When I’m the lay reader, I try to prep the piece and while I rarely have time to learn it by heart, I try to make it more than just blah blah blah. I try to think about the piece and where to put pauses in and what it might mean and what questions I would ask. Tomorrow I am lay reader for Luke 7:1-10 and although I’d heard and read this story before, prepping it brought it to life.
As storytelling nearly always does.
In verse 9 Jesus is amazed by the words the centurion’s messenger relayed. Think about that Jesus, very God in some fashion, is amazed by a human action. He didn’t know this would happen. He didn’t expect this to happen. He wasn’t going to heal the centurion’s slave because he knew how faithful and good this centurion was — he was going because the elders asked him to. Jesus is amazed.
Further, generally as far as I know, it is the crowd that is amazed — the townspeople who heard the shepherds tell Mary about the angels on the night the Babe was was born were amazed. They likely didn’t believe a word the shepherds said, likely figured they were crazy. But they were amazed to hear the shepherd’s story about angels, no less. When Jesus healed the paralytic, to prove he had the power on earth to forgive sins, “the crowd was amazed and glorified God, saying, “we have never seen anything like this before.” It was a magic trick, it was a show, it was a super hero action movie — did their amazement turn into faith? We don’t know. The crowd that follows Jesus might desperately want to believe, to be healed, to be forgiven, perhaps to want a Messiah to come and bring Israel and the Temple back to glory. I don’t know what the scholars say, but I envision the crowd as a movable feast — Jack who hurt his back so didn’t go to the fields today, Milly who had a time before baking another batch of bread, Alex who was passing through town. Just folks. And just folks thrilled to be amazed to pass the time.
This time it is Jesus who is amazed. And what he is amazed by isn’t a feat of derring-do or healing or an angel or anything like that. He’s amazed by a person’s faith. A person who isn’t one of the peoples of Israel but, in fact, technically an enemy, a Roman, a centurion, a warrior. Jesus makes sure the crowd, all the folks about, understand what he is amazed by — not the man’s power, or his wealth, or his generosity for building a synagogue or any worldly thing one might expect. Jesus is amazed at the power of a faith that doesn’t even need the physical presence of Jesus laying on of hands to heal.
I’m just nearly speechless with amazement. This story went from boring and dull and what-is-going-on to one making me feel richly blessed. Like the centurion, can I believe in a healing from a far? Like the crowd, can I understand the amazement of faith? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, I just feel humble. And amazed.
And I’m so eager to hear the sermon tomorrow because nearly always what grabs my attention in a story is not anything like the sermon. ha!