The Gospel of Luke

'His heart went out to her'

This devotional is written by Maggie Sandilands. Maggie is really not a morning person.

Luke 7:1-17

The Faith of a Roman Officer

7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. 2 At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. "If anyone deserves your help, he does," they said, 5 "for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us."
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, "Lord, don't trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, 'Go,' and they go, or 'Come,' and they come. And if I say to my slaves, 'Do this,' they do it."

9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all Israel!" 10 And when the officer's friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow's only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. "Don’t cry!" he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. "Young man," he said, "I tell you, get up." 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, "A mighty prophet has risen among us," and "God has visited his people today." 17 And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.

Reflection

Jesus' responses to the different characters in this passage demonstrate the nature and consistency of God's compassionate response to us, and his power to heal and transform lives.
The centurion is a representative of the Roman army that subjugated the known world with brutal efficiency. The Jews hoped their Messiah would liberate them from the hated Roman rule, but instead Roman soldiers would soon execute Jesus. Yet Jesus is only interested in the individual - in his faith, not his social status or political affiliations. The centurion is compassionate, humbly asking for help for his sick servant - the actual word means 'slave', someone who had no rights or value in that culture. Jesus is willing to respond, to break social customs that separated Jews and Gentiles, and go to his house. The centurion recognizes who Jesus is - this is the faith that amazes Jesus. This Gentile has realized more fully than any Jewish faith leaders, the power and authority of God that Jesus holds. The centurion believes Jesus will respond, and that sickness will be healed at his command. He literally believes in the Word; that what Jesus says is true, and changes reality. Can you also trust him like this?

The widow's only son is dead, beyond hope. For a woman in that time and place, this meant not just the grief of bereavement, but condemned her to destitution, dependent on the charity of others for survival. She is left helpless, hopeless, and has no voice - but Jesus still sees her. He reaches out in compassion: 'his heart went out to her'. That is the heart of God, who is with us, and who brings not just comfort, but resurrection. Can you trust his same love for you, even in the midst of pain which may seem hopeless today?

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