Register for

A Proper Approach

This article is adapted from a sermon preached by Adam Brock entitled “A Proper Approach.”

Who’s the boss in your house?

One day my wife and I were eating breakfast when we noticed my two oldest children being uncharacteristically quiet. Not long after that we heard and saw what could only be described as a royal processional. My middle daughter was wearing a homemade cape and crown and had a toy broom in her hand, and she was marching behind my oldest. Hannah would say, “make way for the queen!” and then Addi would say, “I’m the queen.” Followed by Hannah saying, “make way for the boss!” and then Addi would say, “I’m the boss.” And throughout the house, they marched.

Now it was cute and funny but was very challenging later when I told “the queen” that she had to lay down for a nap. She said, “but I’m the boss” to which I replied, “No, you’re not.”

Well, today, we get to read a text in which it becomes evident, who really is the boss. This is a story about authority, healing and compassion. But mostly it’s a story that will illustrate for us the proper way to approach Jesus.

“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, He entered Capernaum.” Luke 7:1 (NIV)

“All this” refers to the teachings of Jesus. Luke 6 includes passages that are also found in Matthew 5-7, which we often refer to as the Sermon on the Mount. Immediately preceding this passage, we find the story of the Wise and Foolish Builders. That story serves as an excellent conclusion for a lengthy teaching section as it calls the hearer to put into practice the things being taught.

By simply looking at the verses that precede and follow a passage you’ll be well on your way to practicing proper interpretation. Remember: context is key!

So, after teaching, Jesus again enters the town of Capernaum. This fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee served as Jesus’ base of operations during His public ministry.

“There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.” Luke 7:2 (NIV)

A centurion commanded a unit of 100 soldiers. The centurion was probably a member of Herod Antipas’ army since the Romans were not in Galilee before A.D. 44.

From Jesus’ statement in Luke 7:9, it is also evident that the centurion was a Gentile.

Clearly, this centurion was a unique individual for it would have been unusual for a man of this station to care this deeply about his servants. In fact, by Roman law, he was not required to care for them at all. If he wanted to, he could mistreat the man, even have him killed, simply because he wanted to. But we see a man who cares, even when he doesn’t have to.

This is not the main application of this text, but I think right off the bat a great question to ponder is: In my life, am I caring for those whom I don’t have to? 

“The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.” Luke 7:3 (NIV)

Some scholars have said that the reason the centurion enlisted the help of the Jewish elders was because he was unsure if a Jewish rabbi would even consider helping a Gentile, let alone a soldier.

As we think of this incident, it is helpful to remind ourselves that one of Luke’s great concerns in writing this gospel account is to demonstrate that Christ’s ministry was not only to the Jews but was meant for the Gentiles as well. So, Luke’s account includes many encounters that took place between Jesus and Gentiles.[1]

In fact, what we see here playing out is the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy from Luke 2.

“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29–32 (NIV)

I mention this because the emphasis of Luke teaches us a great lesson. The gospel is good news for all people! And this includes people whom society would rather exclude! So today, if you feel like you’re on the outside, then consider this story, this book and this great message as an invitation for you to be included!

“When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, ‘This man deserves to have You do this, because He loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’” Luke 7:4-5 (NIV)

This was no ordinary centurion. The elders argue that he is worthy to have Jesus help him. They specify two things: the centurion had goodwill for the conquered people, he loves our nation, and he had given expression to that goodwill by aiding local worship, he built for us our synagogue. [2]

Let me make a quick observation. One of the reasons they like the centurion so much is because he helped build a place of worship for them. And I’ve heard many times, and I agree with, the statement that the church is not a building, it’s a people. That’s important and we would do well to remember that. But I get why this would be such a big deal because the church is a people, but we are also an assembled people. Gathering together, corporate worship, public teaching and united service are all hallmarks of how we express our faith!

I’m just trying to say this: the church is not a building but gathering together is important. And over the last few years with everything that has gone on (COVID, hurricanes, etc.) I’m incredibly grateful for this place called Trinity Baptist Church. I’m grateful to be able to gather with you in this space and I don’t want us to ever take it for granted! In fact, I want us to commit ourselves to one another by making it a priority that we continue to gather together!

“So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.’” Luke 7:6 (NIV)

With one simple sentence in verse 6, “Jesus went with them,” we discover something about Jesus: The Lord is caring. Jesus doesn’t know the centurion. He doesn’t know the slave who’s sick and dying. The elders of the synagogue are not His followers. Yet Jesus went with them to see about this sick and dying man. The Lord cares. He is sensitive to our needs.[3]

As Jesus got close, the centurion did something surprising. He recognized that Jesus, the rabbi, outranked the centurion.

What humility we see on display here. He probably is aware of the cultural difficulties of a Gentile asking a Jew to come to his house, but his actual reason comes from a place of humility. And you know it’s genuine because even though the elders have already said he deserves a visit, in the next verse he’s going to say he’s not worthy! True humility refuses to exalt oneself.

“That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Luke 7:7

He respected Jesus’ authority and wanted Him to exercise it in the way the centurion exercised his authority. Speak, and it will be done![4]

Now, the centurion is not boasting to Jesus of his high rank in the Roman army. He is not deliberately showing off his power and influence. Rather, he is being completely humble in making his request before Christ, but he is saying to Jesus that he understands authority, for he himself is under authority. He knew Jesus didn’t need to enter the house. All He needed to do was say the word!

Here was a man who had stood before generals, maybe even the emperor of Rome, who knew somehow that in Christ he was dealing with One who is lord over all.[5]

These two verses give us a great lesson on coming to Jesus. Listen to the way Alistair Begg explains it: “There are two requirements we see here for receiving the blessing of God. A deep humility and a steadfast faith in Jesus.”

Humility and faith. That’s the proper approach! May we never, not even for a moment, think that we “deserve” the grace and mercy that God freely offers through Jesus. There is no room for pride at the cross!

“For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Luke 7:8

Notice the proper understanding of authority put on display here. He does not say, “I am a man with authority” as might have been expected, but I am a man under authority.[6]

Both the centurion and Jesus were under authority, and because they were under authority, they had the right to exercise authority.[7]

 What comes to mind when you hear the word “authority”?

 It doesn’t always have the greatest connotation in today’s world. But the Bible actually has a lot to say about authority.

Let’s talk about the nature of authority.
 
  • Ultimate authority belongs to God, who does as he pleases
 “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” Psalm 115:3 (NIV)

  • All human authority is given and established by God
 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)  

 “‘Do You refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free You or to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’” John 19:10-11 (NIV)

  • As a follower of Jesus, we live with authority
 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Therefore go…’” Matthew 28:18-19b (NIV)

We’ve been called to a great work and commissioned by the ultimate authority. Having all authority, Jesus sends out His followers into the world as ambassadors, empowered with HIS authority.

However, if we refuse to submit, we’ll circumvent that authority. So how do we practice submission? In broad terms, we submit to God in two major ways.
 
  • By submitting to Scripture.
 “Your statutes are the theme of my song during my earthly life.” Psalm 119:54 (CSB)
 
  • And by submitting to the Spirit.
 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 (NIV)  
 
 If you fail to submit to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will not be able to live the victorious Christian life. Because of the finished work of Jesus upon the cross, we can live with authority, no longer slaves to sin!

 Are you walking in authority today? Or are you being mastered by sin and mastered by fear of man?

“When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” Luke 7:9 (NIV)

Luke did not report how Jesus cured the servant. This was not the point. The point was, and is, faith. The centurion possessed a faith far beyond the Jewish elders who knew Jesus could heal but refused to follow Him. This was a faith beyond the crowds, who often followed hoping for another miracle or sign. This man had the one quality Jesus is looking for in people—faith, the ability to believe God would do what he promised.[8]

The word translated here for “faith” is a Greek word that means: “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance and confidence in.”

Does your faith look like that? Do you have complete trust in, full reliance upon, and a sure confidence in God?

Let’s press this a touch deeper: Is this the kind of faith you are passing down to the next generation?
 
If you’re a dad, are you living your life in such a way that your children see faith. Because there is no more meaningful lesson than simply seeing a dad take faith seriously!
 
I’ve worked with a lot of teenagers of the years and the ones who were solid in their faith when they launched out into the world were not the ones who sat under my teaching weekly (although I hope it helped). It was the ones whose parents (and in particular the dad) actually relied upon and had confidence in God!
 
Here’s an easy assignment for the people who might be thinking, I have no clue how to pass on faith to my kids. Today, (and every day), hug them, tell them Jesus loves them and then pray for them out loud! “But I’ve never prayed out loud in front of anyone!” Great! Struggle through it if you have to! Your kids will benefit from seeing faith that is raw and real, much more than a faith that appears perfect but is actually phony!
 
Not a dad? This same application needs to be made for every person who has any influence anywhere! Wife — show faith to your husband! Grandparent — show faith to your grandkids! Kids — show faith to your siblings! Students — show faith to your friends!
 
Let’s model for the world what it looks like to fully trust, rely upon and have confidence in God! Just show them what it looks like to actually believe!
 
Now, look at the word “amazed.” This word means “astonished, wonder, marvel.”

Only twice is Jesus recorded as marveling at people, here on account of faith and in Nazareth because of unbelief (Mark 6:6). This was a most unusual situation and Jesus did not want this group of Israelites to miss it. Jesus says, not even in Israel have I found such faith. This is not a criticism of Israel, for the implication is that Jesus did find faith there, though not as great faith as that of the centurion. The surprising thing was that this Gentile would have such great faith, faith surpassing that among the Israelites, the people of God.[9]

And think about this, verse 3 simply says that “the centurion heard of Jesus.” We don’t know how exhaustive the report was. We don’t know how many stories he had been told, whether he heard from eyewitnesses, or even if he was up to date on the news. All we know is that with his limited knowledge, he still chose to believe! And how often, even with all that we have today in the Word of God and the testimony of the church, do we conclude that Jesus can’t really help me and my situation! How often do we not even go to the Lord because deep down we have unbelief about if Jesus would help, or if he even can? Today, we need to challenge that unbelief. Wherever you have let unbelief have a foothold in your life, challenge it! And instead, let’s bring it to Jesus in faith!

“Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” Luke 7:10

To put it simply, this verse teaches us that the Lord heals. He uses his authority over life to give life. Really, this miracle is a kind of brief commercial for what Jesus will do in the end: eradicate all disease, sickness and pain. That’s how He uses His authority—for our healing and saving. With all our Lord’s authority, He is not too busy to visit the home of a sick slave. In the coming kingdom, the Lord will make all things new and restore all that is broken.[10]

Luke’s concern is not simply to tell us another story about the miraculous healing power of Jesus. His emphasis here is not on the healing of the servant, but on the attitude of the centurion, who comes before Christ, recognizing who he is, and approaches him in a proper spirit of humility, saying: ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.’[11]

The Scriptures tell us that God gives grace to the humble.

  • “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b (CSB)
  • “He mocks those who mock but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (CSB)
  • “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b (CSB)

God’s ear is in tune to the cries of the humble, but we are also told that He resists the proud, He brings down the arrogant. Pride has devastating effects; it has destroyed churches, kingdoms and people. We have all seen it, and there is no profession or calling that is immune from its ravaging power. One can become so full of self-importance, that before he even knows it, his personality is engulfed by the kind of pride that God hates and works to bring down.

The centurion in this account had much to be proud of. He was a man who had achieved a significant rank and had standing in the community. How easy it would have been for him to command Jesus to attend to his sick servant. Instead, however, he humbled himself and Christ brought healing to his home.

  • Is pride keeping Christ away from your home?
  • Is pride a barrier to you following Jesus?
  • Do you try to manipulate God, as if He were obliged to obey your commandments?
  • Or do you recognize His authority, humbling yourself before Him, crying on your knees that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords?[12]

Jesus said, “Not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” May He find that kind of faith in your house today. He is worthy of your trust and faith. The Roman centurion understood that. Do you?

Christian, it’s obvious from this story and many more in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus does not draw insider/outsider lines that determine who He will love! The Pharisees were guilty of saying everyone within my well-defined box can be ministered to but everyone else needs to get away! Jesus was willing to go anywhere with anyone, even at the risk of ceremonial defilement in order to love them! When forced to choose between traditions and rituals and loving people, Jesus chose people!

Today, we need to see humility and a confident faith sweep across us as a people! Will you be willing to let go of pride in order to humble yourself and trust Christ?

[1] R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 134.
[2] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 156.
[3] Thabiti Anyabwile, Exalting Jesus in Luke, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2018), Lk 7:1-10.
[4] Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 104-105.
[5] R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke, 135-136.
[6] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, 157-158.
[7] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition commentary. New Testament Vol. 1, (David C. Cook: 1989), 195.
 [8] Trent C. Butler, Luke, 105.
[9] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, 158.
[10] Thabiti Anyabwile, Exalting Jesus in Luke, Lk 7:1-10.
[11] R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke, 137.
[12] R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke, 137-138.

Recent

Archive

Categories

Tags