Who is Jesus?
Luke writes with the desire that we read his words and we will put our faith in Jesus. Much of the first half of the gospel is written with the revelation of the person of Jesus.
As we read through Luke, it is helpful to see how the people who meet Jesus face-to-face respond to Him. We need to examine their reactions and words. Luke includes these encounters with the intent that we form an opinion and respond. Luke wants us to change our life, so we become a disciple of Jesus. He wants us to have faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
After Jesus finishes selecting the apostles and providing them their first official teaching, He heads to Capernaum. It is there we have an encounter with a Roman Centurion.
To the Humble Centurion –
Jesus is Lord and worthy of great faith (Luke 7:1-10)
When Jesus arrives in Capernaum, He is approached by Jewish elders from the synagogue. The elders tell Jesus that they are coming to Him on behalf of another man, a Roman centurion.
A centurion is the commander of one hundred soldiers. The centurion’s slave, which means someone in his employ, is very sick and on his deathbed. The centurion must have heard about Jesus and wants Jesus to heal his slave.
This is a curious event, indeed. Roman soldiers are not among the Jew’s most loved people group. They are a visual reminder that Israel is an occupied country, and a Jewish king does not sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Instead, they must pay taxes to Caesar in Rome. The Roman soldiers enforce Roman Law and prevent uprisings.
Simon the Zealot is now an official apostle. We can imagine what he thinks about this scenario. He is called Simon the Zealot because he is a political activist. He is zealous as an Israeli nationalist. His political disposition is to overturn the Roman government and return power to Israel.
The Capernaum Jewish elders who approach Jesus speak well of the centurion. They implore Jesus seeking to convince Him that He ought to heal the centurion’s slave. They tell Jesus that the request is worth His while because the centurion is a good man. He loves Israel and is responsible for building the synagogue.
Jesus agrees to heal the servant of this wealthy gentile and begins to travel toward the house of the centurion. When he is not far away from the house, friends of the centurion come out of the house to stop Jesus. Apparently, the Roman centurion was watching for Jesus. It would not be hard to spot Him coming since Jesus is surrounded by a crowd.
The friends relay a message from the centurion. They tell Jesus the centurion says, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason, I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
The faith of the centurion is remarkable. He believes that Jesus can speak, and the sickness will be gone. He calls Jesus Lord. Here is a man who has more authority than anyone in Capernaum, and he calls Jesus Lord.
Jesus hears the words and marvels. Jesus turns to the crowd and says, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”
The faith of the centurion is rightly placed. When the friends return to the house, they find the slave in good health.
We can learn a great deal from the centurion.
First, despite having great authority, the centurion recognizes Jesus as Lord. He humbles himself because He knows Jesus is greater. We need to be humble before Jesus. There is no greater authority than Jesus. We are to bow down to Jesus in humble submission.
The centurion does not feel worthy of having Jesus enter his home. His home is likely to be large and beautiful. Yet, he does not feel worthy. He gives money to the synagogue. Yet, he does not feel worthy. He is a good citizen who loves and cares for his servants. Yet, he does not feel worthy.
The centurion is not worthy, and neither are we. We are not worthy of Jesus. No matter how good we think we might be, we are not worthy. Jesus helps us, despite our unworthiness. Jesus cares for us because He is loving and good.
The centurion has great faith. He hears the reports about Jesus and believes Jesus is able. Jesus is pleased with his faith. We need to put our faith in Jesus. We need to believe that He can forgive us of our sin and that He gives us eternal life.
Let us be like the gentile centurion, (1) recognizing the authority of Jesus, (2) know we are unworthy, and (3) putting our faith in Jesus.
To the Grieving Widow –
Jesus is compassionate Lord who raises people from the dead (Luke 7:11-15)
Jesus leaves Capernaum and travels to Nain, which is about a twenty-mile journey. He is joined by His disciples and a large crowd of people.
It’s amazing to think about a crowd of people following Jesus everywhere he goes. They have to bring food or money along so they can eat. Do they leave their jobs? Do they bring their families? Do they follow only for a week or two? It must be quite a spectacle to see a crowd following one person around so they can listen to Him teach and to watch Him perform miracles.
As Jesus approaches the gate of the city, He encounters a funeral possession with a sizeable crowd of people from Nain. Two crowds come together.
It is a sad situation. The dead man is the only son of a widow. In the culture of the time, this means the widow will have no one to care for her. Her husband is dead, and now her only hope of someone to care for her is also dead.
Jesus learns of the widow’s situation and has compassion for her. He tells the widow not to weep. Imagine telling a mother who just lost her son to stop crying. If Jesus cannot help her, it is a very cruel thing to say.
But Jesus has good reason for her not to weep. He is going to do something very incredible. He touches the coffin and the men who are carrying it halt. Jesus says, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”
Immediately, the dead man sat up and spoke. Jesus gives the young man back to his mother.
Let’s pause and let this miracle permeate our minds. Imagine being there that day. A funeral procession is taking a dead man outside the city gates to bury him. Jesus stops the funeral, tells the widow not to weep, and raises her son from the dead.
Imagine being in the crowd of people following Jesus. They will have something to talk about when they get home. “I saw Jesus heal a leper.” “Yes, but I saw Jesus raise a man from the dead!”
And what of the crowd of people who know the widow’s son? Imagine the emotional response. They are grieving and without hope, preparing themselves to bury the young man. The arrangements are made, the men are chosen to carry the coffin, and they proceed with the funeral. They are close to bringing him to the grave and Jesus raises him from the dead.
Do you think they had a big feast in Nain that day? Absolutely.
Jesus is compassionate. He looks upon the woman with deep care. His love for her is in keeping with the love of the Father. The scriptures emphasize God loves the widows and the orphans. Jesus is moved with the love of the Father. We need to show the same compassion for the widows.
Jesus is not a power hungry man trying to rule the world. He is a loving compassionate Lord, His ministry comes from a heart full of love and compassion.
We also need to see the power of Jesus. He says the word and raises people from the dead. His words are words of life. He has power over the enemy of death.
One day, Jesus will say the word, and all who are dead will rise. Those who believe Him to be the Savior will rise to eternal life. Those who do not put their faith in Jesus will rise from the dead to face eternal condemnation. Jesus only needs to say the word and it will happen.
To the Crowd –
Jesus is the Prophet from God worth reporting about (Luke 7:16-17)
The widow is not the only person impacted by the miracle of Jesus. Fear grips all who are present. They begin to glorify God. They know that Jesus is a great prophet of God. They say, “God has visited His people!”
This is not the first time in Israel’s history that someone is raised from the dead. Elijah raises a widow’s son from the dead. When Elijah raises the widow’s son, he brings the son to the upper chamber. Elijah stretches himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again.” God answers Elijah’s prayer. (1 Kings 17:17-24)
Elisha also raises a child from the dead. In much the same way as Elijah, Elisha stretches out on the dead body and prays to God and God hears Elisha’s prayer (2 Kings 4:18-37).
It’s not surprising that the people think of Jesus as a prophet. He raises a son from the dead. But, Jesus shows a much greater power. He doesn’t lie down on top of the dead body and cry out to God. Jesus speaks to the son and tells him to rise up.
The crowd does not go home and only celebrate the miracle. They circulate a report about Jesus all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.
What would we do if we were in a funeral procession and a man came along and raised the dead person from the coffin? We would tell people. We would not go home or to work and be quiet.
“I hear you went to a funeral this week. I’m sorry to hear that your friend died. I hear his mom is a widow.”
How strange it would be to say nothing of what happened the day Jesus raises the widow’s son from the dead. Do you think it would be strange for the crowd of people that day to not say anything?
It is just as strange for us to not tell people of this event. It is odd for a Christian to know about Jesus rising from the dead and not telling anyone. We need to let all people know that everyone will one day rise from the dead.
The works of Jesus are worth talking about. He is worthy of our conversation. We need to spread the word about Jesus to as many people as possible. Let us tell people about Jesus raising the son of a widow from the dead. Let us tell people that God has visited His people.
To the Questioning Prophet –
Jesus is The Unexpected Expected One (Luke 7:18-21)
The beginning of chapter seven tells us of a third encounter.
Luke informs us that John the Baptist is beginning to wonder about Jesus. He hears great things. But he seeks reassurance that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
We must wonder why John would question whether Jesus is the Messiah. Perhaps he hears that Jesus is only a prophet. We might think the baptism is enough proof.
But, for some reason, he has doubts and sends two of his disciples to question Jesus. The law in Deuteronomy says we are to know a testimony based on two or more witnesses.
The two disciples find Jesus and say, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”
The Expected One is another way to say, Messiah.
John has expectations for the Messiah’s ministry. Perhaps John is wondering why Jesus is not working to become the King of Israel. Maybe he heard of Jesus cooperating with a centurion? Perhaps John has an expectation of what Jesus will do, but Jesus is not fulfilling his expectations. Jesus’ ministry is not what John expected.
As we read the gospels, we learn that many aspects of Jesus’ ministry are unexpected, especially the crucifixion.
Jesus does not answer at first. Instead, in the presence of the two disciples, Jesus cures many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gives sight to many who are blind. Actions often speak louder than words. Jesus wants to remove any doubts in John’s mind.
Sometimes, Christians have doubts. Despite having seen great things, John the Baptist still has doubts. Jesus wants us to put away our doubts. One of the reasons Luke writes his gospel is to put away the doubts of his readers. Luke wants Theophilus and his readers to know that Jesus is the Messiah.
Our doubts often come about because things do not happen the way we expect. We expect certain outcomes to take place. John is expecting a specific outcome, but it is not taking place. Our faith is not to be in the outcome but in the person of Jesus.
Nobody expected a worldwide pandemic. We don’t always get the answer to our prayers that we expect. We sometimes think being a Christian will be an easy life and our children will grow up to be strong believers. Our expectations are often shattered.
Our faith needs to be in Jesus, and not our expected outcomes. Everything the Scripture says that Jesus will accomplish will come to pass. But it may not come to pass in the way we expect. Jesus’ ministry and way of doing things are often unexpected. It is unexpected for John and he asks if Jesus is the Expected One.
Luke writes a concise, thorough gospel, so we may know that Jesus is the Messiah from God. Jesus is the Expected One. Luke seeks to dispel doubts. Jesus works in ways we do not often expect and doubts will arise.
When we have doubts, the best way for us to gain confidence in our faith is by reading the word of God and believing accounts, such as Luke’s, so our faith is strengthened. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. Jesus did not want John the Baptist to have any doubt, and Jesus does not want us to have doubts either. We need to understand the Bible so we learn what to expect and what not to expect.
To the Prophetic Word –
Jesus is the Fulfillment (Luke 7:22)
Jesus finally answers John’s question. Jesus allows the word of God proclaims His identity. Jesus tells John’s disciples, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
The greatest testimony for Jesus is the prophetic Word of God. John’s disciples see that Jesus’ ministry is the fulfillment of God’s prophetic word spoken through the prophet Isaiah.
There is no greater testimony of Jesus than the word of God.
The Apostle Peter sees many amazing miracles during his lifetime. One of the amazing things he sees is the transformation of Jesus upon the mountain. Moses and Elijah appear alongside Jesus. The garments of Jesus take on a brilliant white appearance. A voice from heaven loudly proclaims, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
Peter describes the transfiguration in his second letter and says we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). In other words, Peter doesn’t say, believe me, because I saw the transfiguration. He says to believe the sure word of God.
We have in our hands the sure word of God. We can put our faith in the prophetic word. We do not need to witness miracles and signs. We have the word of God that gives testimony to the person and work of Jesus.
Believe the word of God. Jesus is the Messiah who saves us from our sin and delivers us from this present dark and evil age. Jesus brings us into the kingdom of light. Our faith is on solid ground when we believe the testimony of God’s word.
To the People of the World –
Jesus is a Stumbling Block or Savior (Luke 7:23)
Jesus tells the crowd, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” In other words, if we do not stumble and take offense at the person and work of Jesus, we are blessed.
Many people in this world take offense at Jesus. As Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:23), to the Jews, Jesus is a stumbling block. They take offense of Jesus being the Messiah. And the gentiles who do not believe, they believe putting their faith in Jesus is foolish.
What about you? Do you take offense at Jesus? Do you believe it is foolish to believe He is the Savior of the world sent by God? Or, do you believe Jesus is the Savior?
There are only two choices. Choose this day who you will serve.
Luke gives his life to write the testimony of eyewitnesses. There is historical evidence proving Jesus rises from the grave.
The prophetic testimony of the sure word of God is compelling and reliable. I implore you to think about Jesus's ministry, teachings, and His life. Remember that Jesus is seen alive and His disciples went to their grave believing Him as risen from the dead.
Believing in Jesus requires faith in believing the testimony of God’s word.
Put your faith in Jesus, the compassionate Savior.