Summary: This sermon takes a look at some different qualifications to being God’s friend that were displayed by the Roman Centurian. It also defines what faith is and what it is not.
Many of you may remember the awful ice storm that took place a couple of years ago here in the south. Power was out all over the southern states, Trees and power lines that were iced over had collapsed and the roads were covered with layers of thick slippery ice. In all this mess, Denise and I were found ourselves driving home from Kentucky and we witnessed one wreck after another. We were terrified. Needless to say we were “Watching and Praying”.
As we were driving back, I thought about those verses in the bible that tell me how God will never leave me nor forsake me, and how even if I perish God would wisk me up into His arms in Heaven, and I wondered just how awful it would be to go through life without the friendship of Jesus Christ and the assurance of life after death.
Today we will start a new series entitled: What a Friend we have in Jesus, and we will take a look through Luke 7-8 and see how Jesus befriended different individuals.
Now understand that Jesus wants to be our friend, but there is some qualifications to His friendship. James 4:4 reads, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” God wants to be our friend but He asks that we be a faithful friend to Him. Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we are going to be considered God’s friend we must first believe that He exists and that He truly wants to have a relationship with those who seek after Him.
We’re going to start our journey of this series by getting to know a man who came to be Christ’s friend, and it’s a man who some might consider to be one of the most unlikely individuals to have this amazing faith, and that is the Roman Centurion. I want you to see certain characteristics of this man to better understand his incredible faith.
First, I want you to see that he was a powerful man. Luke 7:1-2 “When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.” A Centurion was not an ordinary man. He was a man who had to not only had the respect of his men, but also the fear of the conquered people. They commanded a regimen of somewhere near 100 men and were considered to be the backbone of the Roman army. One commentator called him, “A man amongst men.” A man with such power might be tempted to become drunk with power, but it is interesting to note that whenever a Centurion is mentioned in scripture he is always mentioned in a positive light. There was the Roman centurion at the cross who said, “Surely this man was the son of God. There was the Roman Centurion Cornelius who Peter spoke to and he and his whole family became believers. And Finally this man mentioned here in Luke 7. This man was no loser, he wasn’t downtrodden, he wasn’t poor, he was a very powerful man.
Second, notice that this man was a compassionate man. Luke 7:3-5 “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." This was no ordinary Centurion. It was odd for a Centurion to even less about the conquered people, but this man went above and beyond. He took care of the oppressed people and even went so far to build them a synagogue.
But even more amazing than his compassion for the oppressed people was his care and concern for his slave. In those days a slave had little dignity. In Roman Law, a slave was known simply as a living tool.
He had no rights and his master could mistreat him and even kill him without repercussions. William Barclay quotes a Roman writer who wrote on estate management. He recommended that the farmer examine his implements every year and throw out those which are old and broken. He then adds, “Do the same with your slaves.” But someone had defined compassion as your pain in my heart and this slave was precious to the Centurion, and he had compassion on him and wanted him healed. This man had a heart for people.