We’re not Worthy!

Luke 7:1-10

May 29, 2016

Have you ever noticed how each of us have two very different images of ourselves? One image is our public image. We establish our resumes, we gain experience, we polish our reputation; we enjoy the respect of others for the solid record good behavior that we have established. And this is a good thing which God understands. God even gave us the 8th Commandment to protect reputation. You can’t very well get a good job if you have a crummy reputation. We carefully maintain this image so that we can resist public scrutiny and survive in this world which is quick to judge and quite cruel in it’s judgment.

But then there’s the other image of ourselves, the one that remains hidden from only a select few. this image is unvarnished and unrefined…. it’s what’s on the inside of us and it is often not very pretty. When we we dare to look at it we are distressed and tell ourselves we have to better.

Of course, we’d like very much to believe that the public persona that we present, the one that everybody likes, is who we actually are, but it’s not, and if we try to make it so, we become shallow and empty. This can very easily happen to celebrities. So many people loving them and praising them, they are tempted to believe public persona is who they actually are. Have you noticed how so many beloved superstars crumble at a young age? Jimmy Hendrix, Elvis, Curt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Prince. You might argue that it was drugs, but why were they doing drugs? To hide from there inner self maybe; to maintain the illusion that they are as wonderful as everyone says they are. Marriages in hollywood do not typically last long…because marriage requires the revealing of the inner self.

In today’s Gospel lesson we find something very interesting along these lines of the two images we have of ourselves. It’s the account of a Roman Centurion, a favorite servant of whom was sick to the point of death. He would like very much to see Jesus concerning this. Some Elders of the Jews who were friendly towards Jesus came to Jesus and said “You should help this Guy! He is worthy of your help. And then they began to list the reasons why he was worthy. He loved the Jewish nation, and he actually build them their Synagogue.” Worthy. But then as Jesus approached the Centurions house, The centurion sent word to Jesus which said “Lord do not trouble yourself, for I am Not Worthy to have you come under my roof.”

Do you see that? Those two views we just talked about about. The Centurion had a certain public persona, and the friendly Jews thought of him on that on that basis, He was worthy to be helped by Jesus. From their way of thinking, the Centurion had somehow made himself worthy of the blessing which he sought. This is the way people tend to think….that person deserves God’s favor; has earned God’s favor because he has done good things.

But this is so very false! The theory goes that that you can somehow cancel out your inner badness with outer goodness. But nowhere in the bible does God ever say that He will help us if we cover our badness with our goodness. On the contrary, any attempt to cover up one’s badness with goodness is kind of like putting beautiful and tasty frosting on a cake you’ve baked made out of sawdust and glue and the contents of your cat box. To all the world it appears to be a beautiful cake. But it is not a good cake.

If there were some kind of device that would broadcast your thoughts to everyone who is around you in any and every situation, how could that go for you? Well, many of us might be dead by the end of the day. If our fellow human beings find out the truth about us, they would not be very merciful. Yes yes, we talk about our hearts all the time, as if they are some sort of sacred space, but if the true contents of our hearts were spilled out for our fellow human beings to see, it would not go well for us. “Is that what you think of me?” “You actually feel that way?” “How horrible are you!”

This is what makes God’s eye so very different from the public eye. He knows everything about us. He perceives our thoughts from afar. And yet, AND YET he is merciful. It is on this and only this that we may hang our hopes. We are not worthy of his help. It is purely by Grace that God helps us.

The Centurion seemed to understand this when he said he wasn’t worthy. When it came to his relationship to God he didn’t pretend that he was. He just opened up and confessed, I’m not worthy. At the same time he understood that Jesus could and would help him.

Can we dare to be this open? It’s difficult for us who are always managing our image in the public eye to suddenly come out with it. How can we be sure that God will be merciful to us? We can be sure because of what went down at the cross of Christ.. He was made to be sin for us. He carried our sins to the cross where he suffered for them. He suffered for us.. At the end of it all he said “It’s finished.” His resurrection proved it was finished. So we can indeed open up to God expecting him to be merciful. The most well known event in all of history is recalled on steeples everywhere, hanging around the necks of millions…. the cross of Christ reminds us that God is fully prepared to be merciful to sinners like you and me.

The Centurion believes that Jesus could do what he could not do for himself. Here you see the contours of his faith. First he said “I cannot help my servant” Next he said “But Jesus can help him.” Or as he put it, the military man that he was: “I do not have authority over this situation.” “Jesus has authority over this situation.” This is faith. At one and the same time it admits the inability to help yourself while confessing the ability of Jesus to help.

So where did the Centurion get such great insight. It seems that the Centurion was a friend of the synagogue. He probably heard those passages from Isaiah. He told us the lame would leap like deer. He told us the mute tongue would shout for Joy. These would be the signs of the Messiah The Centurion picked up on the signs, and it led him to Jesus the Savior of the World.

And you have been given the signs too. Many of you, from your youth have been introduced to Jesus. The Word of God which leads to Christ has been super abundant in most if not all of your lives. Many of you were given devout parents, Parents who made sure you were baptized and educated in Christ; Parents who taught you to pray. The Lord has been reaching into your life and has been calling you out... calling you to look up and look outside of yourself to the one and only Savior of all.

As a result of this work in God’s life you now can even recite what Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me.” “I am the gate for the sheep” “I am the good shepherd” “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”. “Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends, and you are my friends”

The Lord has caused these things to take up residence in your brain, These are invitations and reminders to you to recognize that you need someone other than yourself, someone greater than yourself. While the world calls you to build up your public persona and make that the hope that you have, the centurion would say otherwise. For he knew that the Lord Jesus was his hope. AMEN