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LSB Proper 4C Sermon – Luke 7:1-10

May 31, 2016

May 29, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at [the centurion], and turning to the crowds that followed Him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’”

Solomon’s prayer at the Temple’s dedication spoke of the LORD, whose building was being consecrated. He notes the LORD’s faithfulness, “keeping covenant and showing love to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart.” He praises the LORD’s uniqueness: “there is no God like You, in heaven above or on earth beneath.” Solomon also speaks of the privilege that the LORD has extended of making Himself present in the Temple: “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; much less this house that I have built…the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there.’” All of these statements tell of the LORD’s greatness and why Israel should believe and worship Him.

Yet, when Solomon dedicates the Temple, he mentions something that might surprise some. In among all the praises given to the LORD that extol Him as the God of Israel is a statement about Gentiles. But what Solomon mentions about these people who do not belong to Israel is not negative. Instead, he declares that Gentiles will come to the Temple to pray to the LORD, “for they shall hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm.” Solomon is glad for this to happen. He wants the LORD to do for the Gentile what He will do for the Israelite: “Hear in heaven Your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by Your name.”

Solomon’s prayer foretells what you heard in today’s Gospel Reading. You heard about the centurion and his very ill servant, “who was sick and at the point of death.” The servant’s illness drove the centurion to seek out Jesus. But note how the Gospel writer records this fact: “When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to Him elders of the Jews, asking Him to come and heal his servant.” Why does the centurion send emissaries to Jesus? Because of what he had heard about Jesus and His miraculous deeds in the towns of Galilee. The centurion believes in Jesus’ unique ability to provide healing that no one else could give. So the centurion asks Jesus to come; he prays for Jesus’ presence.

But the centurion’s understanding of Jesus is just an extension of what he had already come to know. Remember what the elders of the Jews said about him: “He is worthy to have You do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” Though he was a foreigner, this centurion had been like Solomon: he had come to love the LORD and had built a house where the LORD’s words could be preached for the people to hear. And now, when Jesus had come to fulfill those words of promise, the centurion seeks out the LORD’s goodness that Jesus provides.

Yet, when the centurion sends for Jesus, he makes absolutely no claims of worthiness. He recognizes the privilege that has been extended to him as a Gentile. The centurion has come to know about the LORD and His divine graciousness. He has also come to know about the LORD’s faithfulness that Solomon praised, “keeping covenant and showing love to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart.” So the centurion tells Jesus: “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. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” This soldier has put his full trust in what the LORD has revealed about Himself. This has become the object of his faith. And he clings to what the LORD has said with his whole heart.

The faith exhibited by the centurion becomes what Jesus praises. Recall what happens when the centurion’s friends speak to Jesus: “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turning to the crowds that followed Him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” Though this centurion was a foreigner, he had now shown to all what true faith looks like. Though this soldier was a Gentile, he had acted as a true Israelite. What he had done is what the LORD desired all of His people to do. Just like the foreigners mentioned by Solomon, this centurion had come to the LORD’s Temple, to the place which bore His name, to where the LORD had tabernacled and dwelt among mankind. Based on what he had heard, this foreigner had offered his prayer. And the LORD answers him: “And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.”

As you hear the record of the centurion’s acts, you see what the LORD desires to expect from you. The pattern is to be the same. Not that you should be saved by imitating a Roman soldier. Rather, the centurion demonstrates what the LORD’s people who have received salvation do. He exhibits what faithfulness looks like. That is shown in the centurion’s acts. He loved the nation and built a synagogue because of what he had heard about the LORD. He sends for Jesus because of what he had heard about Jesus. He claims no worthiness before the LORD. But he knows and believes that the LORD has a great name and mighty hand and outstretched arm that do great things and that the LORD keeps His word. All that is what the centurion’s faith has grabbed hold of and fully trusts.

That is what the LORD desires for you. As you hear the record of the LORD’s work and the promises that He makes, you are drawn to place your trust in Him. That record and promises include what the apostle wrote: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever.” This is what you hear about Jesus. That is what the last six months of the Church Year have pointed you towards, as you heard about Jesus’ work in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. You have heard that Jesus is the One sent by the Father to fulfill the promises of bringing redemption to the world, of dealing mercifully with all the sins that humanity—even you—have committed, of opening the way to everlasting life by overcoming death. That is what the record of Jesus’ acts has revealed to you.

Not only have you heard this about Jesus’ work, you have also heard the promise that He made, as you did on Trinity Sunday last week: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” You have heard the promise made about the LORD making Himself present with His people, as you did two weeks ago on Pentecost Sunday: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” This is why you cling onto His words, trusting that the benefits that He promises will be yours.

And the LORD has done even more. He has also revealed where He can be found. For you do not go to the Temple ruins in Jerusalem seeking Him. No, you come here because of His words of promise about where His good gifts are given: “Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them…. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” That is why you come seeking the LORD here, asking for His great acts to be done for you. For this is where Jesus can be found. This is a place where His name is present.

You are the foreigners who have come to the LORD’s house. You have come because of everything that you have heard about the LORD. The record of His great name and mighty hand and outstretched arm has been proclaimed for you to hear. You have heard of what the LORD has done for humanity, graciously reconciling the people who were separated by sin from His goodness and righteousness. You have heard that the LORD is unlike any other deity, “keeping covenant and steadfast love to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart.” This has summoned you to the trust in the LORD and follow His ways.

So now you are here. Now you have come from the far country for the sake of the LORD’s name which has been placed on you. Now you make your intercessions to the LORD: “Forgive me for my failures. Restore me to righteousness. Give me Your goodness. Make me fit for Your kingdom.” These are not asked of the LORD because you are peers with Him. No, it is just as the centurion declared about himself: “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.” Your presence is not done out of presumption, but because of that divine invitation that has been extended to you, calling you who were once far off to come and offer your prayers for the LORD in heaven to hear and to answer. That is what you do, echoing what the centurion said: “But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” And the LORD does so, marveling at the faith that you have exhibited by trusting His word, making you well again.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


From → Sunday Sermon

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