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Faith For Today: Love, compassion and faith

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s passage is from Luke 7:1-10: “After Jesus had finished saying all these things in the hearing of the people, he went to Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom he valued highly, was sick and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and save his servant’s life. So they went to Jesus and begged him repeatedly, “He deserves to have this done for him, because he loves our people and built our synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus, “Sir, stop troubling yourself. For I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That’s why I didn’t presume to come to you. But just say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority and have soldiers under me. I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes, to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my servant ‘Do this’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found this kind of faith!” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant in perfect health.”
In Luke chapter 7 there was an encounter between Jesus and a centurion of the Roman army. In this encounter we find great love and great faith exhibited in an unlikely person. Let us spend a few moments together trying to learn from this historic life changing encounter. St. Luke tells us about a centurion who showed devotion and charity towards God’s ancient people, the Jews. This,  my friend, was no small matter. It was a big deal, especially in the ancient world.  
In general, most Jews strongly disliked the Romans.  They considered the Romans an unclean and idolatrous race of Gentiles who held the Promised Land under an iron fist of military occupation. The Romans in turn looked down upon most Jews as a backward, primitive people with a bizarre religion, that worshipped only one God and that their God was the Creator of all things.  In the eyes of many Romans, most Jews were a hotheaded, narrow minded, and an intolerant people.
But the centurion in our text was different than most Romans of his day. He exhibited a love for the Jewish people and respected their religion so much so that he built them a synagogue (a place to gather for worship).  Such a great act of charity won over the hearts of many Jews.
The centurion’s love and respect for the Jews is also seen in the fact that he sent a delegation of Jewish elders to beg Jesus for help, instead of sending his own men. He entrusted them with a very important task.  He allowed them to speak in his place, as if he was making his impassioned plea to Jesus through them.
There is something we can learn from the centurion and that is how we should treat people under our care. The centurion treated his servant with loving concern and took care of him when he became ill.
There are some in our world today that treat people as mere commodities or tools to be used and discarded when they are no longer needed or when they are not quite as useful or productive, as they once were. Notice that the centurion went to great lengths to help his sick servant, rather than toss him out and replace him with a healthier one.
May we also show mercy to the weak and the helpless.  May this cause us to ponder how we think and treat those we tend to look down on.  May we treat them how we would want to be treated.
The centurion showed love and compassion to be sure, but he also showed great faith. Christ praised this faith most highly, seeing no equal to it among God’s chosen people. What did this great faith consist of, that we may imitate it?  First of all, it exhibited humility and secondly trust in Jesus.
The humility of the centurion was not a false humility.  He did not do as some people do, making a grand display, pretending to be humble.  The centurion did not even emerge from his home.  He did not consider himself worthy to come out and be seen by Jesus. He did not do as some of the movie stars of our day do, who come out of their luxurious homes to be admired for how wonderful they think they are and to be seen.  
At this point I would like to point out something very interesting in the text. Although he probably did not know it, the centurion disagreed strongly with the Jewish elders that he sent to Jesus.  The Jewish elders said that the centurion was worthy that Jesus should perform the miracle for him.  But the centurion said that he was unworthy for Jesus to come under his roof, and unworthy to come before Jesus himself.
This kind of humility is part of repentance, and part of faith.  This humility looks to ourselves and sees someone completely unworthy to enter the presence of our Lord. (May we acknowledge our unworthiness before God.  When others praise us may we give the glory to God our Creator.)
Like the centurion, we should remember that the Lord is the Mighty One who even rebuked disease from a distance, and it obeyed His command. May we remember that at God’s spoken word the universe was created.
The strong faith of the centurion grasped and held on to the mercy of Jesus.  He knew from what he had heard that Jesus was more than a miracle worker.  He described Jesus as the Mighty Commander whose Word works miracles.  The centurion seemed to know that Jesus was not just a worker of miracles, but the Savior promised in the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures. This is why the centurion entrusted the life of his dear servant into the hands of Jesus.  
Sometimes people think the greatest healings are those of broken and diseased bodies….but they are not the greatest healings. The greatest of all healings are those of the soul. Think of it this way: the healing of a broken and diseased body is temporary. It only lasts for a lifetime on this earth. But the healing of a sin sick soul though repentance and faith in Jesus lasts for eternity.
If you were given a choice between being healed of a terminal sickness in this lifetime but spending eternity in hell away from Jesus or dying of a terminal sickness but spending eternity with Jesus in heaven, which would you choose? I hope you would choose eternity with Jesus. I would choose eternity with Jesus and let me tell you why. I deserve nothing but an eternity in hell because of my sin, but Jesus has shown mercy and compassion upon me. He has heard my repentant cry for forgiveness and He has granted it.
In His mercy, Jesus values and treasures us far beyond our worth, because He loves us in spite of our sins.  It is through faith and trust in Jesus and what he died for each one of us on the cross that makes heaven our home when we die. Thanks be to God. Amen.