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Dear Precious Friends,
It's Magnificent Monday, Dec. 7th and here we are in Luke 7. WOW.. It's really hard to pick one area to talk about this morning , however, I'm going to share from Luke 7:1-10, Jesus encounters a man who had great faith. It comes from a shocking person, and produces some shocking truths. Even Jesus is a bit shocked at first. As we study the passage, we come to a new understanding of what great faith is, how it is developed and how great faith produces great results.
Do you want great faith?
Luke 7:1-10 will provide some help on understanding what great faith is and how to get it. This passage comes right after the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on how to be a disciple. Luke 6 contains Christ’s discipleship manual. He has taught them with words what it means to follow Him. Now, in Luke 7, 8 and 9, Christ is going to teach by example what it takes to be his disciple.
He has taught the disciples with words. Now he teaches them by example.
The first lesson is about developing great faith. The scene is set in Luke 7:1-2 where we are introduced to a Centurion and his sick servant. (This is from a commentary called Redeeming God)
I. The Sick Servant (Luke 7:1-2)
Luke 7:1-2. Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die.
Jesus has finished the teachings in Luke 6, and he now enters Capernaum, a small fishing village near the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus spent much of His time, and performed many of his miracles. Luke 7:2 goes on to tell us that in Capernaum was a centurion. Centurions were Roman Army officers who generally commanded 100 soldiers. Most of them were Gentiles, though sometimes they were half-Jews – Samaritans, so the Jewish people tended to despise centurions.
Not only where they symbolic of Roman rule, they often abused their power and took unjust liberties. But such was not the case with this centurion. We get a glimpse of his character in Luke 7:2, where we read that he had a servant who was dear to him. The word dear literally means he was held in high honor or value. Such compassion on a servant was unheard of at the time of Jesus.
The fact that the centurion cared so much for his servant set him apart from the typical Roman soldier, who could be brutally heartless. The average slave owner of that day…had no more regard for his slave than for an animal.“The great Greek philosopher Aristotle said there could be no friendship and no justice toward inanimate things, not even toward a horse, an ox, or a slave, because master and slave were considered to have nothing in common. ‘A slave,” he said, ‘is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’ (Ethics, 1161b). The Roman law expert Gaius wrote that it was universally accepted that the master possessed the power of life and death over his slave (Institutes, 1:52). Still another Roman writer, Varro, maintained that the only difference between a slave, a beast, and a cart was that the slave talked (On Landed Estates, 1:17.1).
But this centurion cared for his servant. And this dear servant became sick. When the text says he was sick, the Greek literally says he was having it bad. This servant had it bad. That is Luke the physician’s professional diagnosis.
There are three things you never want to hear a doctor say:
1. Oops!
2. Hmm…I’ve never seen this before.
3. Oh, this is bad!
Luke says the third one here. This servant had it bad.
It was so bad, he was ready to die. He was at the point of death. So what did the servant have which was so bad? We don’t know. We aren’t told. But whatever it was, Matthew 8:6 indicates that the sickness caused paralysis and great torment. Generally, paralysis means you have no feeling. But this servant was paralyzed and in pain. He had the worst of both worlds. The centurion, who loved this servant, hated to see him in such distress and agony. So in Luke 7:3, he hears that Jesus is in town, and sends some people to ask Jesus to heal his servant.
II. The Centurion’s Supplication (Luke 7:3)
Luke 7:3. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.
Matthew 8:5 says the Centurion came. But in Jewish culture (or almost any culture), when a man of authority sends someone else for him as a representative, it is as if they themselves are coming. The centurion sends elders of the Jews as his representatives. This is curious. The elders of the Jews were some of the spiritual leaders of Israel. They would rarely submit to a Roman Army official. But here, they do exactly what he asks, and they do it quickly. This tells us that he had a good relationship with those hLuke 7:9. When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
When Jesus hears the words spoken by the centurion’s friends, He marveled and turned around. Jesus is so shocked at what He hears, He was stopped in his tracks. He is walking along toward the centurion’s house. The friends say, “You don’t have to go. The centurion says to just say the word and his servant will be healed.” Jesus is so shocked at the man’s faith, he says to the crowd, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” It’s like He is saying, “Wow! Now that is faith!”
Has your faith ever shocked Jesus? “Yes,” you say, “My lack of it.” Me too. Only one other time in Scripture is Jesus ever described as being amazed like this. When he visits his home town of Nazareth, he marvels at their complete lack of faith (Luke 4:14-30). It’s hard to shock Jesus, but when you do, it will either be your great faith, or your lack of it.
When it comes to great faith and little faith, we are probably more like the Jewish people. They prided themselves in being men and women of faith, descendant from Abraham, the father of faith, holders and keepers of the one true faith. Yet they didn’t have as great of faith as this Gentile centurion. Instead, the Jews, even the disciples, are rebuked over and over for having little faith.
The difference between great faith and little faith is not one of quantity. Great faith does not have lots and lots of faith, whereas little faith has hardly any. It’s not about percentages and degrees of faith.
You and I do not have faith containers in our souls which overflow when our faith is great, and are nearly empty when our faith is little. Faith does not work like that.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is confidence and persuasion in something God has said.
When you are persuaded that something is true, either because God has said it, or by the supporting evidence, then you have faith in that truth. Great faith believes and is convinced and is persuaded about some of the harder and more difficult truths of Scripture, whereas little faith does not believe or is not convinced or persuaded about these truths.
You either believe something or you don’t. Faith is like a switch. It is either on or off. And there are no dimmer switches with faith. You cannot believe 80% that there is a God. You either believe it or you don’t. If you are 99% sure, then you don’t yet believe. You are not yet persuaded. You have not yet been convinced.
So what is the difference between great faith and little faith? Great faith believes greater and more difficult truths than little faith. Great faith is fully convinced of the difficult promises and the hard to understand truths of Scripture. Little faith does not believe them. Little faith may believe the simple promises and the first grade level truths, like “there is a God” and “Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in him.”
But little faith does not believe in the advanced truths, like “God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory.” Do you believe that? Really? Than why do your worry about tomorrow? I worry all the time about tomorrow, so that means I don’t believe it. But great faith believes it. Great faith believes the hard to believe truths of the Bible. Great faith has nothing to do with the size of your faith. Rather, it’s about the difficult truths you do believe. This brings us back to the centurion and what he believed.
Jesus praises this centurion for having great faith. He says he hasn’t found such great faith in all of Israel. This centurion believed something which very few believe. He believed something very difficult to believe. He believed one of the advanced truths which nobody else believed. What did he believe?
First, he believed in his own lack of merit. He was courteous. He was humble. Yes, he was a good man. Yes, he loved the Jews. Yes, he built a synagogue for them. But that doesn’t mean he deserves anything from God, or from Jesus Christ. He knew he was unworthy to go meet Jesus, and he knew he was unworthy to have Jesus come meet him. He was unworthy. Most people do not believe this. Most people think they do deserve favors from God. Most people think they are pretty good people, and God owes them something. It is much harder to believe that all we have and all we are given is simply and only by the grace of God. But that is the first thing the centurion believed.
Second, he believed in the power of Jesus. He was confident in Christ. He believed in the authority of Jesus. He likened Jesus to military commanders. He knew that what Jesus commanded would be done. He knew that the words of Jesus were sufficient to accomplish the healing. Again, most people do not believe this either. We have promises in Scripture that Christ will make us more and more like Himself. He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He tells us that He will provide for all our needs. He tells us that He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness. He tells us that getting the Word of God into our lives will wash us and transform us into His likeness. His Word is sufficient. Most people don’t really believe these things. And I’ll be the first to admit that some of these are hard truths to believe. But the centurion showed great faith because he believed in the power and authority of Jesus to do exactly what He said He would do. The centurion believed that Christ’s word was sufficient.
This is related to the third thing the centurion believed. He believed in the ability of Jesus to heal from a distance. He believed Jesus did not have to be physically present with the dying servant to heal him. Jesus did not have to wave his arms, or say any special words, or make any special anointing. Healing from God comes without any of these sorts of things which most people back then, and even most people today, think are necessary. The centurion believed these things when almost nobody else did, and so he had great faith. “Great faith is not some higher level of conviction. It is believing something that is harder to believe, something that is contrary to what most people believe.” He believed some difficult truths. And so, Jesus healed his servant.
Luke 7:10. And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
The word used in Luke 7:10, hugiaino, means to be in full health, to be sound in mind and body. Jesus uses this word in Luke 5:31 to talk about those who have no need of a physician because there is nothing wrong with them. The symptoms of paralysis and pain not only left, but the disease as well. It was all gone. The servant was perfectly sound in mind and body.
Do you see what God accomplishes for those with great faith in His promises?
This is the truth Jesus wants to pass on to his disciples. If you are His disciple, this is what He wants you to learn. GREAT FAITH IN GREAT PROMISES LEAD TO GREAT RESULTS. IF YOU WANT RESULTS YOU FIRST HAVE TO KNOW THE PROMISES!!!
You first have to understand God, and how He works. You first have to know what He has said in His Word. Without a knowledge and understanding of those things, you will never have great faith. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Without hearing and understanding the Word of God, you will never have great faith. You will never even have little faith. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Do yo
u want to please God? Do you want to do great things for God? Do you want God to do great things through you? It’s not enough to just have faith.
Faith by itself does nothing. Faith must be based on the promises of God.
How do you get your faith to look at Jesus. Bob Wilkin shows us how. He writes, “You can’t believe what you haven’t heard, so make sure to have regular feeding on the Word of God in terms of personal reading and meditation, church attendance, and [discipleship] (Psalm 1; Heb 10:23-25; 2 Tim 2:2). Your faith…grows the more you understand and believe what God says.”

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