I just preached this at our Sunday night English service. It was a powerful message for me, and generated some good small group discussion. I welcome your comments.
6 March 05 – The Shelter
He Has Said the Word – Luke 6:47-7:7, 9-10
47 Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” 7:1 After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people he entered Capernaum.
2 Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at the point of death. 3 When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.”
6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” …
9 When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.
Who is worthy to have Jesus enter his house? Am I? Are you? Was this centurion worthy of such a Guest?
The answers to those questions in order are: “No one,” “No,” “No,” and “No.” I am a sinner. You are a sinner. The centurion was a sinner. So why did Jesus have such a good reaction to him?
Jesus liked the centurion’s “style” for one simple reason: the centurion had faith. As Jesus exclaimed, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (v. 9). Jesus always responds in amazing ways to even the simplest faith. What exactly was the centurion’s faith? It had two parts, two meanings, for him.
First, by faith the centurion knew he was not holy. He knew he was a sinner. He knew he needed to be healed. This is why he approached Jesus so indirectly, and so humbly. First he sent some Jewish elders to talk with Jesus on his behalf (v. 3). Then he sent his friends to mediate between him and the Lord (v. 6). The Jews said he was worthy of Jesus’ visit (v. 4-5), but the centurion knew the dark truth: he was totally unworthy. As he said through his friends, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you” (v. 6-7).
Hence, he kept his distance from Christ. He kept his distance from the holiness of Christ like a man soaked with gasoline keeps his distance from a fire. The man dripping with gasoline, like the centurion dripping with sin, knows he cannot simply walk into the presence of such glorious power. The centurion’s sin, like gasoline waiting to burn, would destroy him in the fire of God’s holy love.
So, by faith he knew first that he needed healing. But that is not all. Also by faith he knew Jesus could save him. He knew Jesus could make him and his servant well. This is why he contacted Jesus as soon as he heard of him (v. 3). This story was not just about a sick servant; as the centurion knew, it was about a sinful centurion in need of a savior.
By faith, the centurion kept his distance as an unworthy sinner; but also by faith he got as close to the Lord as he could in the hope being made worthy. So we see how faith strikes a balance: one the one hand, we must grieve and repent of our sin; on the other hand, we must hope and rejoice in the Lord’s mercy. To have only one of these parts of faith – guilt or hope – is not enough. We must believe in our terrible sin AND in Christ our wonderful Savior.
Now, you might notice a strange thing: Jesus never actually entered the centurion’s house. Such distance was expected of Jews in Jesus’ day, since entering a gentile’s house was considered unlawful and unclean. So why didn’t Jesus just go into the house and show God’s love was bigger than such petty barriers? Why didn’t he remove the distance of bigotry? Was Jesus afraid to enter the dirty gentile centurion’s house?
If we stopped before the last verse, this story might let us think that. After all, even though Jesus praises the centurion’s faith, he does not go with him into his dirty gentile house. Without the last verse, verse 10, it’s easy to suspect not even Jesus overcame the racial barrier between Jews and gentiles.
But that’s the beauty of the last verse! It’s the last verse! It has the final say! It gives us the whole story! It shows us Jesus’ true heart and mind! In light of the last verse, we see that Jesus did not enter the centurion’s house because he did not need to. He did not enter the house in his flesh because he had already been there in his Spirit. He sent the centurion’s friends back without him because he had already sent his healing presence ahead of them.
Jesus, God the Son, did not enter the house because his holy spirit, God the Spirit, was already there! The centurion was most definitely not worthy of Jesus’ presence. But Christ’s love, by the power of the Holy Spirit, overcame his sinfulness, as well as the racial barrier. The healed servant was a sign that God’s love reaches beyond the Jews to all peoples. The centurion had faith and found his healed servant as a living sign of the new health of his soul.
How do you and I fit into this story? What does it have to do with us today? Today, right now, you and I are the centurion and, fortunately, Jesus is still Jesus. Right now, you and I are not worthy to have Jesus in your life. Right now you and I are dripping with the gasoline of sin. But there is hope.
If we cry out to Christ with faith, he will shield us from the fire of God’s wrath and will clean us from the gasoline of sin. And as we lose our gasoline, Jesus draws us closer and closer to the fire of God’s holy love. One day, if we have faith, we will shine forever like diamonds in the light of God’s love. And yet, one day, if we are without faith, we will burn forever like garbage in the fire of God’s wrath.
If you have faith tonight – faith in your sin and even greater faith in Christ’s mercy – then you can return home tonight, like the centurion’s friends, and find your soul made well. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
The Good News is that, by his death and resurrection, Jesus HAS said the word. At the Cross, he spoke a decisive word of love which has overcome all barriers and all the distance between God and man, between man and woman, between Jews and gentiles – and between you and God. If you have faith like the centurion, Jesus shall make you worthy to receive him. He has said the word. He loves you; he died for you; he rose for you. And now he wants to enter your home. Open the door with the key of faith and receive him tonight.