Jesus and the Outsider

The story in Luke 7:1-10 is one of many in which Jesus encounters the “Other”: someone outside of his religious sect, outside of his cultural milieu, different in nearly every way. In the seventh chaper, Luke weaves a tale of a Roman soldier who asks Jesus to heal his slave. Immediately, Jesus declares the slave healed, amazed by the soldier’s faith.

Pretty normal day for Jesus, really. What is remarkable about this story is what ties it to the previous and following chapters: in chapter six Jesus blatantly disobeys the prevailing religious laws, and then warns his disciples not to judge. Later in chapter seven, Jesus praises the faith of a prostitute over that of the same leaders he religiously defied before. Jesus repeatedly, unwaveringly, and unhesitatingly stepped past the religious lines of his day to kneel in the dust with the outsider. No strings attached, no demand for allegiance or request for personal relatiionship involved. In all likelihood, the man did not even have a chance to tell his servant’s healer thank-you. Jesus gave what he could and left.

Luke 7.1-10:

“After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ÔHe is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.Õ Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ÔLord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ÒGo,Ó and he goes, and to another, ÒCome,Ó and he comes, and to my slave, ÒDo this,Ó and the slave does it.Õ When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ÔI tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.Õ When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.” (NRSV)

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