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Archive for June 2nd, 2013

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But say the word, and let my servant be healed

-Centurion to Jesus, Luke 7: 6c, 7b

 The Lord did trouble Himself.  He went to heal.  Jesus went because as the synagogue elders told Him, the centurion loved Israel and built one of the two synagogues in Capernaum?  I doubt it.  He went because He is the answer to the prayer of the Centurion for his slave near death.  The Lord Jesus answers the Gentile Roman soldier’s prayer in another way that the Lord did not expect and He marveled at the answer.  The Centurion believed. He believed in Jesus and clearly, His Word. “But say the word…”  The Centurion’s comparison is clear as a soldier needs a clear command8And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1 Corinthians)  The Centurion would have known exactly what Paul was writing to the Corinthians.  Jesus was sounding clearly the power of God’s Word to heal and save. The Centurion could not beat the enemy of death knocking loudly on the door of his home in his beloved slave. None of us can, and since sin is death, spiritual death, we are likewise powerless against sin and the devil.  The Centurion had met enemies before in combat.  He could trust in the strength of his arm and his sword…but even in combat he knew there was a limit and the limit was death.  The Centurion could not wield his sword against death.  He knew that the might of Caesar and the Empire were finally powerless and weak.  In this battle on his own, the centurion could not prepare.

 He began to believe that the Rabbi from Nazareth was stronger and purer than any man who had ever walked upon the earth. God’s Word can accomplish that which the Lord purposes for it.  I think the centurion would have been aghast at what the synagogue elders said to Jesus that the centurion was worthy of Jesus’ visit because the centurion loved Israel and the built the synagogue, i.e. he is a major donor, a charter member.  He is worthy and that’s the way we think, I have  some worthiness to garner the Lord’s attention by my spiritual works.  But what did the Centurion say?  “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”  Amazing!  The few, the proud, the Centurion, would not have a Jew risk ritual defilement in a Gentile’s home…but a Roman soldier would have also known worthiness is not a quality on the outside but inside and he began to believe in the Word of God he heard in the synagogue he built. None are worthy because of what’s on the inside in the sight of the Holy One of Israel, after all, no one less than the great prophet Isaiah sees the thrice holy God in the Temple with the angels, cries out, I am a man of  unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips. The Centurion may have heard Isaiah 6 in the synagogue.  Then the Lord alone did atone Isaiah’s sin with a burning coal, by the Lord’s Word alone.

 And here in Jesus was a holy and pure love that made the love and lust of man’s heart, which is a Roman heart, the love and lust for more and more,  be known for what it is:  dirty.  Jesus wielded a sword unlike any other, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  Only that sword can defeat sin, death and the power of the devil.  A centurion had a century of men under him, a hundred.  Jesus had no army, He called the 12 and they were at best timid foot soldiers at that time. Jesus did not go because he was motivated by the centurion’s spiritual works, but the Lord’s only motivation is divine love: Jesus loved him and his slave, for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  Jesus’ Word was finally and fully not fear.  Why does a soldier obey?  Fear of punishment.  Jesus’ Word was finally and fully divine love, whose only condition for His divine love, His Word is the need for it. The synagogue elders were, we are told, earnest in their plea to Jesus.  But even more the Centurion, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. His Word could lift up the soldier’s servant from death.  It did.  And more: Jesus’ Word lifted up the Centurion, the unworthy Centurion!

 Just say the Word…the centurion made such a clear comparison.  I am a man 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” One of the questions Jesus’ opponents asked, By what authority do you do what you are doing?  Jesus said He had authority to forgive sins and sinners.  He did the miracles so that we would know with certainty He forgives.  So that you may know the Son of man forgives sinners and He healed the paralytic man in Luke chapter 5.  Just say the Word.  The centurion was under a chain of command and at the top was Caesar.  But this man from Nazareth was under a chain of command in which the buck stopped with Jesus.  A centurion represented Caesar but here was a man who did not merely re-present God, He is God’s Presence, the Holy One of Israel. The commander of heaven and earth was a lowly foot soldier, a grunt to catch us up from below, and finally and fully on the Cross.  Jesus never once shed the blood of another man but for murderers He shed His…and for thieves and the half-hearted and the corrupt. His blood alone made the foulest clean.  Just say the Word.  He has and still does.  There is no other good news, Gospel.  This Gospel of Jesus Christ was the Centurion’s faith in Jesus:  Jesus says the Word as He is the Word made flesh.  Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith.  The Gospel writers used the word “marvel” as in the crowd’s marveling at Jesus’ miracle.  Jesus marveled at what flesh and blood cannot do, but is revealed by the Father in Jesus in the Holy Spirit:  the Word makes faith. Even though Jesus did not go physically into the centurion’s home, He was there in His Word: His Word healed the servant.  The Lord is present in His Word, preached and taught and administered in the Sacrament of the Altar. 

 In the Roman Catholic Church a modification of today’s text for this sermon which  is used as a prayer before receiving Holy Communion, His Body and Blood:

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But say the word, and your servant will be healed”

I think that is meet and right so to pray. The tops of our heads are the roof of His Temple of the Holy Spirit. As it says in the Bible, your bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. There is no other Gospel to be preached beside the Word of Christ Jesus’ unilateral Word of grace, mercy and peace for us all, who are at both sinners and saints.  The centurion highly valued and loved His servant.  The Lord does not love you because you are deserving, but He highly values and loves His servants, His creation, you, to redeem you. He has.  The centurion said, Lord, do not trouble yourself. The Lord still troubles Himself to make His home with us all.  Just say the Word and the world still is in need of it.  Say the word and your servant will be healed. For troubles of our lives, He gives His Body and Blood. This Word is authority, the authority of heaven.  After sometimes a long week of the slow and painful march of life we come to rest in Him our Sabbath rest and He feeds us. I am not worthy to have you come under my roof., but say the Word and your servant will be healed.

 The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in  Christ Jesus.  AMEN!  We sing the Offertory.

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