Our gospel lesson from Matthew today describes one of Jesus’ amazing acts of healing. A Roman Centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant who is paralyzed and terrible distress. Just as with the leper in yesterday’s gospel lesson Jesus immediate response is ‘yes,’ without any qualification. He practically says “lead the way.” But the Centurion stops him, citing his unworthiness for Jesus to come to his home. Perhaps he was afraid that his friends and colleagues would be hostile toward this itinerant rabbi. Or maybe there were other circumstances that he was embarrassed to expose Jesus too. We don’t know, because Matthew doesn’t go into detail.
But what Matthew does tell us is that this Centurion is a man of great power. The Centurion explains to Jesus that he has the power to make those who serve under him do as he commands without question. This is a man of great military prowess who has most likely been to battle many times and rarely been defeated if at all. He most likely has demonstrated great skill in both military strategy and administration and achieved a status of greatness among his Roman colleagues. Perhaps he is a man of great wealth as a result of this. But what is striking is that in spite of all this he is in touch with his humanity. He knows he has limits and that at least in this one instance, he is powerless. This is something that has brought him to his knees. And so he hands the situation over to someone whom he knows to be more powerful than himself. He offers his helplessness to Jesus and says, “….but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Faith and hope begin when everything else fails. If you’ve ever studied the 12 Suggested Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous you’ll note that the first 3 steps speak to this. Step one says: We admitted we were powerless, that our lives had become unmanageable. Step two continues: We came to believe that a power greater than our selves could restore us to sanity. And step three: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (1) Only after completing these first three steps can you go on to the process of healing, trusting that God can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And this is the good news of our gospel reading this morning.
There is great freedom in limitation, in knowing that you can’t do it all. How wonderful it is when the burden of carrying so much on our shoulders is lifted. A little later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus proclaims: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” How is this true for you? What are you carrying with you that is weighing you down? What is it in your life that is just too much for you to handle? This is where Jesus is ready to meet you. As you come forward to the altar in a few moments and extend your hands and give it to Jesus. Let him take the weight off of your shoulders and then give to you the nourishment to begin healing. Amen.
- Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous. 4th ed. N.p.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 2009. How It Works. The Big Book Online. Alcoholics Anonymous. Web. 27 June 2015.
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