Being worthy of God’s mercy
When we think of a relationship with God, questions of our own worth invariably come to mind. Am I good enough to merit God’s favor? Do my good deeds outweigh all my bad ones?
An account of a good man who appreciated who he was — and who Jesus is — addresses this question.
The man was a centurion, a Roman commander of 100 soldiers, who lived in Capernaum, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Luke’s gospel tells of the time this centurion heard of Jesus and implored him to heal his servant, who was deathly ill (Luke 7:1-10). The town’s Jewish leaders went to Jesus to speak well of him.
“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.’” (Luke 7:4-5 NIV)
These leaders were saying, “This man is worthy of your attention. He’s not even Jewish, yet he’s paid for our synagogue out of his own pocket.”
Jesus goes with the elders and is followed by a crowd. Before they could reach his house, the commander sent friends with another message: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” (:6-7)
The centurion considered himself unworthy to meet Jesus in person. If our access to God was determined by our own worth, we’d all be left out in the cold!
The centurion rightly understood his own lack of merit, but he also understood God’s grace and mercy, and who Jesus is.
Therefore he makes an astounding request: “But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 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.” (:7-8)
This officer understood chain of command: He lived under it. He concluded that Jesus, God’s only son, had authority over all things, even issues of life and death. Jesus could simply speak the word, and his servant would be healed.
People were often astounded by Jesus’ words and deeds; this is one time when Jesus was astounded by the centurion’s faith.
The servant was healed without Jesus entering the officer’s home, at the hour the request was made.
None of us are worthy, based on our own deeds, to have a relationship with a just and holy God. He makes us right through faith in Jesus Christ, his only son.
Jesus’ death pays for our sins completely; we are now able to approach God boldly.
The centurion understood enough to believe and act on his faith. Each of us can trust God with that same confidence, knowing he resolves all issues of worth.
Don Baumann is outreach pastor at Hilltop Community Church.