The Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2019
What’s Your Reputation?
When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“That doesn’t surprise me.” How often do you hear that statement in reference to someone else? How often have you spoken those words in reference to someone else? Now by itself the statement, “That doesn’t surprise me,” is a completely neutral statement. That statement, however, becomes either positive or negative depending on whom it is spoken about. If you hear on the news that a certain celebrity or a certain athlete is in trouble with the law— again! — you might say, “That doesn’t surprise me.” If you see on the news that Bill Gates is introducing a revolutionary type of computer program you might say, “That doesn’t surprise me.”
The sermon text that we have before us today, my friends, gives to us a very good opportunity to look at a subject that we don’t discuss very often. The subject is— our reputation. This portion of God’s holy Word focuses our attention on a man whose name we do not even know! What we do know about him is his reputation! Today then let’s look at the example that a Roman centurion sets for us and then use that example to ask ourselves the question— What’s Your Reputation? There are two things we want to consider this morning when it comes to a person’s reputation. First let’s consider the fact that a person’s reputation in the eyes of others is oftentimes determined by the actions of their life. Then let’s see that a person’s reputation in the eyes of others is oftentimes confirmed by the attitude of their heart— the attitude that is revealed by the words that they speak.
I direct your attention to the opening portion of our text. Here we are able to see how the centurion’s reputation was indeed evidenced by the actions of his life. Look at verses two and three. Luke writes, “There (in Capernaum) a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” While there were undoubtedly countless servants in the Roman Empire whose masters would have simply tossed them out into the streets if they became sick and were about to die, this Roman centurion actually cared about his servant! In fact, we’re told that he valued this servant so highly that when the servant became deathly ill his master did something to help his servant. He turned to the only Person who had the power to heal— Jesus of Nazareth!
Was this simply a “flash-in-the-pan” type of concern? Was this Roman centurion kind of like a “Sunday morning Christian”? Was he like someone who turns to God when they are in trouble, but has no time and no need for God when things are going well? Not at all! Look at verses four and five of our text. Luke continues, “When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’” We simply cannot overlook how extraordinary these words are! This Roman centurion was an officer in the army which had conquered and was now occupying the land which the Lord had promised to the descendants of Abraham. And yet, even though this man was an officer in the army that was occupying their land, the elders of the Jews are not only willing to go to Jesus on behalf of this man, but they “pleaded earnestly” with Jesus to grant the centurion’s request! Why? This Roman centurion had gained a reputation among God’s people— a reputation that was evidenced by the actions of his life! As a convert to Judaism this Roman centurion not only loved God’s people, but he even built a synagogue so that God’s people could have a place to gather together and worship the one and only true God!
What a wonderful example this man has set for us, my friends. How well are we doing at following that example? Do we have a reputation for honestly and genuinely caring about other people— or, do we have a reputation for caring mostly about ourselves? Do we have a reputation for loving the family of believers, our brothers and sisters in the faith— or, do we have a reputation for being “cold” and “critical” and “cliquish”? Do we have a reputation for loving the Lord so very much that we gladly and generously support His congregation so that we can gather together to worship our Savior God as well as reach out to others who do not yet know Him— or, do we have a reputation for giving only enough offerings to pacify our conscience or to support a “bare-bones” budget? Are the people who see us on a regular basis— the people who know us so very well— are they able to see that our Christian faith is an important part of our daily life no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, no matter who we are with— or, do we have the reputation for being a “Sunday morning Christian”? What do the actions of our life say about us? What kind of reputation do we have in the eyes of others?
Just as we gain a reputation with others by the actions of our life, so also our reputation is confirmed by the attitude of our heart— an attitude that other people are able to see and hear by listening to how we speak. Look at verses six to eight of our text. Luke writes, “So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’”
If you were asked to describe this man’s attitude using just one word— what word would you choose? I would choose the word “humble.” As a military officer this man understood authority very very well. As a true believer in the Lord this man realized that Jesus possesses an authority that far surpasses any and every other authority. We can see and hear the humble attitude of this man’s heart when he says to Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof…But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
What a wonderful example this man has set for us, my friends. How well are we doing at following that example? People do indeed listen to us, my friends. They not only listen to what we say, but they listen to how we talk. What do they learn about us as they listen to us? When people listen to us are they able to hear the kind of humility that we see in this Roman centurion? Or, when people listen to us do we gain a reputation for being arrogant or prejudice or self-centered or uncaring— or worse!
What is your reputation, my friends? What do other people think of when they think of you? What words would they use to describe you to someone else? What kind of example are you setting for your children, your grandchildren, your siblings, your fellow Christians? I am going to suggest to you this morning that you not only take some time to consciously ponder questions such as those, but that you also take some time to ponder what our Lord says concerning this Roman centurion in verse nine of our text. Jesus says, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
What was the basis of this man’s reputation? What motivated the actions of this man’s life? What inspired the humble attitude of this man’s heart? It was his faith, wasn’t it! It was the very same faith that by the grace of God now lives in your hearts as well!
As we grow and mature in our faith through regular study of God’s holy Word and regular reception of God’s holy Sacrament, then like this Roman centurion our faith will have a more and more powerful impact on the actions of our life. As our love for the Lord and our thankfulness for what He has done for us (pointing to the cross) grows stronger and deeper, then like this Roman centurion that love and that thankfulness will have a more and more powerful impact on the attitude of our heart— the attitude that is revealed in the way that we speak. By God’s grace and with God’s help we can indeed follow the example that the Roman centurion gives to us here in our text for today. By God’s grace and with God’s help our Christian faith can be the focal point of our reputation.
Personally, I don’t think it is purely by coincidence that we do not know this Roman centurion’s name, my friends. Far more important than his name is his reputation. Through the actions of his life and through the words which revealed the attitude of his heart this man has a reputation that has lasted for almost 2,000 years— a reputation for loving the Lord his God, a reputation for loving the family of believers, a reputation for caring about other people, a reputation for supporting God’s church, a reputation for having a “great faith”— a faith that was open and evident in his life!
What do you want people to say about you when your name comes up in a conversation? When your parents or your children or your friends or your co-workers think about you what words do you want to go through their mind? When you are gone from this earth what do you want people to remember about you? My prayer this morning is very simple. I pray that the good Lord will help each of us to have the same kind of reputation that this Roman centurion has— a reputation that can be seen in the way we live our life, a reputation that can be heard in the way that we talk, a reputation that enables the good Lord to say about us, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” What’s your reputation?
To God be the glory!