God Helps Those Who Can’t Help Themselves

When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave.
–Luke 7:3

This week we are going to look at two very different people who desperately needed Jesus. One was a powerful Roman centurion. The other was a forgotten widow. Yet both needed Jesus. One exercised great faith and was blessed for it. One exercised no faith and God blessed her anyway. Yes, God helps those who exercise faith, but He also helps those who can’t help themselves.

In our study of the life of Christ as told by Luke, we have come to Luke 7. In chapter 6 we saw Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount. And when He was finished with the message, He returned to the town of Capernaum, which was the headquarters of His ministry for a while. And it is when Jesus returned to Capernaum that we see His encounters with two very different people.

First, Jesus encountered a believing centurion. “And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die” (v. 2). A centurion was the captain of a Roman group of soldiers called a “century.” A Roman century was a group of 100 soldiers, so a centurion was the leader of these 100 soldiers. This was a very powerful man, the Roman centurion who had a slave who had a need.

Luke was a Gentile. Because he was writing to a Gentile audience, he often included stories about Gentiles who had come to Jesus. Luke painted Roman centurions in a favorable light because they were Gentiles. For example, Luke will later in his gospel talk about a Roman centurion at the site of the crucifixion who said about Jesus, “Certainly this man was innocent” (23:47). We also find in Acts 10 Luke recounting the story of a Gentile named Cornelius, a Roman centurion who came to faith in Christ through the witness of Peter.

So in Luke 7 we see a centurion who is presented in a positive manner even though he was a Roman soldier. This centurion had a slave who was sick. Perhaps this slave was a father-like figure to the Roman centurion, or perhaps he was like an adopted child of the centurion. Whatever the slave’s relationship to the centurion, the centurion cared about his need. “When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave” (v. 3). How did this Roman soldier know about Jesus? The centurion lived in Capernaum, and Jesus was headquartered in Capernaum. It wasn’t that big a town. He may have heard Jesus teach in the synagogue there. Or perhaps he had heard about Jesus’s reputation. He knew that Jesus could meet his slave’s need, so because he felt unworthy to approach Jesus himself, he sent some of the Jewish leaders in the town to approach Jesus and ask for help.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “God Helps Those Who Can’t Help Themselves” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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