“From D- to A+”                                                                                   June 2, 2013

Luke 7:1-10                                                                                          Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   It is just a few days from high school graduates going through a ceremony for the purpose of receiving their diplomas.

A.    I think that the college graduates have already been through their ceremony, but what college graduates and high school graduates have in common is that they have been deemed “worthy” of receiving a diploma.

1.     Being worthy of that diploma opens up a new chapter in life for all who possess it.

B.     The word “worthy” is vital to understanding our scripture lesson for today.

1.     Prior to Luke 7:1-10 Jesus had been preaching out in the countryside and now Luke tells us what happened when he reentered Capernaum.

2.     Capernaum was on the north side of the Sea of Galilee and served as the base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

3.     Besides fishermen like Peter and Andrew there was a centurion, a military officer, who lived there.

4.     We don’t know the name of the centurion but we know that he was a gentile, a non-Jew, who had heard about Jesus and sought Jesus’ help for a servant who was gravely ill.

5.     The request was made for Jesus to “heal” the servant and the form of the word “heal” used here lets us know that servant was perhaps moments from death.

6.     Things were dire and in making their plea the Jewish leaders point out that the centurion “Deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” (Luke 7:4)

7.     Because of what he has done they said, “He is worthy to have you do this for him.” (Luke 7:4)

8.     The words “worthy” and “deserve” indicate a high degree of merit as well as value. (Johnold Strey, “Lord, I Am Not Worthy,” June 6, 2010)

C.     Now perhaps you are wondering why the centurion didn’t go directly to Jesus himself.

1.     There are several possibilities including that the centurion probably knew that if Jesus entered the home of him, a Gentile, that that would make Jesus unclean so cultural sensitivities led the man to ask for Jesus’ help while excusing Jesus from stepping foot in his home.

2.     But there is another possibility to consider because the centurion said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof,…” (Luke 7:6)

3.      And if you could read Greek after studying that sentence you would say “ah, that’s what’s going on.”

4.     The first time Luke uses the word worthy in this passage he means high merit and value. (Johnold, “Lord, I Am Not Worthy,” June 6, 2010).

5.     But when Luke quotes the centurion he uses the Greek word that means adequate or sufficient or “good enough.” (Johnold, “Lord, I Am Not Worth,” June 6, 2010)

6.     Wow! The Jewish leaders had told Jesus that the centurion was an “A+” sort of guy, but the centurion himself said “I’m a D-.”

7.     It didn’t matter what the Jewish leaders said about him, the centurion believed that he was not worthy of the goodness and grace of the Son of God.

8.     The centurion was confident that he didn’t meet the minimum requirements for Jesus to bless him by healing his servant, and he point blank said, “I am not worthy.”

9.     If this were a story about the centurion’s graduation from high school or college he would be saying, “I am not worthy, I don’t deserve a diploma. End of story.”

D.    That would have been quite a confession and if the centurion had said that about his education I would be able to relate to him.

1.     I don’t know if any of our high school or college graduates gave in to the temptation to “cut it” the last few weeks of school but when I was in high school I did in an English class.

2.     With three weeks to go before graduation I turned in a paper that I probably spent 5 minutes on and received a D+.

3.     I had to work like a dog the remainder of school to ace everything to get my grade up where it belonged.

4.     It was a profound learning experience.

E.     And we are told that Jesus found it to be profound, even amazing, that the centurion did not feel worthy and that he believed that Jesus could just say a word and his servant would be healed.

1.     The centurion knew himself to be a D- sort of person but Jesus considered him to an A+ sort of person.

2.     When people got to the house of the centurion they found that the servant had been healed.

II.                 There were times during the two years I taught high school social studies that I would say, “If you remember anything from this class, remember this” and I want to do the same with this sermon today for you.

A.    These two things are true: like the centurion you are not worthy of grace.

1.     I suspicion that you are like me and that more than a few times with regards to the Christian life you have cut it and have deserved the grade of D-.

2.     But this is also true, in fact it is truer: despite your unworthiness Jesus views you as an A+.

3.     Jesus transfers his worthiness to you and that is why we call what he does grace.

4.     Without the A+ worthiness of Jesus being assigned to you then you’d never get a diploma as His disciple and you wouldn’t have new chapters in life ahead of you, but you do.

5.     By no means are you at the end of your story.

6.     And that’s because Jesus gives us something even more important than a diploma and that is a blessing we could never get for ourselves – “pardon for our sins, peace with God, and the promise of heaven.” (Johnold, “Lord, I Am Not Worthy,” June 6, 2010).

7.     That’s a lesson worth remembering, this day and for all time!