Sunday, March 07, 2010

Jesus, Capernaum, and the Outsider

Three months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Capernaum on the north shore of the sea of Galilee. In fact, here's a picture of my friends, Wally and Jerry, as they walk out the remains of this ancient Jewish city, having taken its guidelines with extreme seriousness. 

This memory of Capernaum provides context for a story from Jesus's life in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 7, 1-3):
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.
To ruin the drama of this encounter, I'll note that Jesus does in fact heal the slave. In the process, Jesus demonstrates that he's more than fine about moving beyond the confines of the Jewish people to do his work of healing. (This is a theme the Gospel of Luke loves.) But before that healing, another thing happens that's contained in these verses: somehow this Roman military officer--outside of the Jewish faith--heard about Jesus, which I suppose occurred through local people sharing stories about Jesus's messages and his healing. And that fact leads me to another question: How does this happen today?

My response is entirely too straightforward--people hear about Jesus through the witness of his followers. Sometimes it's through relating their faith. Sometimes it's through acts of kindness. If knowing Jesus is good, it's got to be shared. And I suppose the bottom line, as it follows the story here, is the goodness and beauty of Jesus isn't the sole property of the Christian community. Like a good infection, it just keeps moving beyond the boundaries we set up.


John said...

i would say that, much like the guard, most people hear about jesus through the body, an the noise of the followers.

i doubt this text means that the roman soldier heard about jesus because he saw an answered prayer in a friends life. it is more likely he heard of the movement, the reports of what was happening with jesus.

is this text a call to individual sharing? or does it hold the body accountable as a whole?

if the church really acted like jesus (and i include myself in this lot), believe me, people would be hearing about jesus.

is the formula (a) reach out and tell a friend about jesus (b) do what jesus did, build a reputation as a body, and people will notice. to speak or to act?

i believe it's the latter, and i believe i suck at it. i'll be bold enough to say corporately, the u.s. church sucks at it.

which begs the question that if the way to create word-of-mouth about jesus is to do what jesus did, and doing what jesus did is hard, why did god set it up that way?

GCootsona said...

Somehow God left himself vulnerable (as it were) to our doing a sufficient, or an inadequate job, of representing Jesus. Or put positively, we have the gift of continuing the reality of the centurion--that others would "hear about Jesus." The resource to accomplish this task is the Holy Spirit. If we're willing to accept that haven't done a good job, where does that final fact (God's provision of the Spirit) leave us?


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