by Rev. Matthew Lorfeld
The vocation of a Soldier, Marine, Seaman, Airman or Coastie carries a unique set of joys, struggles and burdens. This is especially true for troops with families. Deployments take spouses and parents from a service member’s family. Combat brings the duty and honor of serving one’s nation and brothers-in-arms, but it also often brings pangs of conscience over decisions that involve taking another’s life. There are also the casualties of war and troops who return with traumatic injuries seen and unseen.
In Luke 7:110 (and Matt. 8:5 13), Jesus encounters a centurion whose servant had become ill and near death. This encounter comes right after Jesus finishes preaching the Sermon on the Mount. Read Luke 6:2049. Summarize Jesus’ teaching. What is Gospel, and what is Law?
Read Luke 7:15. When a centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some of the Jewish elders from Capernaum on his behalf. It is clear by his action and the words of the elders (“He loves our nation”) that this centurion is not a Jew. Why would he send the Jewish elders on his behalf?
The Jewish elders say something quite surprising: The centurion is worthy! Ironically, it is because he was a Gentile that the centurion would not go to Jesus himself. What is the basis by which the Jewish elders declare this centurion to be worthy (v. 5)?
Read Luke 7:610. Jesus begins to travel with them. As Jesus approaches, the centurion sends another delegation of his friends. What does the centurion have to say about his own worthiness?
On our own, we are not worthy. In fact, we confess in the Divine Service that we are not wor-thy of God’s forgiveness. Look at Confession and Absolution in your hymnal. How do we confess that we are not worthy? (See LSB, p. 151 and 184.)
We also learn in the Small Catechism about our unworthiness. Look at the explanations of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer (LSB, pp. 32325). Where does it speak about our unworthiness? Does God respond to our own worthiness?
Note that it is not until the very end of Luke’s account of this miracle that Jesus finally speaks. When He does, Jesus points to the centurion’s faith. Read Rom. 10:1317 and Eph. 2:89. Faith is a gift given through the proclamation of the Gospel. Faith clings to and receives what Jesus has to give. Whether you are serving your nation in the armed forces, are a spouse of a serviceman or are a civilian in any of the numerous vocations our Lord gives, we unworthy servants all have the same need: Jesus, His forgiveness, and His righteousness. What the centurion’s encounter with Jesus shows us is that Jesus is for you. In Him alone there is healing, absolution and eternal life.
> Pastors, go to www.lcms.org/?pid=733 to download a farewell and godspeed order of service for departing military members.
About the author: The Rev. Matthew Lorfeld is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, La Crescent, Minn.