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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
“Faith” - the state of certainty with regard to belief
Have you ever thought about how some have great faith, others little faith, still others no faith at all?
Have you ever wondered how it was acquired by some or why it was rejected by others?
How two kids can grow up in the exact home, one walks with God, and the other walks away from God?
How two people can attend the same small group, one matures, the other plateaus?
How two people can walk through similar difficult situations, one person’s faith is strengthened, and the other’s weakened.
What kind of faith do you have today? “Great” faith, “growing” faith, “doubting” faith, “staggering” faith, “convenient” faith, “parental” faith (the kind of faith that someone hasn’t really thought out for themselves, the kind that rides along on the shirt tails of the parents)…? We sometimes search to find it, fight to keep it, study to deepen it, pray to God to sustain it - Faith!
Note in our text today (Luke 7:1-10) in v.9 Jesus has nothing but high praise for this man’s faith. As a group, talk about what you think Jesus would say about your faith. Also be sure to explain why!
Read through the text. Identify the key characters and their roles in this story. Do we know anything about how the Centurion came to possess such great faith? What is the issue that causes the Centurion to want to seek out Christ? Do you have any issues that are drawing you closer to God these days?
On Sunday, I talked about why the Centurion sent Jewish elders, and then some friends, to Jesus. In part it was an expression of this man’s tremendous respect for Christ and his deep awareness of who he was as a Gentile. His home was considered unclean by Jews and he was labelled as a pagan. However, as a Centurion he would have ruled over 100 soldiers:
“A centurion had many duties besides maintaining discipline among the ranks. He had to oversee executions for capital offenses (Mt 27:54; Mk 15:39, 44, 45; Lk 23:47). He was responsible for his troops at all times, whether they were Roman citizens or recruited mercenary soldiers. The position of centurion was prestigious and high paying; those who reached that rank usually made a career of it.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
For a man of such high rank the words he speaks are quite amazing - “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” (v.6b) For a man with such a big title he did not have a big head, but he did have a big heart for God. I think it is this man’s contrition that draws Jesus to him. His contrition is like a welcome mat laid out for Jesus to enter into this man’s “home”. As a group, examine his words (v.6b-8) and talk about what kind of heart this reveals. What do his words reveal about the issue of authority?
As a group, talk about the connection of contrition and self awareness in drawing close to God. Read the following and discuss (Quotes taken from Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, page 65).
- Augustine wrote in his Confessions, in A.D. 400, “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?” He prayed: “ rant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.”
- Meister Eckhart, a Dominican writer from the thirteenth century, wrote, “No one can know God who does not first know himself.”
- St. Teresa of Avila wrote in The Way of Perfection: “Almost all problems in the spiritual life stem from a lack of self-knowledge.”
How self-aware is this Centurion?
I think the combination of contrition and power seen in the Centurion is a rare combination that we often don’t see today. We would expect the leper or paralytic to be humble, but a Roman Centurion? Talk about how success, titles, the seduction of climbing higher in our profession can actually sabotage one’s relationship with God. I think that our success can sometimes make us like a fortress where we do not want people to see our weak side. Weakness or limitations run contrary to our title, to our position and role, thus confessing them or acknowledging them is out of the question.
My big idea this past Sunday was great faith recognizes ultimate authority. This man of authority recognizes authority that goes far beyond him, and thus he yields to it.
How is this statement not very culturally friendly? What I am getting at here is that in our post-modern culture authority begins and ends with man. To recognize a greater Authority beyond oneself that needs to be yielded to is often seen as an insult to the senses.
One of the things we are reminded of by this story is that regardless of titles and accomplishments you will someday come up against some kind of “sick servant” scenario that you cannot solve, you cannot fix, you cannot resolve. You have the questions, but you don’t have the answers. You have the problem but you don’t have the solution. You have the headache but you don’t have the pill.
What tangible examples illustrate you recognizing ultimate authority these days in your life? Note that recognition of that ultimate authority is seen in the centurion’s words - “But say the word…” He realized Jesus words were authoritative. Are you reading and heeding the words of God?
Last word - What might have happened if Jesus said “No. Let death take your servant.”
At times the greatest test of recognizing/yielding to authority is when the answer is “no” when we want it to be “yes”, “stop” when we want it to be “go”, “wait” when we want it to happen yesterday.
I think it is interesting in this story that God is at work in the heart of a military man. Take time as a group this week to pray for the military. There are men and women in our military who need to recognize ultimate authority.
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