February 13, 2022
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 7:1-10
You aren’t likely to read Luke for very long before you read one of these encounters between Jesus and someone that really surprises you. Take today’s story that happened in Jesus’ favorite city, Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was
on the NW side of the Sea of Galilee with a population of maybe 1000-1500. Right on an international trade route and also had a garrison there of mercenaries, supervised by a Roman Centurion. (the very centurion of our story?)
Whether he was aware of it or not, making Capernaum his home base turned out to be quite a strategic move for Jesus given its connections to much of the known world. And what a fortuitous thing that Luke, a Gentile, chose to tell the story of Jesus’ life!
So today’s story is a surprising intersection of Roman and Jewish cultures. It happened this way. There was a Roman centurion, who had a very sick slave – so sick that it was clear that he was dying. It happened that the centurion, the commander, was very fond of that slave and he grieved over the possibility that he might die.
So he cleverly commissioned a few Jewish elders to approach Jesus on behalf of his sick slave. These elders come to Jesus with a request that he pay some attention to what this commander wanted because, they said: “this army officer has been good
to us Jews – even built our synagogue for us!”
Jesus complies and heads for the Commander’s home. On the way to the commander’s home, the commander himself sends out a couple of privates with a second message: “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Jesus was stunned. “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When he said that, the privates went back and when they got home, “they found the
servant up and well.”
The translation that I am using and that Mike read for us this morning is called “The Message.” In it, the translator titled this particular story as: “The Place of Holy Mystery!”
Of course, every time Jesus encounters a person it is a moment of holy mystery, but this one gives us a beautiful image of the mystery of how the Creator interacts, directs, and moves God’s people in such a way that the Lord’s prayer “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” actually comes about.
So, when that Roman Military leader came into the presence of Jesus and first hand experienced Jesus under orders from the Creator God speaking with power the word of healing, the Centurion knew he was in the presence of HOLY MYSTERY! Here was someone like himself who was keenly aware that he was UNDER ORDERS from an authority greater than himself and who was duty-bound to honor his commission to transfer the power given to him to those who were in need!
“I am a man under orders” the centurion said.
Here was a man with a deep understanding of what it means to be “under orders” from an authority greater than your own
The VERTICAL DIMENSION.
It was like he knew what it felt like to be carrying on his person the diplomatic pouch containing instructions and the authority of his commanding officer.
Do you know, or can you imagine what that is like? For the duration of this assignment, I am not my own. I must fulfill the requirements of the one who sent me and until I do, all other things must be subordinate. My time is not my own entirely, my attention must be on the assignment and my actions must be bent toward this one thing until I am released from this mission.
I think that if you have been given a commission by one with a great deal of responsibility, you feel different, you walk with purpose, you pay a bit less attention to what the people around you are thinking, and there is an urgency about your demeanor! Why? Because you are keenly aware of the paper you carry – of your orders!
This commander KNEW what that felt like! In a real sense, he felt like he was “under orders” from the moment he was first commissioned! And from some mysterious place within him, he knew Jesus understood that life – even if the purposes were very different! So he said to Jesus:
“Just give the order and my servant will be well!”
In Jesus and in all of us, the word has power. Jesus never saw nor touched the servant lying on his deathbed, but when the messengers from the commander got home, there he was, “Up and well.”
WHAT ARE WE TO LEARN FROM THIS?
You know, a lot of us would know deep, inner healing if we got back in touch with the diplomatic pouch- the commission – the calling we once held close to our hearts – our ORDERS!. Not what we have been told by other people, but what we have been asked to do and be by our supreme authority!
It is no trivial thing to become a follower of Jesus! When we decide that his way is the way for us, we slip into the ranks of his own with our own set of orders – just like Jesus always knew that he, too, was “under orders.” We become one who knows no greater joy than to be about doing and being what we were called to do and be.
It is no trivial thing to allow the distractions of this and that, of other people and their opinions, other interests, and other callings to divert our attention from that unique calling that is ours- unique set of orders that every follower of Jesus has.
We are people with a mission and we would do well to consider what we will say to our commander.
Oh, were papers for Me? I never actually read them!
- I have to admit that I never really had time to tend to your orders, God. You know how life is.
- I’m sorry, I thought these commissions were only for the professionals who serve you!
- I started to follow, and I still would be doing it if it weren’t for THEM.
We are a MISSIONAL people! All of us. Called to be together, to be sure, but above all, called to follow! Like Joshua: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served
that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”