Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Father's Slave

I don't believe it. I just don't believe it. Even though I was there; even though I saw it with my own two eyes; I just don't believe it. It started when Marcellus, our slave whom my father really likes became sick. He just lay there, his only movement the rise and fall of his breathing. In fact, if it hadn't been for that, we probably would have thought he was dead. He didn't respond when we tried to rouse him. Even his eyes didn't seem to move, except for a seldom, erratic blink. We called in the doctors, but they couldn't do a thing; they said we might as well prepare for his death. But my father wouldn't give up.

We are a God fearing family. By that I mean that we are not Jewish, but we believe in the Jewish God and do our best to keep the Jewish laws. Even though we are not Jewish, my father, who is a Centurion in Herod's Roman army, spends hours with the elders of the synagogue, discussing the law, God, and other things. He even paid to build a new synagogue! So when the physicians could do nothing for poor Marcellus, he called on the elders and asked them to lift Marcellus in prayer. That's when one of the elders mentioned that Jesus, the wandering rabbi from Nazareth, was in town. He had been out on the plain nearby and had been preaching to large crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. These people had come to listen to Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. All who were troubled by evil spirits were also healed. (Luk 6:18) I had gone out with some of my friends to hear him. He told us: “God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you! God will bless you hungry people. You will have plenty to eat! God will bless you people who are crying. You will laugh! God will bless you when others hate you and won't have anything to do with you. God will bless you when people insult you and say cruel things about you, all because you are a follower of the Son of Man. Long ago your own people did these same things to the prophets. So when this happens to you, be happy and jump for joy! You will have a great reward in heaven.” (Luk 6:20-2 3) He had also told the rich that they should enjoy their rewards now, while they can, “You well-fed people are in for trouble. You will go hungry! You people who are laughing now are in for trouble. You are going to cry and weep! You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. That is what your own people said about those prophets who told lies.” (Luk 6:25-26) He finally commanded: “Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, don't stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don't try to keep back your shirt. Give to everyone who asks and don't ask people to return what they have taken from you. Treat others just as you want to be treated. (Luk 6:28-31) ...love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.”
(Luk 6:35-36)

I remember thinking how strange, and difficult that sounded. It certainly didn't describe the way I'd seen people act. Everyone I knew was only interested in looking out for themselves and getting and keeping as much as they could. If people acted the way Jesus said, there wouldn't be any armies, and my father would be out of work.

But anyway, when the elder mentioned Jesus I spoke up: “If anyone can heal Marcellus, it's Jesus! Why not go and ask him? What's to lose?”

“No.” said my father, “I am not even a Jew. I have no right to ask him to help my slave.”

“May we ask?” said one of the elders.
“I suppose, but I certainly do not expect him to come.”

And so the elders went off to seek Jesus. With my father's permission, I followed, just to see the fireworks when the elders asked Jesus to heal a gentile's slave. But to my surprise, there were no fireworks. The elders politely approached Jesus and begged him to do something. They said, "This man deserves your help! He loves our people and he himself built a synagogue for us." (Luk 7:4-5). To my surprise, Jesus agreed to come to our house. There was a big crowd that followed Jesus, and when we weren't to far away my father sent some of his friends to say to Jesus: "Sir, don't trouble yourself. I do not deserve to have you come into my house, neither do I consider myself worthy to come to you in person. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man placed under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, 'Go!' and he goes; I order that one, 'Come!' and he comes; and I order my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Jesus was surprised when he heard this; he turned around and said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, I have never found faith like this, not even in Israel!" (Luk 7:6-9) And he turned around and left. I went home with my father's friends, and to our surprise and delight, Marcellus was up and going about his work.

It was as if he had never been sick at all. I asked him later if he remembered or felt anything and he said it was just like he had gone to sleep and awakened. He didn't even remember being sick! But he was! I had seen it. He was sick, and now he was well. I know Jesus had something to do with it, but how? He never even saw, let alone touched Marcellus. It was as if his hands had reached across the neighborhood, touched Marcellus, and made him well.
Like I said. I don't believe it. Well, actually I do believe it; I saw it; I was there. But I just don't understand how it happened. What did Jesus do? And what about my father, whose faith was so strong that he didn't even have to see, or hear Jesus to claim his wish?

We later learned what had happened to Jesus. How he had been crucified and how his followers claimed he had risen from the grave. And we heard stories of how they traveled the whole world telling the story, and healing folks in Jesus' name, even though Jesus was now where around. Again, l don't know how they did it, but it must be sort of in the same way Jesus, himself, healed Marcellus without being there.

And now it's your turn. Do you, or someone you love need healing? Come, claim the gift of healing that waits for you. AMEN.