When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. Luke 7:3-7
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6
What is your plan for growing your people? What is your goal? What does “success” look like? Can you describe the model Christ-follower into which your are shaping the sheep in your flock?
For me, this story (from Luke 7) about the centurion’s sick servant is all about “worthiness”. It is about the qualities or characteristics which Jesus found worthy. And it is chock full of irony. Notice that the Jewish elders attempt to lure Jesus to come and help this centurion, because this man is “worthy”. Their version of “worthy” is all about his achievements and his support of them. Interestingly, Jesus goes. As he is arriving, the centurion sends a message to Jesus. What is that message? “No need to come here…I AM NOT WORTHY.” But, in the end, Jesus actually finds that he is in fact worthy. But not for any of the reasons the Jewish elders had used.
Jesus finds the man worthy because of his great faith. This centurion believed that Jesus was whom he claimed to be and that he could heal his servant. It wasn’t his achievements that made him worthy. It wasn’t his financial and political support for the synagogue that made him …
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37:9-11
Maybe it was youthful arrogance that made Joseph share his dreams with his family. Or maybe it was just youthful ignorance of how it would be received by them. Either way, it was not a problem with telling the truth; rather, it was just an ill-conceived manner of handling the truth. In a word, it was immaturity.
Just a couple of chapters later, after some hard life experiences and some growing up, we see Joseph making much wiser decisions. Life has a way of doing that to all of us. When I think back to the naive and arrogant young leader I was 20-30 years ago ,well, it is a bit embarrassing. Maturity, alas, cannot be learned from books or from classrooms. Moreover, it almost always requires a generous measure of time and experience.
It is worth noting that Joseph was actually wise beyond his years. By most standards, he is the model character in God’s story. He is, from the beginning, a young man of integrity and high character. His gift of interpreting dreams elevated him to leadership heights at a reasonably young age. But his youthful faux pas were glaring and ended up costing him years of heartache and hard knocks. In short, for leaders among …
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Mark 6:4-6
I’m amazed at the notion that Jesus was amazed…about anything, really. If he were just “fully man” and nothing more, then it wouldn’t be quite so amazing…but that he was also fully God makes me wonder about what, exactly, could so captivate him, so catch him off guard, as to “amaze” him. So here it is: “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
As it turns out, amazing God isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Jesus goes back to his hometown, to the people who changed his diapers and whose kids played with him on the playground and who saw him working long hours in his dad’s carpenter shop…with hopes they might be willing to see his growth, his ministry, and his power and authority over everything in this world. He had an expectation that his hometown would not be so constrained by their preconceived notions of him, that they would have room in their hearts for a hometown boy who turns out to be the savior of the world. As those hopes were dashed and his disappointment set in, he was amazed that their hearts could be so closed to the possibilities.
I like studying the gospels and paying particular attention to various people’s responses to Jesus. In each case, we ask ourselves, “Do I ever respond that way?” “Could that ever be me?” In this case, I suppose it is true that this could be any of us. God could well be amazed by …