Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this evening’s (May 30, 2013) sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 7th (Luke 7:1-10) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A Sick World
It is a sick world in which we live, sick unto death. Yet our world is a world highly valued by our God and Creator. This world, despite her condition is esteemed by the Lord our God. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. Yet we esteemed Him not. He came unto His own but His own did not receive Him. The creator sent His Son to give His health for our illness, His life for our death, yet this sick world of ours refuses His gifts and instead clings to sin’s wages with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength.
It is a symptom of our fallen condition that we often believe there is life in our strength. The stronger we are the healthier we are and the healthier we are the longer we’ll live and perhaps someday we’ll be strong enough, healthy enough to live forever. It truly is a sick world that seeks after life in that which is destined to die. Such sickness is unto death, even death of the soul.
This morning in our text we find a centurion, a man in charge of a 100 soldiers. He is a man of great honor and status, a man highly valued by the Jews in his community, a man who says “go” and they go, “come” and they come, “do” and they do. This man’s word gets things done. His word is a powerful word. Though he has power over many and much he and his word are powerless over this one man who is sick. His servant is taken ill. Conceived in this world’s sickness, the servant is now at the point of death. And not even the might and power of Rome can stay the advancement of humanity’s infirmity.
He is Worthy?
Sending messengers to Jesus this centurion seeks one who is greater than himself, one whose Word is mightier, whose Person is purer. The Centurion esteems Jesus and calls upon Him. “And when they came to Jesus they pleaded with Him saying, ‘he is worthy to have you do this for him for he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.’” Beloved, it is part of our sickness to focus on our worthiness, to grasp reasons for health and healing when in truth there is only reason for illness and affliction. The Jews brought to Jesus the centurion’s works, his merits, and therefore his value.
The Jews have not been listening to Jesus’ Words, but like all descendants of Adam they have been smitten by the appearance of life. They have focused on what they see happening, rather than what God’s Word teaches. Where the Word of God is not heard and believed then anything and everything will be believed. Where the Word of God is not taught the wisdom of man prevails. Where the Word of God is not confessed there will be no good confession either of the sin or the Christ. Where the Word of God is not highly valued humanity will value the wrong things calling good things evil and evil things good. Without any transcendent absolutes sin is embraced as righteousness for all righteousness is really relative to the individual. There is no standard, no rule, no objective, external, universal norm. Everyone decides what is right in his or her own eyes.
This was the case with the world then and it is so with our post-modern world today. For wherever truth is relative then power is the only authority. Right and wrong are irrelevant. All that matters is who’s in control, who gets the last word. And the person who gets the last word is the one who can get things done, or at least promise to get things done. You see, power must always be pragmatic, or at least portrayed as pragmatic. Power justifies itself by its works, if it works. We see this play out politically in our government as the last word is no longer our constitution and founding documents but the prevailing majority (the ones who promise to get the job done) – especially the word of the one in the white house. We see this in our synod and our churches where again if enough votes can be garnered one can direct LCMS inc. or yada yada yada Lutheran Church in whatever direction the majority wants to go. And we see this in our lives as we attempt to wield our strength, our education, our finances, our position and status against the surrounding powers; our neighbors, friends and family in the hopes of our own advancements. You see, beloved, in a post-modern, post-Word of God world, power becomes the means to progress, to getting what I – or we – want, to receiving what is “deserved.” In a sick world, “might makes right.”
The Jews in our text are no different. They see the centurion using his power and status to bless them and therefore decide that he is worthy of Jesus’ time and attention. So, it’s not the love God and neighbor that ought to move Jesus to help this centurion and his servant, rather it’s the value of the centurion himself. He deserves this from Jesus. Thus Jesus becomes just another one of the Centurions minions doing his bidding because he deserves it to be done for him.
The Way of Weakness not Power
Note well beloved, Jesus is not moved by the “powers that be.” He is the only power that is and He is moved by love. God so love the World that He sent His only-begotten Son. The Father loves the World and sends the Son. The Son loves the Father and so also loves what the Father loves. Thus the Son loves the World and gladly goes even though the world is sick with sin, idolatry and unbelief. The Son goes because in His going He will work wonders through His Word. Thus, Jesus heeds the Centurion’s request, not because he deserves it, . . . but because Jesus loves Him and Jesus loves the servant. Jesus values the right things and teaches us what is good and what is evil, what is healthy and what is sick, what is right and what is wrong. He has come for the sick and for the sinner, the unclean and the unworthy. Jesus gives us the good Word so that the good Word may work good things in the heart of those who hear and believe.
You see beloved, the way of our Lord is not the way of power. Even He does not advance toward us in might with sword in hand and army trailing behind. Though He is captain of the all the heavenly hosts He does not draw near seated upon a steed as though seeking to bless from above. The way of Power seeks to move the world from above, from over, as king or lord. Not so with our Lord. He blesses from below. He approaches in humility. He rides upon a colt the foal of a donkey. He brings only the sword of His Word that hearts be taken captive in gentleness and mercy – never with a blade of steel. The way of Jesus is the way of weakness not strength, surrender not imposition, death of self rather than injury to others. His is the way of the cross and the way of the cross is the way of love for God and love for neighbor, love for you. Jesus suffers this way for the centurion and his servant, for you and for me and for the world. He suffers, He endures, He bleeds and He dies. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
This way, Jesus’ way, the way of the cross brings health and life to all who believe and are baptized. Through Jesus’ death God gives what is good in the midst of that which the world calls evil. And that which the world calls good God covers over in blood, holy blood, Jesus’ blood. Jesus suffers the wages of sin for sinners so that sinners are redeemed from their own strength and merits and given the gift of eternal life Christ’s strength and merits. Sin and sickness are overcome by His suffering and death. Life and health are won for all through His life and resurrection from the dead.
A Word for the Centurion
This life and these gifts Jesus gives not because it is deserved but because you are highly valued in His sight. As His highly valued and dearly loved children He gives these things through His word. Jesus’ Word is a creative Word, an authoritative Word, a Word that works the ways of God and does what it says. When Jesus says “arise!” – the lame leap up. When Jesus says, “be opened” the deaf hear. “Be loosed” the mute speak. “I am willing” and the lepers are made clean. “Come out!” and the demons run away. When Jesus says “talitha cum – little girl get up,” or “Lazarus come forth!” the dead wake up. Thus this centurion is looking for a Word on behalf of his highly valued servant. Faith is always looking for a Word from Jesus. The centurion has faith in Jesus Word, great faith, faith that Jesus has yet to find in all Israel, faith Jesus wishes find in us today.
A Word for a Sick World
Beloved in the Lord, the Word of Jesus works the works of God and the Word does what it says it will do. Such a Word is given for our health in this sick world. In water, the Word cleanses, forgives, regenerates and resurrects. In bread and wine, the Word gives the body and blood of Jesus for our forgiveness. In Absolution the Word sets free from sin, death, and devil, unlocks heaven and sets before us the Love of God in Christ Jesus. The Word is what works! The Word is what saves! The Word is what heals and chases away the devil. The Word is what brings forgiveness as the cross is proclaimed. The Word is what makes certain our resurrection and life everlasting in paradise. The Word is our only certainty. The Word is our only power, our only authority. Christ gives His people His Word and the Word made visible in the Sacraments. Therefore, cling to the Word! Hear the Word. Believe the Word! Receive the Word, treasure the Word. Read, learn, mark and inwardly digest the Word. In a world that is sick with itself, faith clings to the Word that gives Jesus. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!