Lukeby Mike Raiter
In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus had announced that He had come to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:16–21). Surprisingly, then, His next miracle is in response to a request from possibly the wealthiest and most powerful man in Capernaum. Yet, we have seen that poverty is also a spiritual condition. This man has a servant who is gravely ill, and for all his wealth and influence, the centurion is helpless. So, this “poor man” comes to the one with real power, the Lord Jesus (vv. 1–3).
Being a military commander, the centurion understands the chain of authority and the power of a command. He therefore grasps the power and authority of Jesus’ word (vv. 6–8). Already we’ve heard of the people’s amazement at Jesus (Luke 4:22, 36; 5:26), but now we read of Jesus’ amazement (v. 9). Here is faith, not of a mustard seed, but of an oak tree, and from the lips of a Gentile. Here is genuine spiritual poverty which expresses itself in faith and humility. Then with a word, from a distance, Jesus heals the servant (v. 10).
The scene now moves 30 kilometres away, to the little town of Nain. Jesus meets the funeral procession of a young man. His death is especially tragic, because he was his mother’s only son, and she had already lost her husband. In other words, here is a woman who has lost any means of support. She faces a future of abject poverty. That is why, although the Lord Jesus raises the young man, the focus of the story is the mother. Notice how Luke describes the event.She is a widow. With her is a large crowd. When Jesus sees her, He has compassion on her, and speaks to her. Then He gives the risen son back to his mother (vv. 11–17).
Jesus meets the human face of poverty and is moved by compassion. Then, with remarkable ease, like a general giving a command which is instantly obeyed, the young man sits up and returns to the waiting arms of his mother.
Jesus is stunned at the centurion’s faith (v. 9). May we all have the kind of faith that would surprise the Son of God.
What do these two stories tell us about Jesus? What do they tell us about the people He met?
And what do they tell us about faith?