Jesus is out and about preaching. He finishes teaching and returns to Capernaum. At the same time, the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. One interpretation says "he prized him highly and didn't want to lose him." The officer heard about Jesus. His friends went to beg Jesus to help the dying man, saying "If anyone deserves your help, he does." The story picks up from here in Luke 7:6.
So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, "Lord, don't trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. ... When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all Israel!" And when the officer's friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.
This story is good.
You have a man who wasn't really the typical Jesus-follower type of guy. He explained who he was as a man who was under orders and also gave orders, telling his soldiers to go and they went, and come and they came. He lived by orders, by law, by commands.
This man has someone in his life that he cares about deeply and doesn't want to lose to this illness that has him wrecked. He's desperate for healing, for restoration. Not even for himself, which really makes the story that much cooler. He loves this slave so much that he wants him healed and saved and brought back to life.
And then, he hears Jesus is back in town. I don't know what this officer's feelings toward Jesus were, I don't know if they had ever even met before or been near each other. But this officer knows Jesus has power and he sends his high up Jewish leader buddies to try to get Jesus to come save his slave.
Jesus, like the compassionate and loving Redeemer he is, of course goes with the friends to heal this man. Here's where the story gets awesome. While he was still quite far from the house, the officer tells Jesus something.
Here's how it's told in the Message:
"Master, you don't have to go to all this trouble. I'm not that good a person, you know. I'd be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well."
Guys. This is so good. This man has a need, a really big, urgent need. If this slave of his dies, he will be at a major loss. He knows he needs Jesus to heal him. Jesus wants to come and do just that. But this man knows who he is at the core, and knows he isn't worthy or deserving. He is so real with Jesus in that moment, even when he is at a point where a lot is hanging on Jesus entering in to save his servant's life. He is honest about the state of his character-- I'm not that good a person, you know. Maybe this was the first time he came to Jesus for anything. Maybe he had been living a pretty messed up life. Maybe he's realizing he is asking Jesus for a lot right now, and his track record didn't exactly earn him what he is hoping for. He's realizing his house isn't a place worthy of Jesus, even he isn't worthy of being in the presence of Jesus. He asks Jesus to just stay far away and heal his friend from afar.
Whatever his prior relationship with Jesus was like, he knows Jesus has the power. He knows that even though he is so utterly unworthy and his house isn't even put together enough for Jesus to enter and his own self is embarrassed to even think about coming close to Jesus, Jesus could still save and redeem and heal. He knows that. He believes that. He is so aware of all the shortcomings in his current situation, but he still trusts that Jesus could still make his servant well despite all the less than ideal circumstances.
Here's what blows me away. Jesus was amazed at this. Jesus. Son of God. Prince of peace and Lord of lords. THAT Jesus, who knows all and created all and loves all, was amazed at this.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this isn all Israel!" (NLT) // Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: "I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works." (MSG)
This man wasn't one that was supposed to believe in Jesus like that. He wasn't part of the chosen group, the followers of Christ, the known believers. But he believed. He trusted. He had real, true faith. Nothing in his life should have made that the case, but he knew who Jesus was, and he believed he could save his friend's life no matter how messed up his life and his heart was, no matter how unworthy and embarrassed he was.
Grand finale: Jesus healed the servant. The officer's wish was granted. His desire was fulfilled. He didn't lose this servant he so highly prized and so badly wanted to keep alive. Jesus saw his real, genuine, honest faith, and he rewarded it by giving him the desire of his heart.
The next verses in Luke after this are a different story, so I have no idea what happened to the officer after he saw his friend healed by the great Redeemer and Restorer. I have no idea if he became a super Jesus fan and follower, or if he continued living in the commands and orders and laws of his former life. But I am pretty sure that his life was changed in that moment. I don't know how it couldn't have been. His slave was near death, Jesus came into the picture, and his slave was made well.
That's the story of our lives. That's the gospel. That changes us. We were near death. Jesus comes into the story. We are healed, we are made well, we are given the chance to have life all over again when we thought it all was over.
When we have bold and simple trust and faith in Jesus, he changes us. He heals us. He responds to that faith with a whole new life.
We aren't worthy. We aren't deserving. Most of us would probably be pretty embarrassed if Jesus was about to walk in our front door. We would look around and see dirt and dust and messes everywhere and we would be very aware at how unfit our lives were for a King to enter. We would look at ourselves in the mirror and feel so dirty, ashamed, so very aware at our unworthiness of being in the presence of Jesus. But when we believe that even though all of that is true, Jesus can still heal and make us well just by saying the word, he is amazed. He gives new life as a beautiful and undeserved gift of grace in response.
That story, our story, the gospel, is so very good.