Compassion in a World of Sickness

Foundations to Build Upon  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:51
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The authority of Jesus over sickness nad eath demands a response of faith.

I tend to be rather skeptical in my perspective. I’m optimistic about circumstances, but tend to be suspicious of individuals. Some people are naturally trusting, and others are slow to come around, sometimes to a fault.
Ever since the end of chapter 4, Luke has been documenting Jesus’ authority in his teaching and his miracles. The next two chapters will reveal our need to respond to that authority in faith. Today’s text overlaps those two themes with Jesus demonstrating authority in 2 situations, and one of those is indicated by extraordinary faith, the other by compelling compassion.
After today’s message we are going to take a break from our journey through Luke’s gospel. Next week will be a Thankfulness message, then after Thanksgiving we will celebrate Advent before returning to Luke in the New Year.
Transition: The overlap between Jesus’ authority and the response of faith is illustrated by 2 events that on the surface seem to be similar, but the details are very different.

A Centurion’s Faith and His Servant’s Healing (vv.1-10)

Besides Jesus, the protagonist of this event is a man who never appears. Everything we know about him is through his representatives and the response of Jesus.

A Centurion Acts in Faith (vv.2-3)

1. The reputation of Jesus is spreading, but this Gentile leader does not wait for Jesus to come to him. He sends emissaries to Jesus with a message.
2. Centurions are featured often in Luke-Acts (nineteen of the twenty-three New Testament occurrences), with the centurion’s confession at Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 23:47) and the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 especially prominent.[i]
3. We should not read too much into the fact that he sends emissaries. The sending of representatives was very common in the first century. Vv.18-23 John will send messengers to inquire on his behalf.

The Centurion is Well regarded (vv.4-5)

1. If tax-gatherers were despised because they took too much out of the flow to Caesar, This Centurion (who would have provided security for the tax-gatherers) gave back from the flow toward Caesar.
2. This is a rare example of a person who used his power for the good of those he ruled.

The Centurion Recognized Chain of Authority (vv.6-8)

1. Humility – don’t even come into my house.
2. Confidence – Just say the word.
3. Authority – absolute certainty. Faithfulness up and down the chain of command.
a. Centurion had authority over soldiers and servants, but in this circumstance the Centurion’s commands had no authority. He had no authority to make the man well!
b. Jesus had authority over sickness (spirits)

The Centurion is Commended and Receives His Desire (vv.9-10)

1. Jesus, the one who has been amazing others, is now the one who marvels.
2. We do not know if the Centurion’s faith included Jesus’ uniqueness as the Savior, but He is surely trusted as a healer.
3. The messengers return and find the servant healed.

Contrasting the 2 Events

1. The healing of the servant and the raising of the son are both rooted in Jesus’ authority, but there are significant contrasts as well:
Centurion Initiated
Faith declared in healing
Jesus healed by word
Centurion sent ambassadors
Jesus Initiated
Faith expressed in Visitation
Jesus healed by touch
Widow present personally
Transition: From the miraculous healing in the first 10 verses, let’s turn the page to a merciful raising.

A Widow’s Grief and Her Son’s Resuscitation (vv.11-17)

Jesus’ Compassion Triggers this Event (v.13)

1. The details of the event lend credibility to its historicity. While Luke does not name the woman or her son, by giving a specific location and identifying a great crowd of witnesses, Luke dares readers to verify it.
2. Nain is an ancient settlement that to this day is an Arab village on the eastern edge of the Jezreel valley. Nain is about 6 miles south of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth and about 10 miles west of Bethany, where John the Baptist preached. [there are at least 2 Bethanies – this one “beyond the Jordan”, and the one near Jerusalem where Mary & Martha lived and Lazarus was raised.
3. Jesus’ actions in Nain link to the great prophets Elijah and Elisha. Elijah raised a widow’s son in Zarephath in 1 Kings 17 and Elisha raised the son of an elderly couple in Shunam in 2 Kings 4.
4. We don’t know the man’s cause of death. Had he been sick for some time? Or was this an unexpected tragedy? Since the Jews did not embalm people, funerals nearly always took place on the day a person died. This young man was the only son of a widow, a real tragedy, as she would now be all alone with no one to take care of her[ii] in a world without Social Security or Medicare. Nevertheless, the woman’s grief is raw and real. And Jesus’ senses her pain.
5. The word compassion is an interesting word. In our language we express emotion from the heart. Have you ever heard someone use the expression, “I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach”? That is getting close to the word Luke uses here.
Some of you are going through deep waters and trying times. The most important thing you could hear from me this morning is that God is compassionate toward you. He realizes your pain and fears. He identifies with your struggles. Although He may seem distant, it is not coincidence that Jesus passed by this funeral procession, and He is not far from you either.
6. Luke does something remarkable in v.13. Up to this point in the Gospel the title “Lord” has only been used in quoted speech, here Luke refers to Jesus in this way. The authority that has been described now demands a response.
7. Jesus touches the burial plank, speaks, the young man sits up and is given back to his mother. (vv.14-15)

The Crowd’s Response (16c.)

1. God is visiting His people through this One.
2. The Centurion had faith that Jesus could heal. These have faith that God is at work.
3. They realize the Elijah/Elisha connection, but they still don’t see Jesus as YHWH incarnate. They call Him a prophet, not the prophet. They are moving in the right direction, but not quite there.
4. The reputation that is now spreading is more than “Come, hear a great teacher”, it is now spreading that “God has visited his people!” The very thing that was anticipated back in Luke 1 by Zacharias and Elisabeth.
Transition: These events have a purpose that is much greater than entertainment!



1. These narratives are meant to increase our faith.
a. Even death is no match for God!
b. Distance is not a barrier to God.
c. Some of us are praying for a god-sized miracle, something so big that only God can accomplish it. Some of us are praying for something many miles from here, somewhere that only God can intervene.
2. These narratives are intended to increase our compassion.
a. The significance of Jesus’ touch (v.14) is that he identified with the pain and suffering this grief represented.
b. A horrendous influence of COVID has been our limitation of physical touch. A warm embrace or a firm handshake just cannot be replaced by a fist bump or a wave.
c. Your “touch” of another person may not be physical, but words or deeds can identify with the suffering of another.
3. Verse 9 concludes the first event with a great faith. Verse 16 concludes the 2nd event with a great prophet.
a. Jesus wasn’t just a good teacher. He was uniquely sent from Heaven with a purpose.
b. Jesus among us was God Himself visiting his people.
c. We would do well to remember Jesus is not just one among many gods, He is the sent one. The manifestation of Creator and Sustainer. The one in whom we must depend for our salvation, and we can depend for our sustenance.
Faith that God can work in your circumstance, Compassion for those around us who hurt, and Wonder in the unique reality that Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to earth to die for sinners are the things to remember when somebody asks you what the preacher said in church.
[i] Grant R. Osborne, Luke: Verse by Verse, ed. Jeffrey Reimer, Elliot Ritzema, and Danielle Thevenaz, Awa Sarah, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 188.
[ii] Ibid., 192.
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