The Gospel of Luke - Part 23: Strong Faith - Luke 7:1-17

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Review:

Last week we wrapped up Luke Chapter 6, and our study of the Luke rendition of what is likely the Sermon on the Mount. Just to refresh you on what Jesus was teaching that led up to today’s lesson, we saw that we are spiritually blind and that he is the only true guide and that as His followers, we will mature to be like him.

He also told us, paraphrased, “Fix thyself first, before you try to fix those around you.” Your problem is you, not your neighbor.

Then He told us that our spiritual condition will be evident by our fruit, good or bad. Our life is a reflection of our relationship with Him. Our character, our conduct, our conversation and our effectiveness will show our spiritual condition.

And then He called all of us hypocrites for talking a good faith but failing to walk it. True faith will result in a faithful walk. If we do not have a solid foundation on Jesus, we will not have a productive life, our house is vulnerable to collapse when the storms of life hit. If we do not have a solid foundation of the answers to the three questions of our faith, we are vulnerable to the false teachers who attack the immature, or weak or isolated Christian. Remember those questions are:

In the eleven verses we covered last week, there is enough for us to spend weeks or months on, but we will proceed on anyway.

This morning we break open Luke Chapter 7, which could be titled, Keep the Faith!

One theme found in both Chapters 7 and 8 is the importance of faith. One aspect of faith has to do with your focus.  Ask yourself:

I've handed out a list of references in Luke to “faith” and “believe”. This list shows you how important these concepts are in Luke. But if you look at the whole New Testament, these words (and variations) are used over 450 times! In contrast, “love” (and variations) is used about 230 times. That means that faith is a big deal in the New Testament. Hebrews 11:1 gives a brief definition of faith:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1
As you read through Luke 7 and 8, you might keep this definition in mind as you consider the responses of people to Jesus and to circumstances. Faith deals in unseen realities.

Here is a synopsis of what The Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words has to say about faith.

“The New Testament portrays a person committing himself or herself totally to the person of Jesus. One other aspect of the New Testament 's use of faith is fascinating. Usually the object of faith is Jesus. Only 12 verses have God as the object of faith ... The Father has set Jesus before us as the One to whom we must entrust ourselves for salvation. It is Jesus who is the focus of Christian faith. In the context of our faith and in our relationship with Jesus, 'believing' has come to mean (1) the happy trust that a person places in the person of Jesus and (2) the allegiance to him that grows out of that very personal commitment. ... For you and me, faith in Jesus does not come through an observation of miracles. Faith is born as we learn about Jesus, find out what He said, and put our trust in Him. We then go on to deeper faith, an active reliance on the power and presence of God. And as we trust, our life opens up to all sorts of possibilities. Miracles follow faith. Believing, we experience God at work in our lives.”

A.W. Tozer said:

Faith is all-important in the life of the soul. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" [Hebrews 11:6]. Faith will get me anything, take me anywhere in the Kingdom of God, but without faith there can be no approach to God, no forgiveness, no deliverance, no salvation, no communion, no spiritual life at all.
As you read through this chapter, consider Jesus' words and actions in light of His desire that we have faith in Him — in who He is, in what He has said, in what He has done and promises to do.

Chapter 7 breaks into three sections on faith:
A.  Strong Faith(7:1-17)   (see also Matt. 8:5-13 and John 4:43-54)
B.  Struggling Faith  (7:18-35)   (see also Matt. 11:2-19)
C.  Saving Faith(7:36-50)

We will start this morning with Strong Faith (7:1-17).

This passage breaks up into two sections, each devoted to Jesus’ interaction with an individual: (1) the centurion and (2) the widow.

(1) - The Centurion

When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. —Luke 7:1-10

 

What do we learn about Jesus in verses 1-6?

He went to Capernaum.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that Capernaum was “His adopted hometown where He performed many of His messianic signs.”

Here’s some additional information about Capernaum

He taught in the synagogue there according to Mark 1:21
They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. —Mark 1:12
And He taught in private homes there. But the miracles performed there appear to have precipitated the controversy and opposition.

Capernaum is referred to as Jesus' home in Mark 2:1.

When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. —Mark 2:1
Matthew 9:1 described it as “his own city.”
Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. —Matthew 9:1
It appears that several of the disciples also lived there including Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and perhaps John and James. The populace apparently did not accept Jesus’ messianic role because they fell under the same condemnation as Chorazin and Bethsaida for failing to repent (Matt. 11:20-24).
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” —Matthew 11:20-24
What are some things we learn about the centurion?

Centurion - An officer in the Roman army, nominally in command of one hundred soldiers. In Luke 7:1-10, the passage we are studying, a centurion who lived at Capernaum approached Jesus on behalf of his ailing servant. In Mark 15:39, a centurion who witnessed the crucifixion identified Jesus as the Son of God.

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” —Mark 15:39
(In Mark 15:44-45, probably the same centurion verified that Jesus was dead.)
Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. —Mark 15:44-45
In Acts 10.1 it was a centurion who has a vision from God and sent for Peter to interpret it for him.
Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort... —Acts 10:1
They were usually career soldiers, and they formed the real backbone of the Roman military force.

Luke tells us, concerning the centurion:

When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. —Luke 7:3
This centurion was apparently liked and respected by the Jews of Capernaum. That would be pretty unusual considering that he was a Gentile (non-Jew) and commander of an army of occupation.

There is also some indication that he was spiritually sensitive, what we'd call a “seeker” today:

As Christians, we need to be “seeker sensitive”. That is, we need to be alert to indications that God is working in a non-Christian’s life and that the person is responding. We need to ask Jesus to help us see the people around us whose hearts may be responsive to His call.

Verse 6: - So Jesus went with them.

I'm really challenged by Jesus' humility and servant heart here. Jesus could have reasonably asked that the servant be brought to Him. But He didn't; He was willing to go. Jesus served and helped people whenever He had the opportunity in many different ways. In fact, it was often through serving opportunities that the Lord met people who put their trust in Him.

Note the Centurion’s humility.

Verse 7: - For this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.

As soon as the centurion hears that Jesus is coming to Capernaum, he sends a delegation, of Jewish elders, to Jesus.

Matthew's Gospel summarizes this event, leaving out the delegations and simply recording the words of the centurion to Jesus.

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. —Matthew 8:5-13
In verse 7 of Luke 7, we learn why the centurion didn't come himself. It wasn't pride but humility. There's an interesting pattern to people's encounters with Jesus. The more clearly we see who Jesus really is, His worthiness, the more clearly we also see our unworthiness.

The centurion makes it clear that he doesn't deserve Jesus' help, that He appreciates His grace in helping him.

It's somewhat like Peter's encounter with Jesus in Luke 5:1-8. As Peter sees Jesus as “Lord”, he also sees himself as a “sinful man”.

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” —Luke 5:1-8
Next Week: - We will pick up with Jesus' interaction with (2) - The Widow.