St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

What Kind of Faith Does Jesus Call Great?

Sermon on Luke 7:1-10

Text: When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, 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.

We are now in the Pentecost season. The focus of this part of the church year shifts from the rest of the year. During the festival part of the year, we focus on what God, especially Jesus, did for our salvation. We focus on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus as he came to the earth to be our Savior. During this part of the church year, the Pentecost season, we focus on our response to the great love that God showed us in sending his Son. We look at the fruits of our faith.

Today, in our text, we have a unique situation. As Jesus speaks about a centurion, he remarked, ““I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” What makes this remark so unique is that Jesus said it about only one other person. Since this is the case, we would do well to study WHAT KIND OF FAITH DOES JESUS CALL GREAT? We will see that it is 1 An Unselfish Faith, 2. A Christ-Centered Faith, 3. A Humble Faith and 4. A Faith Which Trusts Completely In God’s Word.

As Jesus entered Capernaum, he is met by a delegation of Jews, who were sent by a Roman centurion. A centurion is in charge of one hundred men. There was a Roman garrison in Capernaum, protecting the valuable trade route from Jerusalem to Damascus. Apparently, this centurion, while he was stationed there, came to faith. He had been taught by the people of that area. Furthermore, he had been brought to the realization that Jesus was the promised Messiah. So he brings this request to Jesus on behalf of his servant.

The centurion shows an unselfish faith in the fact that he cared so much for this servant that he was willing to do whatever was possible to heal him. He could have just let him suffer and die, but his faith moved him to care for this servant.

This unselfishness also showed itself as he lived among the people of Capernaum. In speaking to Jesus about this man, the elders of the synagogue said, “He loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” His caring and generosity were well-known in the community. He had even built the synagogue out of his own means. He paid for the whole thing himself. His faith in God and his love for God moved him to unselfishly help others.

May we take note of that aspect of faith. It is easy for us to be selfish, to only look out for ourselves and our own. We are willing to take care of and help our people, but don’t ask us to do more than that! Even at that, when we are helping others, we may find a selfish attitude creeping into our thoughts. We may find ourselves thinking, ‘What’s in this for me?’. This is wrong. It shows that we feel we are the most important thing that there is. We are sinning when we act this way. Let us, rather, follow the example of the centurion’s unselfish faith. It moved him to look out for others. He looked for opportunities to help others. He didn’t figure, ‘Let someone else do it. I do everything else.’ Rather, out of love for God, he unselfishly helped others.

As we continue our study of this man’s faith, we note that it was a Christ-centered faith. When his dearly loved servant was ill to the point of death, the centurion didn’t waste any time trying this idea or that solution. He went to the one whom he knew could help. He sent word to Jesus, asking him to come and help his servant. The centurion knew where he could place his trust.

Can we always say the same thing? When a problem comes into our lives, what is the first thing that we do? Do we sit and worry and fuss about how this is all going to work out? Perhaps we sit down and try to write out all possible solutions to the problem. A teacher was teaching her class about health, so she asked the class what they did when they got sick. One little boy raised his hand and said, ‘I pray to Jesus.’ That little boy had it figured out, didn’t he? When we have problems, the first thing we want to do is to take it to Jesus in prayer. Faith moves us to trust in him for help, hope and comfort.

It is because of Christ that we have confidence. He is our Savior. We deserve to spend an eternity in hell for our misguided trusts, our selfishness and so many other things. There was not one thing that we could do to change the situation. However, out of love for us lost creatures, Jesus came to the earth. He did so to be what I could not be, namely, perfect, holy, sinless. By his actions, by his life, death and resurrection, I am forgiven. Jesus paid for all of my sins. In God’s sight, I am holy. Since Jesus loved me so much that he was willing to do this, surely he will take care of me. Can you count on Jesus’ help? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Put your faith in him. He will not let you down.

As we continue our study of the faith of this centurion, we note that, in addition to him having an unselfish faith and a Christ-centered faith, he also had a humble faith. As Jesus came near the centurion’s house, the centurion sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” Earlier, he had asked Jesus to come and heal his servant. Now, as Jesus drew near, he realized whom it was who was coming toward him. This was no one else that the Messiah, the Son of God. He, in his faith, did not feel worthy of receiving such a guest. He was humbled by the presence of the Son of God.

Again, here we find something to imitate in this man’s faith. He was humbled at the thought of God coming to him. This is an attitude we can emulate. We want to remember this when we come to God in prayer. We don’t deserve any of the things that we ask for. If God went by what we deserved, we would receive only his wrath. As Luther writes in his explanation to the Fifth Petition, “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins or because of them deny our prayers; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we ask, neither have we deserved them.” We humbly come to God, asking him to forgive our sins.

This humility also shows itself when we pray to God. Do we find ourselves prescribing to God what he should do, how he should do it and when? Or do we say, “Your will be done.”? When God answers our prayers and the answer isn’t exactly what we hoped it would be, do we grumble and complain or do we say, God’s will was done.”? This is not a fatalistic attitude, because we know that God is loving and cares for us and will do whatever is best for us. May we imitate the centurion and his humble faith!

There is one last aspect of the centurion’s fath that we would like to consider this morning, and that is the fact that he trusted completely in God’s Word. The centurion said to Jesus, “Say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He believed that all it would take from Jesus was for him to say the word, and his servant would be healed. He trusted in the power of Jesus’ word. That faith was not disappointed. We read in verse 10, “The men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” Not only had he recovered, he had been returned to full health.

The centurion trusted completely in the power of Jesus’ word. What an example for us to follow! Jesus continues to speak that word to us. He does so through the preaching and teaching of his Word. He does so as we read his Word in our homes. He continues to speak to us, guiding us along life’s journey. There are some who believe that God’s Word is some sort of magical guide through life, whereby you ask a question, flip open the Bible, close your eyes and point to a verse, and there you will find the answer to your question. That is not at all what is meant by the fact that God’s Word is our guide through life. Rather, as we read it, learn it and study it, we see how God wants us to live our lives and gives us the strength to do what is pleasing to him. We also trust completely in God’s Word, because that is the only place that God speaks to us. We don’t need some other source or revelation. It’s all right there.

There are many heroes of faith found in the Bible, people who put their trust in God. We might think of Abraham, David, Peter or Paul. This morning, we have had the privilege to catch a glimpse of another great man of faith. We don’t even know his name, but we know his faith. Lord, give us such a faith as this, a faith that is unselfish, Christ-centered, humble and trusts completely in your Word. Amen.