Capernaum is one of the places in Israel that you can visit and see the pages of Scripture come alive. The synagogue that remains there now is from the 4th century A. D. but buried directly underneath its foundation is the foundation of a synagogue that would have been there when Jesus ministered in Capernaum. Surrounding the synagogue one can see the basalt walls of the homes where fishermen, soldiers and several other walks of life raised their families and ran their businesses. From all accounts life in Capernaum appears to have been quite pleasant even with the Roman soldiers in such close proximity. The Roman army was divided into legions (6,000 men) which were subsequently divided into cohorts (1,000 men). Each cohort had 100 centurions who oversaw 100 men each. Centurions had a very positive reputation. They were often highly intelligent, well-paid and dedicated, typically staying in the army past the expected 20 year stint. In Luke 7:1-10 we are introduced to one of those centurions. He is recognized as a man who is sympathetic to the Jewish faith having “loved Israel” by building the synagogue (v. 5). He is not the only centurion in Scripture to receive a favorable review (see Mt. 27:47-54; Ac. 10:1-48; 27:27-44, particularly v. 43).
While the first paragraph may be imaginary, the events which unfold in the first 10 verses of Luke 7 reveal that this centurion (who remains anonymous) was a man who was both smart and sensitive. He cares deeply about his servant. The Greek indicates he was a young boy who in a permanent position of servitude, but the concern of his master seems to imply he was “like part of the family”. The Greek also indicates that his illness was life-threatening, especially since the word for “heal” is one that means “to save the life, rescue, bring to safety, and preserve”; not your typical “get well” wish which we toss at folks who have a cold. The small town feel of Capernaum comes through in the rapid manner in which messages are sent and received in this story. The synagogue elders call upon Jesus to ask Him to help the servant on behalf of their benefactor (vv. 3-4). The centurion recognizes that Jesus is not obligated to visit the home of someone outside of His religious “community” so to speak; that is why would a Jewish healer feel the need to come to the home of a Roman soldier (v. 6). But for the sake of his beloved servant, the centurion hopes Jesus will just say the word, and all will be well (v.7). Jesus then commends him for his faith-faith that should be evident in Israel but isn’t (v. 9).
The deep faith of the centurion is evident in the manner by which he addresses Jesus- Lord. The word kurios is derived from the root word meaning power and might. It was always used to refer to someone who was a superior as in a master or owner. The centurion certainly knows the significance of this term and even expresses it in verse 8. He recognizes that Jesus is Master over the physical world since He has already healed many of the residents of Capernaum. If an earthly centurion can direct the movements of 100 men, then The Master/Lord can direct the illness of a young slave. The question for us is do we see Jesus in the same way? Do we recognize that He has the right to direct the components of our life because He is the One who has rescued us from sin? How often do we make decisions based on what we want or desire without consulting with The Master as to what He wants and desires? If we cannot view Him in the same way as the centurion, then we are no better off than the men that sought out Jesus on the centurion’s behalf. Is Jesus your Lord?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 7/10/2016