-29). A Jewish healer willingly going to a Gentile house, which would have made him unclean if he had entered to heal a slave. This story shows us that Jesus was willing to cross cultural boundaries in order to help those in need. He wasn’t worried about how he would be perceived but only that the right thing was done.


To Ponder:

  • How does this story challenge us to reach across cultural and social boundaries to help those in need?
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