Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first seventeen verses of the seventh chapter. WHEN JESUS PREVENTS DEATH! WHEN JESUS REVERSES DEATH! JESUS NOT ONLY HAS THE POWER TO PREVENT DEATH ALTOGETHER, BUT HE ALSO HAS THE POWER AND AUTHORITY TO TURN BACK DEATH! THE CENTURIONS SERVANT! THE WIDOWS SON! THE RULERS DAUGHTER! LAZARUS! When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find an event taking place which was previously recorded in the New Testament gospel of Matthew. As you approach the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find the account of the Roman centurion who we first learn within the gospel account of Jesus’ life as written by Matthew had a Servant who was sick and on the verge of dying. What marks the account which Luke writes so incredibly intriguing is the additional details he provides us concerning the relationship which existed between the Servant and this Roman centurion. As you read this passage of scripture you will find this Roman centurion has a unique and special bond with this particular Servant, for Luke would go on to write and record how this Servant was beloved by and dear to the heart of this centurion. I can’t help but wonder what it was like when this Servant came down with this particular sickness and illness, and when it was realized that this sickness would potentially lead to death. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how long this particular Servant was sick before it was noted and realized that this sickness would and could potentially lead to death. That which the beloved physician Luke writes and records within this passage of scripture is that this Servant was not only sick, and sick to the point of death, but he was also dear to the heart of this centurion. This is actually quite interesting, for more often than not you don’t hear of this type of relationship existing between servants and their masters. In all reality, I would dare say that there must have been something unique and different about this Servant that caused this centurion to have such an affinity and affection toward him.
What I find to be so incredibly amazing and wonderful within this passage of scripture is that there had to have been something different about this particular Servant who served under this centurion. While I do believe there was something about this servant’s character, personality and makeup, I would dare say that this Servant had a work ethic that was second to none and too notch in the eyes of this centurion. There is not a doubt within my mind that this Servant performed his work so well that it garnered and captured the attention and affection of this centurion. What’s unique and interesting is that we really don’t know anything about the Servant. We don’t know the servants name; we don’t know where the Servant was from; we don’t know how long this particular Servant was serving in the house of this centurion; we don’t know the age of the Servant; we don’t even know what the work ethic and character of this Servant was like. The only thing we know about this particular Servant was that he was sick unto the point of death, was dear to the heart of and beloved by this centurion. While we know absolutely nothing about this Servant other than the fact that he was sick and beloved, I would dare say there was something drastically and noticeably different about him—something which separated and set him apart from all the other servants. Whether or not this Servant was the only Servant in the household of this centurion, or whether or not this centurion has other servants is not known. What’s more, is that we aren’t given any details concerning any other centurions and the relationship with their servants. There is a part of me that can’t help but get the strong sense that this centurion could have very easily bragged and boasted on this particular Servant because of his character, as well as perhaps his work ethic. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was something fundamentally different about this Servant that completely separated and set him apart from some of the other servants—perhaps even the servants of the other centurions. While it is not specifically stated within this passage of scripture, nor even in the account which the apostle Matthew wrote, I would dare say that there was something marked and noticeably different about this Servant which caused him to be the subject of the attention and affection of this centurion. There was something that drew the heart of this centurion to this Servant and caused him to develop a strong affinity and affection toward him.
As I sit here this morning and think about and consider the relationship which existed between this centurion and the servant, I can’t help but be drawn into the realm of what was the heart and foundation of this relationship. It is somewhat unusual to read about servants and their masters having such a relationship—particularly a relationship where the master holds the servant dear to their heart. There was something drastically and noticeably different about this servant, and perhaps even about the centurion himself that allowed them to share this unique and special relationship with each other. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was something drastically different about this servant that caused him to be dear and beloved to this centurion as his master. More often than not when we think about and consider the relationship between a servant and a master we think of it in terms of a relationship of authority and subordination and authority and submission and that’s it. Very rarely do we think about and even read about a relationship between a servant and their master transitioning beyond the place of authority and submission to the place of affinity and affection. What we find within this particular passage of Scripture, however, goes against absolutely everything we know and understand about servants and their masters, and even that of what could be perceived as employees and their employers. There is a part of me that would absolutely love to catch a glimpse into what the work ethic and character of this servant was like in the house of this centurion. I would love to know what it was like for this centurion to look upon and behold this servant and to observe how he carried out his duties and his responsibilities. I wonder what it was like for this centurion to take a step back and look upon this servant—regardless of and despite where this servant was from in terms of race and nationality—and be pleased and impressed with his performance and degree of work. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was definitely something that set apart this servant from other servants—perhaps other servants which served in the household of this centurion, and perhaps even within the households of other centurions. I can’t help but imagine the centurions gathering together at their posts, or even gathering together round about a fire, or some means of fellowship and community with each other, and their swapping stories of their servants, and how their servants performed within their houses. I can’t help but wonder what it was like as other centurions could have possibly heard this centurion describe the relationship which existed between himself and this servant, and even what the work ethic and character of this servant was like.
The more I think about and the more I consider this particular reality, the more I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary to examine this concept of a relationship which exists between servants and their masters—not only from the perspective of an example found in the Old Testament, but also in terms of the words which the apostle Paul writes concerning servants within certain of his epistles. While it is true that we aren’t given any details and any information concerning and regarding this particular servant within the household of the centurion, there is an Old Testament example which brings us face to face with a particular servant who not only exceeded his master’s expectations, but also shared a unique relationship and bond with his master. In all reality, I would dare say there are two specific examples found within the Old Testament which describe this unique relationship which existed between a servant and their master. The first example is of course that of Joseph the son of Jacob who was sold into slavery by ten of his nine of his eleven brothers. The second example is that of Daniel who was taken into captivity during the Babylonian invasion of Judah when the city of Jerusalem was laid siege, and as countless individuals were taken captive and brought into the land of the Chaldeans. I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is necessary for us to think about and consider the accounts of these two men, for through the account and example of these two men we are brought face to face with the tremendous relationship which existed between servants and their masters, and even the tremendous work ethic which was demonstrated within the hearts and lives of these two individuals. The first account is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, while the second account is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel. Go with me to each of these two passages and find yourself immersed in the accounts of these two men—not only the account of the relationship which existed between themselves and their master, but also their work ethic. Begin first in the Old Testament book of Genesis, and then journey forward centuries later to the Old Testament book of Daniel and to the time of the Babylonian captivity when Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were taken captive by the Babylonians and brought into the land of the Chaldeans:
“And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilda’s with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchant men; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; and they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; and evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and daughters rose to comfort him: but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. And the MIdianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard…” (Genesis 37:18-36).
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of P:haraoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptians, bought him of the hands of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptians. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored” (Genesis 39:1-6).
“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Michael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understand, that the king iniquities of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus” (Daniel 1:17-21).
“Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an olfaction and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couildest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, over the4 affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:46-49).
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6:1-4).
I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider the examples of Daniel and Joseph, for the lives of these two men wonderfully and powerful demonstrate the relationship which exists between servants and their masters. What’s more, is that not only do they demonstrate the relationship which exists between servants and their masters, but they also demonstrate the faithfulness of Daniel and Joseph in a place of captivity and slavery. One thing both Daniel and Joseph share and have in common is that they were both found in the place outside the promise and outside of the inheritance. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers after being taken and removed from the pit, while Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians out of the land of Judah along with other prominent individuals within the southern kingdom of Judah. Both Daniel and Joseph found themselves in the place outside of the promise and outside of inheritance, and yet both men faithfully served their masters in that place of slavery and captivity. How absolutely remarkable and wonderful it is to think about and consider that neither Daniel, nor Joseph allowed themselves to be discouraged by their condition—slavery for the one and captivity for the other—and continued to faithfully serve both master and God alike. In all reality, I would dare say that for these two men there was no difference between serving their masters and serving God, for the two were intrinsically connected and linked to and with each other. Despite the fact that these two men found themselves removed from their homes, their families, and their land, and despite the fact that they found themselves in a foreign land which was not their own, they held fast to their character and integrity, and faithfully served in the house of their masters. For Joseph it was the house of Potiphar, while for Daniel it was during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and even under the reign of Darius king of Persia. Oh, there is something to be said about a faithfulness in service under fire that must be carefully considered and brought into light won this particular occasion, for both Daniel and Joseph wonderfully and powerfully demonstrated faithfulness in service under fire in a foreign land. Neither Daniel, nor Joseph allowed themselves to be discouraged or disheartened by their situation and circumstance, and in all reality, I would dare say that both allowed themselves to be content in the situation and circumstance they found themselves in. What’s so unique and interesting is how Joseph would eventually find himself cast into prison after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and Daniel would find himself cast into the lion’s den after being falsely accused by the presidents and princes during the reign of Darius. Despite the fact that both of these men were faithful in their service before their respected masters, they each found their faithfulness brought under fire, as one was cast alive into the lion’s den, and the other was cast into a prison within the land of Egypt. SERVICE UNDER FIRE! FAITHFULNESS UNDER FIRE!
I am completely and utterly convinced that the accounts of Daniel and Joseph provide us with a powerful example—not only of the relationship which can exist between a servant and their master, but also faithfulness in service to those under whose authority you have been placed. I am absolutely and wonderfully convinced that we must carefully consider the lives of these two men, for these two men bring us face to face with a faithfulness in service—even faithfulness in service in a strange and foreign land which was not their own. Neither Daniel nor Joseph found themselves in this position and place within the land and place of promise and inheritance, but found themselves in this position in the place of captivity and slavery. There is not a doubt in my mind that these two men bring us face to face with the wonderful and powerful picture of service before and service unto those to whom we have been subjected to. Neither Daniel nor Joseph sought to deliver themselves out from underneath their respected masters, but rather they both sought to faithfully serve in their respected places—this despite the fact that they not only found themselves in a position of captivity and/or slavery, but both would eventually and ultimately find their faith and their service brought into the fire, as the one would be cast into prison, and the other would be cast into the lion’s den. With all of this being said, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we journey to the New Testament—and specifically to the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto certain of the churches—for within certain of these epistles we find the apostle Paul providing clear instruction for servants and their service in the houses of their masters. Consider if you will the words which are found in the writings of the apostle Paul concerning the relationship which should exist between servants and their masters:
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Ephesians 6:5-9).
“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:22-25).
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever Therefore resisters the power, resisters the ordinance of God; and they that resist the power, resisters the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he heareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Ow no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that liveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:1-10).
The words which we find the epistles written unto the churches in Ephesus, Colossae, and Rome bring us face to face with the awesome and tremendous need for us to faithfully serve those to whom we have been appointed to subject ourselves to. I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament accounts of Daniel and Joseph, as well as the words which are found within the epistles of the apostle Paul, for within these different passages of scripture we are confronted with the tremendous reality of the unique relationship which should exist between servants and their masters. When thinking about and considering the account of this centurion and the servant who was sick, there is not a doubt in my mind that there was something drastically and noticeably different between this servant and perhaps the other servants who were placed into the care and under the charge of this centurion. Perhaps this servant was the only servant of the centurion, yet despite the fact of his being the only servant of the centurion, he do distinguished himself and set himself apart as a servant who faithfully served his master. There is not a doubt in my mind that that which drew the attention and affection of the centurion to this servant was not only his character, but also his work ethic, for undoubtedly this servant not only performed his duties, but performed them well. While it is not specifically described and declared within this passage of Scripture, we understand from the scripture that this servant was dear to the heart of this centurion, thus when the servant became sick and sick unto the point of death, it was incredibly difficult for the centurion knowing that his servant could potentially pass from this life unto the next. What is actually quite astonishing and remarkable about the relationship which existed between the servant and the centurion is that not only is it possible that the character and work ethic of this servant caused him to become beloved of the centurion, but it was also this same character and work ethic that caused this servant to be brought before Jesus the Christ to speak. I would dare suggest that it was the character and work ethic of this servant which caused him to become dear and beloved to the centurion, and it was the affection and affinity which this centurion had for and toward this servant which caused him to send elders of the Jews unto Jesus when He heard of Him. What we find within this passage of Scripture is not only an implied character and work ethic which caused this servant to be beloved and dear unto the centurion, but we also find the faithfulness of the servant and the affection of the centurion bringing the need of the servant before Jesus.
As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that the servant of this centurion was dear unto the centurion, and this particular servant was sick, and ready to die. Initially the centurion sent the elders of the Jews unto Jesus after hearing about Him—perhaps as the fame of Jesus spread like wild fire throughout the region. The centurion sent the elders of Israel unto Jesus beseeching Jesus that He would come and heal his servant, for undoubtedly this centurion was not willing to lose his servant. There is not a doubt in my mind that this centurion so valued this servant—perhaps not only his service as a servant, but also his relationship as a person—and as a direct result of this affinity and affection, he was not willing that his servant should perish and pass from this life to the next. It’s worth noting that the elders of the Jews did in fact come into the presence of Jesus and besought Him concerning this centurion, for they declared concerning him that he was worthy that He should do this, for he loved the nation of Israel, and even built for them a synagogue. Please don’t and lose sight of this particular reality, for it was perhaps the character and work ethic of this servant that caused the servant to send and inquire of Jesus on his behalf, and it was the relationship the centurion had with the Jewish people that caused the elders of the Jews to declare unto Jesus that this man was worthy that this should be done on his behalf. It’s worth noting that within this passage—not only do we have the faithfulness of the servant, but we also have the love of the centurion put on display before Jesus, as the elders of the Jews would declare before and unto Jesus the worth of this centurion because of the love he had for the nation, and even his willingness to build for them a synagogue. I have to admit that I am absolutely and incredibly challenged by what I find and read within this passage, for not only is the worth of the centurion in the eyes of the Jews put on display, but so also is the worth of the servant put on display. WHEN THE WORTH OF THE SERVANT AND THE WORTH OF THE MASTER ARE PUT ON DISPLAY IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! How absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to read this passage of Scripture and to come face to face with the worth of the servant and the worth of the centurion put on display by the beloved physician Luke, for it was the servant’s worth that caused the centurion to bring his need before Jesus, and it was the worth of the centurion which caused the Jews to bring his petition before and into the presence of Jesus. What an absolutely wonderful and powerful picture this truly is of worth—regardless of whether it’s the worth of a servant, or even the worth of a master. Within this passage we come face to face with the fact that each and every soul has worth and value in the sight of God, and should be valued by us who claim to love God. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves when reading this passage of Scripture is whether or not we are living and walking in the reality that every soul has worth and every soul has value in our hearts and before our eyes. Do we live and are living in the wonderful and awesome reality that each and every soul has worth and value in the sight of God—regardless of whether bond or free, regardless of whether Jew or Greek, regardless of whether servant or master, and the like?
What I absolutely love about this particular account is that Jesus was willing to go with the Jews unto the place of this centurion where his servant lie sick and on the verge of death, and even when the centurion sent friends to declare unto Jesus that he was not worthy to have Him come under his roof, Jesus was still willing to heal the servant of this centurion. The centurion would send friends unto Jesus upon hearing of His drawing nearer to his home, and declared unto Jesus that he was not worthy to have Him come under his roof, but Jesus needed only speak the word, and his servant would be healed. This centurion knew and understood authority, and specifically the authority within a spoken word and command, and knew that if Jesus merely spoke the word concerning his servant, his servant would be healed. It’s worth noting that upon hearing the words of this centurion Jesus marveled within Himself and declared unto the disciples who walked with and followed Him that He had not found so great a faith in all Israel, for this man understood authority, and understood the authority which existed and was present within the spoken word of Jesus Christ. Note that it was the worth of the centurion that caused Jesus to journey unto his home with His disciples and the Jews, and it was the faith of the centurion which caused his servant to be healed from that instant forward. WHEN WORTH AND FAITH COLLIDE IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! There is not a doubt in my mind that here in the account of this centurion and his servant a wonderful and powerful display of worth and faith colliding with each other in the presence of Jesus, and bringing about healing within the life of another. Notice that the servant of this centurion was not brought into the presence of Jesus, but yet he still experienced healing within his life—simply because the worth of a soul and the faith of one collided in the presence of Jesus, and produced a supernatural outflow and working within his life. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it was like for this servant to know and understand within himself that he had been healed, and even what it was like for the centurion to witness the healing of his servant—this given the fact that Jesus never stepped foot under his roof, nor even laid His hands upon the servant. What a wonderful and powerful picture we have within this passage of Scripture concerning worth and faith being put on display in the presence of Jesus, and how when faith and worth work together in the presence of Jesus, the supernatural and miraculous can take place within the hearts and lives of those who find themselves in a place of great need.