“…And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant… Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed…” (Luke 7:1-10)
The centurion had lived a relatively good life. His accumulated wealth and notoriety had given him much influence in political affairs. But he was not puffed-up with pride – he knew that the blessings of the Lord had made him rich (Proverbs 10:22), and he was thankful for it. In fact, he’d shown his gratitude by using this power and wealth to build a synagogue for the Jewish people, something his fellow Romans would have disdained.
Yes, the centurion was a good man, and kind. So it happened that he was moved with compassion when his faithful servant became sick. His heart was grieved at the impending death of his dear servant, who was more like a son and friend to him. Hearing about Jesus, the centurion knew He could heal his friend. But would this great Man, Jesus, care for such a worthless creature as this Gentile slave?
We often surrender the blessings of the Lord because we doubt our worth to Him. While it is true that we do not deserve His goodness, the Lord has been gracious to us. We need to understand that this graciousness is not based on our own worth or works, but on His love.
Worth: In verses 4-5, the Jewish elders come to Jesus to ask favor for the centurion. Apparently, the centurion did not view himself as being worthy enough to approach Jesus on his own (verse 7). The Jews obviously thought the man was worthy of this favor based on his performing a great work for them. His favor deserved a favor in their eyes, and maybe they thought they stood to benefit in the future for their present intercession.
Verses 6-7 show us a slightly different perspective on the centurion’s worth. Despite the fact that he’d built the Jews a synagogue, despite the fact that Jesus was now coming to his house, the centurion protested any worthiness of his own; saying, “for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee.” His argument shows his unworthiness to both go to Jesus and to permit Jesus to come to him.
Works: In verse 5, we see how the Jews viewed the centurion’s works. He’d built them a synagogue and they perceived a great love in his heart for the Jewish people. Why else would he have expended his own money, using his power and influence to accommodate their religion? To the Jewish elders, it was a beneficial thing for them to help the centurion. After all, maybe they’d get another synagogue out of the deal.
But verse 2 seems to indicate a different mindset for the centurion. We see that he had a tenderness in his heart for this servant of his. He was far from being a cruel man, but was actually compassionate to his servant. We also note his humility in claiming no worth of his own, despite the fact that the Jews respected his person for building a synagogue. It may be that this man’s very works were done, not because of the love for the Nation of the Jews, but because of love for the God of the Jews.
Love: I believe the centurion has made the same mistake that many saved people make. We tend to do many good works because we doubt our own worth. It is true that the natural man is worthless, wretched, and filthy in the sight of God (Romans 7:18, 24: Isaiah 64:6). But the grace of God has reached out to us in our utter worthlessness (Romans 5:8). This is the message of John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
God has already shown the fullness of His love to us. When we were without strength, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). This is the ultimate act of love shown to the absolutely unlovable. No, we are not worthy. But no good works will obtain the love of God. Praise the Lord, we don’t have to be worthy to be made worthy of His love. Nothing we do will make Him love us more; nothing we do will make Him love us less. “Who is worthy of His love?” No one.
Children of God, our personal lack of worth does not prevent the love of God. Our personal good works do not predicate the love of God. His love is freely given to us despite our worthlessness. His love is freely given to us because of our worthlessness. We need His love, and so He gives us His love. Do you have a need, but think that maybe you’re not good enough to ask God to meet it? You’re not. But He loves you anyway and cares for your needs.
Ask God. Trust God. Wait on God. He will come and meet you at the very point of you need, because He loves you.