Summary: A perspective on Luke 7: 1-10. The text is primarily dealing with the theme of discipleship that is, how to live a good live according to Jesus. The centurion is a clear example of such a life; he is like a fruitful tree within his community.

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Luke 7: 1-10

The Good Tree – Centurion

The life of the centurion portrayed in the Gospel text clearly demonstrates the core teaching of Jesus. The text is primarily dealing with the theme of discipleship that is, how to live a good live according to Jesus. The centurion is a clear example of such a life; he is like a fruitful tree within his community.

To understand such a perspective of the centurion let us therefore have a closer look at the centurion together with the content and context of Jesus’ teaching. It begins with Jesus having spent the night in prayer to God. In the morning he came off the mountain with his disciples to the plains below. There he began to teach them in the hearing of the people who had followed him. Jesus teaches his disciples and through it he encourages them to choose a path that leads to life. He wants them to be living examples in their own community representing the life that is found in Jesus and in the kingdom of heaven. You and I are his disciples today, and he encourages us this morning to take the path to life.

Within the teaching of Jesus on the plain, there are four parables (Luke 6: 27 – 49) that are indispensable in the explanation of the story with the centurion that immediately follows. These parables are like four theoretical lessons followed by a practical demonstration and that is the encounter with the Roman centurion. The practical demonstration brings it all together to see what Jesus teachings looks like in the community.

The first lesson (Luke 6: 27 – 36) to his disciples and in the hearing of all the people that followed him: Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The centurion was a Roman soldier part of the occupying force in Israel. He was a foreigner, a stranger, an unwanted visitor in the land. And yet, he took the initiative and embraced the people in his community where he lived and worked. He embraced them so much so that the report of him from the community to Jesus was that he loved their nation.

At times we may find ourselves as strangers in a new congregation, school, workplace, neighbourhood, at a party, or even our congregation as a whole in the wider community. The norm is that we wait until someone from the so called ‘friendly’ community comes over to embrace us into their community. Contrary to the norm and our expectations, Jesus encourages his disciples and all who listen to take the initiative to embrace the community that they find themselves in. Jesus encourages us to take the initiative and talk to them, care for them, and embrace them as friends so that over time there will be a good report of you too.

Lesson 2 (vs. 37 – 42): Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Unfortunately, we gladly build jails because we love to judge and condemn people. Had we taken better care of people in the community there would be far fewer people in jail, less homeless, less unemployed, and less broken families. It is sad to say that we feel so secure in our own self righteousness that such things would never happen to us, and therefore we feel we can afford to judge and condemn others. But that is a lie. We are all sinners. We all fail and make mistakes of various kinds throughout our daily life and bear the cost of it in some way.

Only when you consider yourself a sinner, one amongst others then it is much easier to forgive. Then judgement and condemnation will fade away to forgiveness and caring for the person that has fallen on hard times. Such a person values others and exhibits a spirit of humility.

The centurion counted himself as a servant, one amongst others. He introduced himself to Jesus through friends not as a man of authority but as a man under authority as one who is also a servant. He had servants himself whom he valued and cared for. The centurion also counted himself as a member of the community, as one amongst others. The centurion had sent various messengers to Jesus including the elders of the Jews, and the gospel writer reports them as being his friends.

Lesson 3 (vs. 43 – 45): Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its fruit.” The centurion was a ‘good tree’. From out of his heart he cared for his servant that was sick. From out of his heart he provided for the needs of the people in Capernaum. He built them a synagogue. He may not have shared in their religious faith, but because they had a need he provided for them. He did not judge, nor condemn their religious belief, and since he loved his enemy, and counted himself as one in the community he provided for their needs and built them a synagogue.

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