Great Faith from a Roman: Luke 7:1-10

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While Jesus performed countless miracles during His three-and-a-half years of ministry leading up to the cross, one of these miracles stands apart from the rest. This miracle stands out because Jesus isn’t directly present for the healing, though He may have planned to be, and because Jesus praises the faith of the man requesting help.

This miracle stands out in my mind because of some details Luke includes that the other gospel writers didn’t. Let’s read about what happened, from Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

When Jesus had finished saying all these things to the people, he went to Capernaum. A Roman officer there had a servant who was very dear to him; the man was sick and about to die. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, “This man really deserves your help. He loves our people and he himself built a synagogue for us.”

Let’s pause reading hear for a moment because Luke just shared some details that I don’t believe Matthew included. In Luke’s version of this event, the Roman officer asks some respected Jewish leaders to ask Jesus for help. Whether this Roman didn’t think Jesus would be interested in helping him directly, or whether he believed that these Jewish leaders would make a stronger case for help, I cannot escape noticing that Jewish leaders came to ask for Jesus’ help.

It is also interesting that this miracle happens in Capernaum, which is one of the locations Jesus lived while He was in ministry. Several of the disciples may have even lived here as well. While it seemed as though Jesus had alienated Himself from most every other religious leader in Israel, these leaders in Capernaum had not written Jesus off – or this event happened early enough in Jesus’ ministry that not every religious leader had turned against Him.

I am also fascinated by the way these Jewish leaders ask Jesus for help. They open by saying that this Roman deserved Jesus’ help, and they support this statement by saying that the officer loved the Jewish people and that he built (probably financed) the synagogue where they worshiped. A subtle implication on both the part of the Roman officer and these leaders is that this officer knew he was outside of the circle Jesus was in, and these religious leaders were inside the circle with Jesus. This distinction is present in both the act of Jewish leaders making the request, and in the request itself when these leaders describe this officer’s love for “our people”.

This Roman officer might not have realized it, but Jesus came to bless both Jew and gentile, and He is happy to help this officer, but I doubt for the reasons that the Jewish leaders present.

Continuing in verse 6, we read:

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the officer sent friends to tell him, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I do not deserve to have you come into my house, neither do I consider myself worthy to come to you in person. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man placed under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Let’s pause reading again because I want to point out a very interesting contrast. When the religious leaders make their case for Jesus’ help, they tell Jesus that this officer “deserves” Jesus’ help. In contrast, when Jesus is on His way, the officer’s friends bring Jesus the message that the officer does not “deserve” Jesus’ presence, and that this officer believes he is “unworthy” to come in person. While the religious leaders make a case that is founded on pride, the officer counters this case on the foundation of humility and his unworthiness.

Whether the officer believed he was too sinful, or whether he was simply self-conscious about Jesus seeing something he was not proud of in his home, this Roman understood that Jesus was not the one directly performing the miracles. Instead, Jesus was the “commander” so to speak, and God gave the healing. I don’t know if there had been any prior miracles where Jesus hadn’t been directly present before this point, but I don’t think this was the case. The parable of Jesus turning the water into wine comes close though, and this miracle also happened in the city of Capernaum.

How does Jesus respond? Let’s continue reading in verse 9 to find out:

Jesus was surprised when he heard this; he turned around and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, I have never found faith like this, not even in Israel!”

10 The messengers went back to the officer’s house and found his servant well.

I am always amazed at this miracle because Jesus ultimately gives this Roman official a higher compliment than He had given to anyone else in Israel. In what was likely one of the more secular parts of the region of Israel, Jesus recognizes the unconventional faith that this gentile officer had. This Roman knew Jesus could help, he asks Jesus for help, and he lets Jesus know that His presence is not required.

From the moment this officer learned that Jesus would help, he knew that his servant would live because of Jesus. The proof of this was not getting Jesus to touch this servant directly, but simply the servant getting well. I believe if the servant had gotten well weeks later, rather than minutes, this officer still would have attributed this healing to Jesus, and he might have simply written off the time difference as something potentially necessary when dealing with long-distant miracles.

But this passage concludes that the servant was well, we might even say fully healed, by the time the messengers arrive back at the officer’s home. Jesus was not going to let this opportunity slip by with a slow miracle. Even though this officer didn’t believe he deserved Jesus’ help, or even Jesus’ presence, Jesus honored both.

We can learn from this Roman officer because when we think honestly about our own lives, we don’t deserve Jesus’ help. We have sinned, and we are to blame. Any help we request could fall on deaf ears – except that they don’t because of who God is and what He is like.

Also, we can learn from this Roman officer because he trusted Jesus’ word without Jesus’ presence. Jesus is in heaven right now and it is unlikely that He will personally come and answer your request. However, He is willing to help from a distance, and when we are willing to accept Jesus’ long-distance help and believe He wants the ultimate best for everyone in our situation, then with whatever happens, we can know that He has reasons for what happened – even if we don’t know His reasons.

God’s goal for each of us is not an easy life here in a sin-filled earth.

God’s goal for each of us is that we will live forever with Him starting in heaven before ultimately moving to a new heaven and new earth.

As we conclude another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always be sure to seek God first in your life. Trust and believe in your heart that He wants the best for you from eternity’s perspective, and sometimes that means we won’t get the answers we want in this life. God loves us and He wants us to be with Him forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

But don’t take my word for it. Be sure to study the Bible for yourself and learn this directly from God’s word. God has protected the Bible for thousands of years, and if we trust God to keep us safe for eternity, we can trust that He is able and willing to keep His words safe over a few thousand years.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year 4 – Episode 12: Discover how Jesus responds when asked for help from a Roman. While this event happened thousands of years ago, learn how and why it is still amazingly relevant to our lives today.

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