The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There was a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. ( Luke 7 : 1-10)
The centurion wasn’t even a Jew, and the Gentiles hated the Jews, and the Jews hated the Gentiles. Yet, we are told that this was a good man. Even the Jews liked him.
He had built a synagogue, for them.
And here, seeking healing for his slave, he figured that just as he could order men to do his will, so could Jesus command even illness to be cured.
And he was right. The sick slave was made well.
He is an example of such faith, that Jesus said, ““I tell you, not in Israel have I found such faith.”
We all say we have faith in Jesus.
That’s why we are in church, Sundays, aren’t we?
But do we have enough faith in Jesus to do what he says we should do?
Here is Jesus another time, in Luke’s Gospel:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, to him who strikes your cheek, turn the other one, and when someone takes your coat, give him also your shirt, and finally, “ As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
That last statement is the Golden rule, isn’t it? Which is also the summary of the law.
Hillel, the great Jewish rabbi was asked by someone to teach the whole Jewish law while standing on one leg.
I guess the person who asked him, thought that he would never be able to stand on one leg for as long as it took to teach the whole Jewish law.
But he was wrong. Hillel stood on one leg, and answered,” What is hateful to thee, do not do to another. That is the whole law, and all else is explanation.”
Philo, the Alexandrian philosopher, said something similar, “What you hate to suffer, do not do to anyone else.”
The Stoics had as one of their rules, “What you do not wish to be done to you, do not do to any other.”
Confucius, was asked for one word that would serve as a rule of life, and he said, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to you, don’t do to others.”
The difference in Jesus’s teaching is that he is positive, rather than negative. Instead of ‘do not’ he says, ‘do’. Do bless anyone who curses you. Do pray for someone who is cruel to you. Do give to someone who asks of you. Do go out of your way to show love.
That’s alright of course. It sounds so nice, but does it work in today’s world?
And do we Christians have enough faith in Jesus to practice what he preached?
Is it possible for the modern person to live like that?
Here is a true story, told by Terry Dobson, and published in one of the Chicken Soup books.
Terry was living in Japan. This day he was on a commuter train as it rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. The rail car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. He gazed absently out the window as the drab houses and dusty hedgerows went by.
Then at one station stop the doors opened and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses.
The man staggered into the car. He wore dirty laborer’s clothing and was big, drunk and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the lap of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
The terrified couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the old lady’s back but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the centre of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. His hand was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, everyone frozen with fear.
Except Terry, who stood up.
Terry said: I was young then, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. The trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of Aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. If you try to dominate people, you’re already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”
“I listened to his words. I tried hard. I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the ‘chimpira’ the pinball punks who lounged around the train station. I felt both tough and holy.
“In my heart however, I was itching for an opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
“Now, here on this train, I thought “This is it. People are in danger. If I don’t do something fast somebody will probably get hurt.”
“Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognised a chance to focus his rage. ”Aha, “ he roared, “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!”
Terry says, “I held on tightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart. But he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.
“All right,” he hollered, “You’re gonna get a lesson!” He gathered himself for a rush at me.
A fraction of a second before he could move, though, someone shouted, “Hey!” It was earsplitting. Not angry. It sounded just like a friend trying to get your attention.
“Hey,” it went again.
Terry wheeled to his left; the drunk spun to his right. They both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of Terry, but beamed delightedly at the laborer as though he had a most welcome secret to share.
“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy say, beckoning to the drunk. ”C’mere and talk with me.” He beckoned with his hands.
The big man went over. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman and roared above the clacking wheels,” Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to Terry. Terry watched him.
If he such as moved a millimeter toward the old man, he would drop him in his socks!
But the old man continued to beam at the laborer. ”Whatcha been drinking?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest. “I been drinkin’ sake.” The laborer bellowed back, “And it’s none of your business.” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” the old man said, “Absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s 76 you know) we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench.
“We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great grandfather planted that tree and we worry about it. Will it recover from those ice storms we had last winter?
“But it has done better than I expected, though, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!”
He looked up to the laborer, eyes twinkling.
As he tried to figure out what the old man was up to, the labourer’s face began to soften. His fists slowly became unclenched. ”Yeah,” he said, “I love persimmons, too…” and his voice trailed off.
“Yes,” said the old man smiling, “And I am sure you have a wonderful wife.”
“No.” replied the laborer. “My wife died.” And very gently, swaying with the movement of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife. I don’t got no home. I don’t got no job. I’m so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks, as spasms of despair rippled through his body.
Terry, standing there in his well-scrubbed youthful innocence, in his self righteousness, thinking he was going to make the world safe by using force, said he felt dirtier than this man was.
When the train arrived at his stop, and the doors opened, Terry heard the little old man saying sympathetically. ”My, my, that is a difficult predicament indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it.”
Terry turned for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat with his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy matted hair.
Terry, remembering, said, “ As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench in the station. What I had wanted to do with muscle, had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen Aikido in action, and the very essence of it was love.
Jesus tells us that this is how we must be. Why? Because it makes us just like God. That is the way He acts. God sends his rain on the just and the unjust. He is kind to the one who brings him joy and equally kind to the one who grieves his heart.
God’s love embraces saint and sinner alike. It is the love that we must copy.
If we can bring ourselves to seek even our enemy’s highest good, then we will in truth be children of God.
The heart of Jesus’s teaching is just that. He stresses that we, his followers, must love the unlovely as well as those who appeal to us.
There were several words for love in Greek. Jesus was not asking for storge, natural affection. Nor was he asking for eros, romantic love. He wasn’t even asking for philia, the love of friendship.
He was speaking of agape which means love even of the unlovely; love comes from the fact that the lover chooses to be a loving person.
The lover chooses to be a loving person!
And that brings us right to the cross, doesn’t it?
The forgiveness that comes from the selfless sacrifice that Jesus made means that we are forgiven, made clean, pure – sin and guilt washed away – once and for all….. and now….. and now… we can love ourselves!
And once we can love ourselves , then we are able to love others!
That’s the crux of it all, isn’t it?