What Makes Great Faith?
Topic: Faithfulness Verse: Luke 7:1–7:10
“What Makes Faith Great”
Theme: Great faith makes little of oneself and much of Christ Jesus.
Introduction: Hard to impress God! The common assessment by God is that sinners’ faith falls short –
Matthew 8:10; 15:28
Matthew 8:26 – the little faith of the disciples
Luke 8:25 – the little faith of the disciples
Matthew 14:31 – the little faith of Peter
Luke 18:8 – the rarity of the faith before He returns
Mark 6:6 – the unbelief of Nazareth
I. Humility in One’s Approach to Christ – 7:1-3
A. An Awareness of the Power of Jesus – vv. 1-2
- As Jesus completes His sermon, laying the weight of the Gospel squarely on the people who heard, He heads to Capernaum – “When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.”
- As we know, “Capernaum” had become the center of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee where He had done many marvelous works – cp. Luke 4:31, 37.
- The people in and around Capernaum were all speaking about the power of Jesus including Jews & Gentiles alike.
- Hence, when “a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die,” all of the avenues of deliverance would be open for consideration.
- A “centurion” was a Roman army officer who led 100 soldiers – and were said to be the key to the effectiveness of the Roman army; they made the soldiers under their authority all that they could be.
- There were 6 centurions with their soldiers in a Roman cohort led by a tribune – totaling 600 men; and there were 10 cohorts that made up a Legion.
- This man is thus a career officer in the Roman army, stationed permanently in the northern Galilee region and had made his home in Capernaum.
- Thus, we know that he must have heard of Jesus and perhaps had even heard Jesus preach at one time or another – being responsible for civil order he would be keeping up with major events in the town.
- This centurion had the kind of character that valued his slaves – possessing great affection – “highly regarded” [τίμιος] – accounted as of great price, precious, costly, irreplaceable.
- Matthew tells us that this servant suffered from a condition that paralyzed and tormented him – Matthew 8:6
- Thus, as he comes to the end of his feasible options to help his servant, He thinks of the power that Jesus’ possessed and decides that it is his only recourse.
- Every sinner, when faced with the failure of “other options,” considers the power of Jesus over sin and decides that He is their only hope – cp. Luke 5:24.
B. An Absence of Presumption – v. 3
- Yet, this man did not rely on his position, prestige, or power – “When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave.”
- The stature of this centurion in the town of Capernaum is certified by means of the delegation that agreed to approach Jesus on his behalf – “he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come …”
- The message that he delivered through these “elders” was specific – so specific that before they argued on behalf of the centurion, they said exactly what the centurion told them to say – cp. Matthew 8:6
- The reason that he didn’t go himself was not pride, a sense of segregation of races or nationalities, but because of his humility – cp. Luke 7:6
- He didn’t consider himself worthy to interact with Jesus – clearly smitten by the reality of His sin in the face of the Son of God.
- Likewise, when a sinner has been brought under the convicting power of God’s Word through God’s Spirit, there is no sense of virtue or worthiness in the face of Jesus – merely a humility and desperate dependence upon the power and authority of Jesus to forgive them.
- What ways has God provided for us to discover the power of Jesus Christ?
- How do you most commonly find yourself motivated to seek the power of Jesus Christ?
- Why do people often feel that God is obligated to relieve them of their struggles?
II. Honesty in One’s Appraisal of Self – 7:4-7a
A Rejection of Self-Righteousness – vv. 4-5
- Clearly, the Jewish community had embraced this Gentile because of the clarity of His love for the Jewish people.
- We are told that the elders advocated for him with Jesus – seeking to persuade Jesus to come and heal the servant because of the merit of this centurion.
- Since the Jewish leaders were caught up in the very self-righteousness that Jesus had just finished condemning in His sermon, “… they earnestly implored Him, saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.’”
- In their estimation, good works obligated God to show favor to someone – and thus, this man was “worthy” for Jesus to heal his servant.
- This man’s commitment to God and His glory is viewed by means of his personally financing the construction of their “synagogue” – the place where God is worshipped, and the Word of God was read and taught.
- The intensity of the pressure they sought to put on Jesus is seen in the phrase “earnestly implored him” [παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν σπουδαίως] – to “zealously exhort”
- However, this man refused to agree with their assessment of him – he didn’t see himself as having obligated God to do anything on his behalf.
- His faith was not based on what others thought of him, but in contrast to the righteousness that was needed for any kind of relationship with God.
B. A Realization of Unworthiness – vv. 6-7a
- We can see this clearly as “Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, ‘Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof;’”
- Apparently, the report was brought back to him that Jesus was enroute to his house and he was confronted with the prospect of seeing Jesus face to face.
- In light of his awareness of his sinfulness, he attempts to avert the personal crisis and messages Jesus through his “friends” that Jesus should “not trouble Yourself further” [σκύλλω] – a word that means to “vex” or “annoy.”
- In essence, He says that for Jesus to come to the centurion’s house would vex Jesus – the sense of unworthiness to approach Jesus was intensified at the prospect of Jesus coming to his house – “… for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.”
- There was no sense in this man’s perspective that he had any merit whatsoever for the exercise of the grace of God.
- He had not come to understand grace yet – his sense of unworthiness dominated his perspective.
- This is yet another mark of great faith – when we understand that God owes us absolutely nothing because of our sinful & offensive lives to God.
- How does others opinion of you impact your perception of yourself?
- Where should our assessment of ourselves come from?
- Why is seeing one’s own unworthiness essential in an ability to properly approach Christ?
III. Hope in the Authority of Christ – vv. 7b-10
A. A Confidence in the Word of Christ – v. 7b
- The faith of this man was seen in His confidence in God’s Word – “… but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
- He was certain that Jesus had the power and authority to heal his “servant” by “just say[ing] the word.”
- His faith is informed by the power that He had both heard about and most likely had observed as Jesus had done so many marvelous things in and around Capernaum.
- Such faith is the mark of a person who gains approval in the eyes of God – cp. Hebrews 11:1-6.
- His faith is so matter of fact that he has an expectation that is a “cause/effect” principle – just speak and it will happen.
B. A Comprehension of the Work of Christ – vv. 8-10
- The centurion explains the matter of authority – “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
- He confesses that Christ has the “authority” to command disease to “go” or “come” and it will obey Him even as the centurion obeys His superiors and his troops are bound to obey him.
- He is here affirming Christ’s Lordship and divine authority, believing Jesus to indeed be God with the power and authority to heal his paralyzed servant.
- He is not challenging Christ to act like a centurion, but that the disease will act like the centurion to the absolute power of one mightier and with more authority.
- Jesus’ response is one of amazement – “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.’”
- This endorsement of faith could not have been more stellar – Jesus identified this man as a true believer; one who was exemplary or the archtype of all those who will be saved.
- This man was not the beneficiary of all of the privileges and blessings of the Jews, yet his confidence in God was absolute - .
- In this way, he is an indictment of the faithlessness of the Jews who considered themselves to be the “sons of the Kingdom.” – cp. Matthew 8:10-13.
- The result is that Jesus’ honored this man and his faith by healing his servant – “When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.”
- This man had placed his faith in Jesus Christ – faith in the right thing has the power not only to save from physical ailments, but to save from the spiritual affliction of sin.
- A small amount of faith in Jesus saves; a large amount of faith in self damns – Romans 10:2-3.
- How is our confidence in God’s Word linked to our confidence in God’s power?
- Why is the assessment by the centurion of Jesus’ authority NOT an oversimplification? How ought this affect your life?
- In what ways would Jesus’ marvel at your faith? What can you do about that?