Jesus cared for Israel’s Roman occupiers

Posted Feb 14, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Luke 7:1-10

1 After Jesus finished presenting all his words among the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion had a servant who was very important to him, but the servant was ill and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. “He deserves to have you do this for him,” they said. 5 “He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us.”

6 Jesus went with them. He had almost reached the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, “Lord, don’t be bothered. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 In fact, I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. 8 I’m also a man appointed under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”

9 When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.” 10 When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.

Reflection Questions

Crucifixions were almost routine in Rome’s occupied territories. Because we only hear much about Jesus' crucifixion today, we might think the Roman soldiers were all personally hostile to Jesus. In fact, like American troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, they were far from home. They did their work, pleasant or unpleasant. But they were sometimes friendly with the Jewish people, and at times even showed amazing faith in Jesus.

  • History says many Romans held Israel’s faith in contempt. Yet here was a Roman soldier who financed a synagogue, cared deeply about his servant’s well-being, and showed faith in Jesus’ healing power. In what ways do you tend to “label” people? How are you growing in your ability to see each human being through God’s eyes of love, rather than letting easy group stereotypes determine how you treat people?
  • The centurion sensed, more clearly than many people, that space or time did not limit God’s power the way they limit ours. How did he apply his own experience as a military authority to help him realize ways Jesus' power might work? Which of your life and work experiences help you better understand and trust God’s power?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, the centurion impressed you, not so much because he’d financed the local synagogue as because he showed such faith in your healing power. Help me to live like that Roman soldier. Amen.

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Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger is the creator of CompassionFix.com and is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology. She is currently teaching “Truth to Trust: Instructions from the Psalms” for Resurrection’s Women’s Ministry. She serves as a Care Minister at Resurrection Downtown and co-hosted the What Matters? podcast. She loves writing, teaching, conversations over coffee, and time with her husband and two children.

Luke’s story of the Roman centurion asking Jesus to heal his slave is one I read as a juxtaposition of power and a story about what really matters to God.

The Roman centurion would have been a military leader with authoritative power. The Romans at the time were conquering lands by force. In general, they were known as oppressive, pagan, and aggressive in crucifying those who resisted their power. They were threatened by the power Jesus was amassing and opposed his teachings of the Kingdom of God overruling the empire.

The centurion held authoritative power, but he steps into true power when he acts with compassion.

The story reminds us that true power lies in doing the right thing. Speaking up for the voiceless - the centurion used his power to advocate for the servant. Praying for others – the centurion goes to Jesus asking for healing. Having courage – it was a personal risk for the centurion to go to Jesus for help. Striving to be a better person – the centurion questioned his worthiness of Jesus’ help. Surrendering control – power was relinquished to Jesus. Having faith – the centurion not only believed that Jesus could heal the servant, but that he could do it from a distance.

This story lies within a series of miracles that Jesus performed. The people were amazed at what Jesus was doing. Jesus was amazed at what people were doing. He was impressed by the faith of this Roman officer and his compassion for his servant. Jesus cared about his loving actions more than his title. Jesus noticed that he dropped his institutional motives to care for a human being. Jesus saw someone actually living into his teachings of compassion, love, mercy, and grace.

The kingdom of God is created on earth when we recognize our shared humanity and help each other, despite society's power structures. We are all in this human experience together, so let’s advocate for each other and allow compassion to reign.

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