Friday, December 22, 2017

A Tale of Two Attitudes

Have you ever had the experience of reading a familiar passage of scripture, and suddenly noticing a nuance here, or a tidbit there, that you’d somehow missed before?

It’s almost Christmas, and so I’ve been re-reading the accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke — a great idea that the pastor at our church suggested a few weeks back.

The other day, I got on a bit of a roll in Luke's gospel, and kept reading several chapters into Jesus’ early ministry, as well.

In chapter seven, there is a familiar story of a Roman centurion, whose faith impressed the Messiah:
At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them. (Luke 7:2-6)
Okay, let’s pause there for a second. This is where a nuance I hadn’t noticed before began to stand out:

First, the centurion was smart: he sent Jewish elders to appeal to the Jewish Messiah.

Second — and this is the part that stood out — was the rationale that they used to try to convince Jesus to come: “he deserves this”.
He’s entitled. He’s earned it. Quid pro quo.*
*something that is given or taken in return for something else. (
The good news is, of course, that Jesus willingly went. But then the story gets even more intriguing:
But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed…” (Luke 7:6-7)
Let’s pause again.

The centurion’s friends were using a “he deserves this” kind of entitlement approach. But the centurion, speaking for himself, says, “No, actually, I don’t deserve it… But I believe. Just say the word.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed. (Luke 7:9-10)
No quid pro quo. No entitlement. No merit-based appeal.

Just faith in Jesus’ character, and faith that He had the authority to heal.

And the centurion was right, on both counts.

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