Say the Word (Luke 7-8)

Say the Word (Luke 7-8)

I’m doing some catch-up reading for the Foundations New Testament plan, and I noticed some connections between Luke 7 and 8.

Luke 7 tells the story of the centurion with the dying servant who begs Jesus for healing. Luke 8 tells the story of Jesus stilling the stormy sea while crossing over with the disciples.

I tried to sketch out the similarities and contrasts between the two events on a single piece of blue-bar paper. The first image is the whole thing (with some comments); the second and third are each the passages from chapter 7 and 8 by themselves.

The centurion in chapter 7 has a good relationship with the Jewish community, and the elders he sends to Jesus plead on his behalf, noting his benevolence and generosity make him worthy of having his request granted. The centurion himself, however, asserts his unworthiness twice. For a man with considerable power, he’s remarkably humble.

He then tells Jesus he understands Jesus has the authority to command healing, just as he commands soldiers and servants. In fact, I believe his last example (“…and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it”) refers to the very servant he wants healed. The one command that cannot be obeyed is, “Be healed.” But if Jesus gives that command, it will be obeyed, he believes.

Jesus is amazed (Greek thaumazo) when He hears this. It’s unusual to find such great faith, even in Israel, where it should be readily found. The centurion had heard about Jesus and believed; “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17 tells us. He hadn’t seen Jesus; he had only heard of him. Yet he believed Jesus could do the one thing he could not, sight unseen. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” Jesus would tell Thomas later (John 20:29).

Contrast that great faith with the lack of it shown by the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in Luke 8. Presumably, the disciples knew at least as much—likely much more—than the centurion about Jesus. Their responses to desperate situations are drastically different.

The centurion humbly and meekly “requests” Jesus’ help (“Lord, don’t trouble yourself”). The disciples, on the other hand, “came and woke Jesus up, saying”—likely screaming—”Master, Master, we’re going to die!”

In both instances, Jesus issues a command that is immediately obeyed. Jesus asks them, “Where is your faith?” The great faith not found in Israel includes not finding it (yet) in the disciples.

The disciples see Jesus command the storm (and be obeyed), and they are amazed (thaumazo, the same word used to describe Jesus in chapter 7). They ask the question, “Who then is this?”, an interesting contrast to the centurion’s simple faith after he “heard about Jesus” and knew enough to believe.

“But say the word,” the centurion says. Better, deeper, he believes. Jesus invites us to hear Him speak in His word and believe Him.

The Publican Pharisee (Shakespearean Sonnet)

This poem is inspired by this post.

Lord, I thank You that You are not like me,
For I am full of greed and lust and hate;
But You, a fountain flowing with mercy,
A wealth of love for sinners in dire straits.
Every penitent You will welcome,
Even the publican beating his breast;
You need no tithes of spices and income,
On a thousand hills your cattle find rest.
You prefer mercy over vanity;
You find delight in helpless, humble faith.
I am not worthy to even be seen,
And yet to me––me!––You lift up Your face.
I take no comfort but in Your esteem,
In You I find love for eternity.


Astronomy (Saraband)

O Yahweh, Maker of all things,
You Yourself s     t       r        e         t          c         h        e       d out the heavens.
You are with cherubim-song ringed.

O Wave-Treader, O Star-Namer,
Commander of celestial hosts:
Who am I to have such favor
That You would deign to bring me close?

A Saraband is a musical dance form, originally Asian, that was introduced to Spain and later France and Italy.


Remedy and Replacement

If Psalm 95 had a soundtrack, the record skips and scratches or the car brakes slam between the middle and end of verse 7.

The first verses fit well within the surrounding psalms; the themes of singing, shouting, joy, and the greatness of God are all there. But beginning with the last line of verse 7, the song changes quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Continue reading “Remedy and Replacement”

The Pharisee’s Prayer, Revised

The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people  — greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner! ’ (Luke 18:11-13 CSB)

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 20 about a landowner hiring workers to tend his vineyard. Some start in the morning, some work a half-day, and some work only a couple of hours or so. All the workers are paid the same day’s wage, regardless when they started. The full-day workers are indignant at this, and the landowner responds with a haunting question: “Are you jealous because I’m generous?” I am thankful for the times when I am struck by how much like the full-day workers I am (“let the righteous one strike me, it is an act of faithful love,” Psalm 141:5). The Holy Spirit shows me in these times how unlike Him I am, and I am always thankful. We sinners make terrible, terrifying gods; He alone is God and He alone is good.

The discomfort of being like some and unlike others reminded me of the tax collector’s prayer in Luke 18. There, Jesus contrasts the arrogant self-assuredness of the unjustified Pharisee with the humble, penitent contrition of the justified publican. What if the Pharisee prayed righteously, as Jesus would have him? What would that sound like?

The Pharisee closed the door in his house and fell on his face, praying like this:

“God, I thank You that You’re not like me––greedy, unrighteous, lustful, and especially not hateful and arrogant like the deep, crimson stains of my hypocritical heart. I thank You that You give grace to all––even to that tax collector over there.

“You don’t need my fasts or tithes; You own the cattle on the thousand hills, so I can’t pretend to give something to You as though You would owe me. You desire mercy, not the empty, heartless ritual of man-pleasing religion.

“I couldn’t help but see the tears of that tax collector and overhear his prayer to You. I can’t think of a better way to come to You. I am such a sinner––much worse than anyone I know! I know I don’t deserve it, but please show me mercy!”