The Centurion and the slave – I love this narrative!
So many “wrong boxes” are ticked. So much “but did you know” inferences attached. And just what a bad example of proper “relationship and God” we see!
And yet …
“After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “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 only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.” Luke 7:1-10
Wrong boxes: the occupying army … a commander of that army … slavery … the label and reality of ownership of another human being … delegation … not even there in person … entitlement … the centurion “loves them” and has “built their synagogue” – so has earned some “Chosen People entitlement” …
Inferences: did you know that “valued slave” really means “sexual liaison” … which must mean that “Jesus knew” … which must mean that “Jesus approves” of same-sex sex … which must mean that “we should” if we are as loving as Jesus …
Relationship: distance – power – hierarchy – delegation – formality … where is the intimate relationship of proximity, presence, and all that stuff (that I so value) … ?
And so I look at Jesus.
And I look at the “spin” others have entwined within these verses. And again I look again at Jesus … just Jesus … what is Jesus’ part in this? For Jesus is God in human form, and that makes Him God always (and never our version of who we want God to be).
“And Jesus went with them, …” So simple. So concise. So much said. And no words said at all.
I wonder why we, today, so often analyse the “going” when we are asked. Why we so often assess the likelihood of it being worth our while in the “going”. Why we so often need to see … need to have an idea of … need to know it is a good use of our valuable time … how often we need to see what the likely result will be … all before we decide to “go”.
(yesterday’s “Do we walk in faith?” for more on that thought)
And then after Jesus “went with them” – another message – and another messenger! Another “how not to” (when it comes to proper relationship with our worshipful Lord and Father)
I wonder what my response would have been right then. I suspect it would have been along the lines of “Why do I bother with these people!” Because having gone to all the trouble to “go with them” – here comes another message – “don’t come” – the centurion still not there in person to say the words – just another message from another messenger: “don’t come”.
And (as we do so often in the situation) there is all the “pretty stuff” to “soften the blow” – all the pretty language we so often use to “make everyone feel better” …
“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 only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”
And what does Jesus do? He sees neither “pretty stuff” nor any “blow” at all!
“When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, …” Again so simple, so concise, so not-wordy.
And when Jesus does speak? “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
I do not see Jesus “ticking any boxes” here. I do not see Jesus having any boxes at all. Nor do I see Jesus “inferring”.
And these verses make me question my own belief of “proper relationship” with our Lord and Father. Not in this exchange of beautiful honesty, nor in being naked before our Lord, neither in the sincerity and integrity. But in there being a multitude of ways (alien to me) in “doing” and “being” and the “presence” of relationship with our Lord and Father. Ways that Jesus does not judge – so why should I?
When our children were younger they knew that a response of “maybe – we’ll see” to any request usually meant “no” (without saying no). Today around church I hear a lot of “let’s all pray about this” to suggestions and requests. And more and more I am hearing “maybe – we’ll see”.
Can we see the harvest? No. Okay … “let’s all pray about this.”
But the harvest is never mine. The harvest is never my reward. I never “earn” the harvest. And any time I am privileged to “reap” – it is ALWAYS the result of many others doing the digging and sowing and tending and nurturing. Because it is always His time in bringing His children to me – to us. Always His moment for another. My “harvest” is always from, and of, God – never His “gift” from Me.
So these verses cause me to look at me intimately. And to look at Jesus (who is God in human form – but always God) intimately. And as for the imperfections I see looking back? He does not judge those either. Maybe because those are just more “tick boxes” and “inferences”.
BUT when I look closely enough – I do see unconditional love at work – not just in these verses – but in me – right now – today.
And what a labour of love that is!