Jesus' Ministry: Call to Him, Come to Him
Text: Luke 7:1–10 and Luke 7:36–50
There are many differences which stand between these two texts:
You have a high-ranking, male, Gentile Roman officer and his servant…
And then in the other story, we have one of the highest-ranking Jewish religious leaders against the backdrop of one of the lowest respected and actually socially unacceptable status of the sinful woman who was most likely a prostitute.
You have the Gentile world and the opposite sides of the social spectrum and then you have the Jewish world and the two opposite sides of the social spectrum.
The plot or the storyline for each is unique…
In the urgent healing of the centurion’s servant, we have a sick servant who is most certainly about to die and a miraculous, supernatural, instant, complete healing takes place for all to see. This is a public, out in the open event for all to see and know.
But in the other story we see a private, relaxed dinner party. In the first, Jesus is invited, and He responds, but in the second, we witness a very uninvited guest enter the story. And she takes center stage, “Behold,” “A woman of the city”—she steals the show.
Then, we have the contrasts of the leading military and religious figures in each story…we see their differences in their responses to Jesus. They have very different postures!
The Centurion: “But just say the word…” Such an exalting and honoring statement He ascribes to Jesus. It comes from a man of authority. He is definitely looking up at a man capable of much more authority than him. He knows there is one above me!
The Pharisee: He’s not looking up, but down! “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of woman is touching him—for she is a sinner.” He is not impressed with Jesus; he is impressed with himself and very indicting of Jesus.
Then, we notice the very different responses which Jesus has to each:
To the centurion – Jesus is startled indeed but commends him and praises him publicly. The Centurion has defined faith for us this way—He knows who Jesus is…before Jesus has acted for him.
But in the other story, we do not see Jesus talking about the Pharisee to others, but rather we see him talking directly to the Pharisee Simon. Simon he says, “I have something to say to you…” Jesus does not commend him publicly, but indicts him privately. He says in essence, “Quit being so concerned about what you think I don’t know. STOP. You’re the one who doesn’t get it. You will never get it until you get yourself right. You cannot get my fullness and forgiveness unless you get the fullness of your failures. If you want to get me, you must get you!”
I’m coming to increased realization that to get ourselves right is key to getting Jesus right, and when we want to get ourselves right, we will get Jesus right!
I read the Bible with students and the hang-up is most often not with Jesus’ grace, but it’s with our grotesque immorality. (We are destined for hell, but His mercy is deep enough for heaven). You see, we are destined to have little hearts, but Jesus wants big–hearted Christians. Big-hearted Christianity is what He is after.
Therefore, let’s drive home this point for both stories before we unpack them a little further… Jesus is saying, “Come on Simon, have a big heart!!! I am worthy of much more love than you are offering, but you have to realize something. It’s what the Centurion and the woman both realized, but you cannot seem to grasp…unworthiness.” (They were undeserving, unimpressive, unremarkable, and it led them both to actions that defied societal norms of the time.) They called to him and came to him unworthy, yes, but also unashamed. Boldly, without reservations, defying the odds…they came unworthy, but unashamed BECAUSE HE IS SO WONDERFULLY WILLING and FORGIVING. When we see Him this way too, we will come unworthy, yet unashamed too!
II. The Unworthy and Unashamed Centurion
We don’t know the circumstances leading up to the call to Jesus…But I can imagine this was a completely emptying, arduous, painful, heavy situation. I am sure this Roman official had wracked his brain and expended incredible resources looking for a cure for his most valued servant. He had looked within himself and within his own power and he came up empty.
But then enters Jesus, in his town, at this time…And what we do know is that HE KNOWS JESUS, but we don’t know how He knew of Jesus…
Maybe he heard about it from Jesus’ first miracle in Canaa, “Do whatever he tells you…”
Maybe it was Luke 4:31-37..Jesus rebuked the demon and all the People said, “What is this word?”
Maybe it was one of his disciples’ mothers-in-law immediately following and he rebuked the fever at his word! And then the floodgates opened up and everyone came and everyone was healed! Maybe he heard that the rebuked demons were crying out in defeat, “You are the Son of God!”
Maybe he heard about the disciples in Luke, chapter 5 who could not catch any fish…but AT HIS WORD they dropped their nets and brought in a boat full!
Maybe it was the leper to whom Jesus said, “I will, be clean,” and immediately the leprosy left him!
Maybe he knew how Jesus healed a paralyzed man not because of the faith of the paralyzed guy, but because of the faith of his friends!
And this is all just the end of chapter 4 and half of chapter 5: IS THERE ANYONE JESUS REJECTS UP UNTIL THIS POINT? ANYONE HE DOES NOT RECEIVE WHO CALLS?
MAN, this centurion must have had confidence in the willingness of Jesus, but its clear where he is not putting his confidence…HIMSELF.
Look at verses 4-5…HE IS WORTHY
Then, juxtapose that with verses 6-8…I AM AN UNWORTHY man.
You see, unworthiness before someone wonderfully willing is a beautiful marriage. It created a very unashamed call to Jesus!
Are you presently calling to Jesus unashamedly and unabashedly?
Are you fighting your present circumstances, or are you letting them carry out their sweet and sovereign purposes?…sickness, death, hard marriage, pain, finances, unclarity over your future, guilty conscience…He moves toward brokenness and not away. And if it was not for this sick servant, he would not have had this experience of God. He would have continued to be a Gentile cut off from the riches of God’s salvation to the world, and we would never have gotten this story. Have you ever thought, “Maybe hardship is God’s highway to drive His grace, nearness, and power into the back alleys of our souls!”
Well, as an aside, “What if He does not come?” or comes differently than I expect?
In this story, He comes as wanted and expected.
In the next story, he comes, but He appears to not come at all. He seems to come too late! A widow’s only son had died and was being carried out in a casket….He was long past dead…He was done and his funeral already started, and Jesus shows up, touches the casket, and says, “ARISE!!” It appeared as though it was too late, too far gone, but when Jesus is around we are told to never lose hope! He is not some Deist God who has left us here to fend for ourselves; He shows up! Even when our calls come to an end, and there seems to be no hope, there is hope with Him. As long as this Messiah is alive and well in the universe, it’s far from over!
In the following story we get Jesus who comes, but not the way we wanted or expected. John the Baptist is thrown in prison, and he’s wondering why this new Messiah, Jesus, has not broken him out and righted the world’s wrongs. So, he begins to doubt that maybe Jesus isn’t who he says he is….And so he sends messengers. Jesus says, in effect, “Of course I am who I say I am…I make the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear…and blessed is he who is not offended by me.” Jesus is saying, “Oh how you will be tempted to take offense at my wonderful ways and wills for your life: they will be painful, but they are not without purpose! They are pruning, perfecting, protecting, pleasuring purposes!
So, lets tie up this section like this. Let the “suffering servant” in your life have His way with you in bringing you to your knees. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to end it. Don’t try to get up. Let it lead you to call on Him! Call on him! Why? Because in Jesus’ most famous sermon, which we heard last week, I am hanging on His strong central statement, “He is kind to the ungrateful and evil. He shows them mercy.”
III. The Unworthy and Unashamed Sinner
I cannot imagine what must have been going through this woman’s head as she crawled to the feet of Jesus…indictment of Simon, the shame of sin, she was a woman, an outcast and social reject, uninvited, who probably cannot remember a time when she was around a man who treated and touched her appropriately. For all we know she could have walked into the home of one of her past clients to get to Jesus! And then she just weeps and brings her savings account of her alabaster jar and pours perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet…She has a big heart…that’s why! Her heart has overcome all the fears of social rejection. She thinks and acts according to her heart. There is someone, finally, who receives her in her unworthiness, and she falls in love with him for it! When you experience someone this willing and this forgiving, it will lead you to do incredibly bold things, even when you feel incredibly unworthy. We know from the Centurion that we can CALL TO HIM and from the Woman we can COME TO HIM.
Oh, if we could walk ourselves back to first century life, what would it have looked like! What it must have been like to be in the presence of Jesus! The woman shows us what it’s like to be around Jesus…to be around Jesus was to be right at home!! In fact, she acts like she is at home!! She acts much more at home than the homeowner Simon. She fulfills all the hosting duties for Jesus—
Simon gave no water…she gives him water and washes his feet.
Simon gave no greeting…she gave him a kiss of greeting .
Simon gave no oil…She gives her life’s savings of perfume.
Why? Because she loves so much…she has a big heart! Because she is in front of this beautiful being of the God-Man who showers willingness and forgiveness all over her unworthiness. Who would not come unashamed to that man?! A man who makes you feel—
Safe in your own skin: You don’t have to act, you don’t have to pretend, no more put-ons. A man you can laugh around, dance around, be unclothed in front of, have a bad hair day around, you can get caught red-handed in front of and you are not embarrassed or shamed. He is the shameless one.
Approved, Received, Safe, and Secure: Where you are, how you are, who you are…just come! Many of of us have not had this modeled in any way, shape, or form, but I plead to you, don’t hold yourself back from Him!
There is no one who comes to the door of Jesus and is turned away, left on the threshold, made to sit on the stairs, or have the door shut in his or her face. Jesus says, “Come in, have my home! I cannot wait to visit with you!”
This is the pattern of the Christian life: Unworthy, Unworthy, Unworthy
Just as the Centurion has a “suffering servant” that created a need and compelled a call to Jesus, so too do I believe we have “sin sufferings” that create a need and compel us to come to Jesus!
Don’t resist, but rather receive your “suffering servant” and call to Jesus unworthy and yet unashamed.
Don’t resist, but rather receive your “sin suffering” to come to Jesus unworthy and yet unashamed.