Monday, October 13, 2008

The Man Who Impressed Jesus, Street Level Devotions

Luke 7: 1-10
After Jesus had finished teaching the people, he went to Capernaum. In that town an army officer's servant was sick and about to die. The officer liked this servant very much. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish leaders to ask him to come and heal the servant.

The leaders went to Jesus and begged him to do something. They said, "This man deserves your help! He loves our nation and even built us a meeting place." So Jesus went with them.

When Jesus wasn't far from the house, the officer sent some friends to tell him, "Lord, don't go to any trouble for me! I am not good enough for you to come into my house. And I am certainly not worthy to come to you. Just say the word, and my servant will get well. I have officers who give orders to me, and I have soldiers who take orders from me. I can say to one of them, `Go!' and he goes. I can say to another, `Come!' and he comes. I can say to my servant, `Do this!' and he will do it."

When Jesus heard this, he was so surprised that he turned and said to the crowd following him, "In all of Israel I've never found anyone with this much faith!"

The officer's friends returned and found the servant well.

I have to admit, the concept of someone surprising or impressing the son of God is rather thought provoking. Think about it, someone that could surprise God. Yet, when we see this story we hear about a man that by his faith, surprised Jesus.

What was it this man did that surprised Jesus? It is quite simple actually; he displayed a great deal of faith. He displayed it in such a way as to show he fully knew of the abilities of Jesus.

Some in my faith tradition sometimes looks at soldiers in a negative way. I have always been kind of sad about this because I have a little understanding and appreciation of the men and women who have served. While this soldier was an officer some two thousand years ago, much of what is learned by military personnel is mentioned here. This man was a man in a position of authority, he fully understood what authority was, he knew of the importance of following orders, but he also knew the importance of giving orders. Despite this knowledge, despite the fact that he served in a military that occupied Israel, he still sought out advice and help from Jesus. There are other things that impress me about this man though, things we can learn from.

The officer wasn’t going to appeal to Jesus for a child, a spouse, not even a relative; he was making an appeal on behalf of one of his servants. This man understood the concept of getting along with people from differing backgrounds. A servant is one who serves; they are normally people of lower status. We often see examples of those who have servants taking advantage of their servants, yet here is a man who has a servant, but liked his servant “very much.” The officer was willing to place others in high esteem with respect, despite their status.

There was another attribute about this story; Jesus said he had never seen any greater faith, this said about a Roman Soldier, and a likely non practicing religious person. This person was not accepted by many in the religious community as he wasn’t Jewish. What can we learn about this when looking at the potential of people who aren’t religious? For me, I hope to learn to never give up on their potential, and that I can also realize that when it comes to spiritual things, if they are willing to learn from Jesus, he is willing to teach, love and accept them for who they are.

It is easy to look at a story like this and focus solely on the mans faith, that does appear to be the focus, but I think Jesus was impressed with the soldiers love for his servant, and his willingness to not only understand authority, but his willingness and example of showing compassion. In that regard, we can all learn from this man who impressed Jesus. Are we willing to show respect to all people? Are we willing to understand that all authority, all power exists in the person of Jesus Christ?

There are habits of behavior we can learn from, a willingness to develop friendships outside of our economic or professional experience. The aspect of serving and doing a good job, notice the appeal on behalf of this mans servant. The officer also had a clear understanding of authority, he knew who Jesus was, and had full confidence that Jesus could heal his servant. These are all positive attributes we can work towards. We may not accomplish them overnight, but over time, we can develop a faith and a walk with God that is pleasing to God, just like the Roman soldier.

Thought for today: There are only two examples in the Bible where Jesus was surprised or marveled. One was for the faith of the Roman soldier; another was for the lack of faith of the people who had seen his miracles. Pleasing God requires walking in faith, where are you walking today?

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