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April 17, 2019, 4:00 PM

Centurion to Centurion: The Gospel According to Luke



Happy and blessed Holy Week! What a crazy and unusual one, what with a major cathedral in Europe burning and unlikely comebacks in the world of American sports (hockey playoffs and the Masters at Augusta, most prominently!). I don't think we'll forget this Holy Week for a long time to come. 

Speaking of remarkable, unlikely, and teachable moments in life--moments that teach us about life and faith and religion--there is the case of the two centurions in Luke's Gospel. A centurion was a Roman commander in charge of 100 ground troops. They had plenty of authority, as the first centurion notes in Luke 7:6-8. Jesus is told that this centurion "loves our nation [Israel] and has built our synagogue" (7:5). After the centurion sends friends to greet Jesus and ask him for the favor of healing an ailing servant of his, Jesus turns to the crowd and says, 

"I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 

The men go back to the centurion's house and find his servant well. Amazing, isn't it?! 

We know Jesus to be this way. We know that, even dying on the cross, his power and glory and signficance are shown by the rending of the temple curtain in two, the earthquake, the darkness, and the tumult of that Good Friday. 

We know how he wants us to serve: like the centurion! He says, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty!" (Luke 17:10). 

And so, in this Holy Week, we will hear of the second centurion in Luke's account of the Gospel. A centurion overseeing Jesus' crucifixion, upon hearing him exclaim: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" praises God and says, "Surely this was the Righteous One!" (my translation of Luke 23:47). Mark reports this as "Surely this man was the Son of God!" and those words were popularized by John Wayne's centurion character in the film Greatest Story Ever Told. Regardless of the exact wording, the second centurion's faith is as strong as the first one's. 

And we, feeling far-removed from Jesus perhaps, living in 21st century America as we do, need only gaze upon the wonder of this Holy Week and Jesus' saving actions with joy, peace, and faith. 

We praise and honor God's name by doing so. We are not accruing points or something to add to God's love for us by going to extra church services; we are, instead, viewing the fullness of God's mercy in Christ Jesus & praising Him! 

In the joy, grace, and peace of our Risen Savior, 

Pastor Dieterichs


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