Thurs Scripture - Luke 7:9 - “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
Thurs Quote - N. T. Wright - The whole point of what -Jesus was up to was that he was doing close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term in the future. And what he was promising for that future and doing in the present was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing -people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose — and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that large project.
Jesus seems shocked in today's verse. Pleased, but absolutely surprised.
I wonder if those hearing Luke's gospel would have been surprised as well. Sure we know that Luke really seems to enjoy pulling the rug out from under us by making the least likely and the least liked partners with Jesus in renewing creation, but a Centurion would perhaps be the very last person those listening would expect Jesus to have compassion for, not to mention lift up as an example of faith. It bears repeating that the Centurion would have represented the full force and threat of Roman oppression of Jesus's people. The Centurion represented the violence of the Roman State. Not only would this have been symbolic. It is safe to assume that Jesus witnessed the violence Rome would use to remain in control, both through crucifixions and through other means. Cities that harbored rebellion would be burned to the ground, with innocents suffering the consequences. Such incidents happened near Jesus geographically. He would have known about this. So it would have been shocking for the disciples and for the early church to hear about, Jesus merely agreeing to serve a representative of that violent oppression, much less call them an example of faith.
I think it is easy for us to fail to realize how shocking and surprising the coalition that Jesus gathered would have been. Within his own small circle of disciples we find Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Both represent differing political factions withing Judaism at that time which advocated for resistance (and in the case of Judas violent resistance) against Roman rule. But you also find Matthew who was a tax collector who then also had worked closely with Rome. And let's not forget that many of the other apostles were just plain fisherman. If one were going to announce the beginning of God's reign on earth, none of these would be the first choice for such a campaign and trying to build a team of such diverse experienced, opinions and values would seem impossible. Let's not forget that Jesus often chose to gather with 'sinners' who were not only religiously suspect but socially outcast and powerless. Jesus would go out to spend time with lepers and Samaritans and prostitutes. Again, these are all people who are socially rejected, considered expendable and value-less. Yet these are the people Jesus chooses to help him announce and perform the reign of God. When we pause to consider that Jesus spent most of his time with and among those considered, dangerous, threatening, expendable, unimportant, we begin to see how shocking his ministry was.
So we discover another reason why Jesus was and is trustworthy. Because, as we sing, 'there is a wideness in God's mercy.' Jesus's graceful presence is not reserved for a few, for a small group based on wealth, social status, influence or ethnicity. Jesus is trustworthy because Jesus is not loyal to any one group of people. Well, not any one group unless we consider that all the outsiders, the expendables, the poor and abused are a group. That group Jesus is obviously loyal to. This makes Jesus trustworthy because while he shows compassion for all regardless of their allegiances, he himself is loyal only to God. He doesn't speak on behalf of any group (but the poor and dispossessed). We can trust Jesus because he did not have an agenda other than welcoming all, regardless of their identities and allegiances, to experience the justice and peace of the reign of God. The challenge of Jesus's affirmation of the Centurion's faith is that it reveals how often the Church of Jesus may speak of love and mercy and the Kingdom of God, but act in ways that show its loyalty belongs elsewhere; such as political party, social or ethnic group, or denomination.
Thurs Study - Acts 10
Thurs Prayer - I am thankful for the community that you have created and lead me to, gracious God. I am grateful for a fellowship of like-minded people with whom to gather, find strength and support and to work. But I am also aware of alike we are in many ways, and that your son created diverse community. So I ask also for the gift of diversity. Give me the opportunity and the courage to establish relationships with those unlike myself and a heart and mind open to learn from them. Teach me not to fear or be angry because of our differences, but to trust that your Spirit works to create peace in the world as it works to show us how to live in mutual love with those unlike ourselves.