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.” (Luke 7:1-5 NRSV)
Power is on display in Luke 7. A Roman Centurion is named such because he commands a century(100) of men. We can see from the passage that he had a household and slaves. The centurion understood power. He told people to do something and it was done. I am sure with all of his power he had many slaves to command in his household. If one died he could have gotten two more to replace the one.
Yet when faced with the power of death the centurion is not powerful. He becomes weak. He cannot overcome this power but he realizes that Jesus can. So the centurion sends some Jewish elders to him. The response in verse 6(“I am not worthy”) leads me to believe that the Centurion as powerful as he was paled in comparison to who he thought Jesus was. The centurion believed so strongly that Jesus could heal him that he asked that Jesus just say the word like an order given to his troops.
But there is another power on display in this passage as well. This Centurion and the community were so focused on taking care of this one slave that they were willing to risk it all. The Jewish elders went out and looked for Jesus and brought him back. The centurion was willing to surrender all of his authority to Jesus. He submitted his kingdom to God’s kingdom for one simple servant.
The phrase “he is worthy” just kept ringing in my head like a bell. The Greek word is axios meaning having weight or merit. He is deserving. If you keep reading the passage the word comes up again in verse 6 when the Centurion sends the message “that he is not worthy to have Jesus in his house”.
I now think I am beginning to better understand verse 9: 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.”
A slave is deemed worthy to be resurrected while a Centurion proclaims his own unworthiness. This power on full display. The power to bless others, to offer life to others, to bring Jesus to others because they are worthy.
Who do we deem worthy today? Unworthy? I wonder if it would help our ministry in the church today if we saw those around us as worthy instead of unworthy?