Surprised By Faith

There are many who know S. M. Lockridge. And there are few who know S. M. Lockridge. There are few who know that his initials – the S and the M – are the names of two men in the Bible: Shadrach and Meshach. There are few who know that he was the oldest of eight children. There are few who know that his dad was a pastor. There are a few more, though, who know that he, too, was a pastor. There are few who know that he pastored Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California during a span of five decades. There are few who know that his ministry reached 100,000 people – that is an average of 20,000 people per decade! And there are many who know three to six minutes of S. M. Lockridge (depending on the YouTube video). It begins like this:

My King was born king. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a national King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King. Well I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King?

This is the beginning of something that has been called a “run.” A “run” is like ringing a biblical bell which is to lead to a sermon’s climax or celebration.[1] And so the run continues: My King is the only one whom there are no means of measure can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of his shoreless supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. Well, well, He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s Savior…He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent…He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves…He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?

Then comes the celebration: Well, I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable…He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hand. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. Well, Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King. He always has been and He always will be.  I’m talking about He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There was nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not gonna resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!

And there is about a minute more. But there are few who know that these are the last six minutes of a one hour, six minute, twenty-eight second sermon. There are even fewer who know the content of that rather long sermon. It was about what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. And regarding what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus, S. M. Lockridge had just one question for every listener. Do you know Him?

After He Had Finished All His Sayings

There are what could be several key words throughout Luke 7:1-10. In verse one there is the name of a town – Capernaum – which could be a key word. In verse three there is a request made on the behalf of another; that could be a key thought, but what could be the key word there is the word heal [depending on the translation, save]. In verse five is the word love. This could be a key word for two reasons. First, it is the same word that occurs six times in the previous chapter (Luke 6:27-36) beginning with “love your enemies.” And it is a word that is not like loving your dad or loving your dog or loving a burrito filled with extra white rice, chicken, corn salsa, green salsa, hot salsa, extra cheese and lettuce. No; this is the Greek word agapé. And it is a word that we try to grasp with definitions like sacrificial love or deliberate love or love by choice. But the Bible has a unique demand of us when it comes to this love. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1a). “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Part of the point is that this is a love that reveals the heart of God. The other part of the point is that this is a love that is so closely connected to the cross. Another part of the point is that Jesus expects his disciples to love with this kind of love.

In verse eight is the word authority which could be a key word. And a reason is that it may tie these verses back to Luke 4:31-41. In verse one, though, is the word after [when] which is the key word. Listen to the importance of this word. “After he had finished all his sayings…” The word after is the key word because it contextualizes these ten verses for us. Luke 7:1-10 takes place immediately after Luke 6:20-49. And what is Luke 6:20-49? It is probably the best known teaching of Jesus. The way this verse is constructed is intriguing. Luke does not begin the chapter with just simply after this, but he seems to go out of his way to emphasize that these verses do take place immediately after Jesus finished or completed his sayings, meaning his sermon. Why?

What was the big idea of his sermon? Jesus’ aim was to show how his disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave and feel even in less than ideal or negative circumstances. And Luke goes further to remind us of one of the essentials of a sermon. Sermons must have a preacher. But sermons must also have a listener or two. “After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people…” And what did Jesus stress about hearing at the end of his sermon? There must be hearing. There must be listening. But listening to a sermon must end with doing.

And He Entered Capernaum

Keep looking at verse one. What did Jesus do after he finished his sermon in the hearing of the people? He entered Capernaum. This is not too big of a deal. It is a short walk from the mount where he preached his sermon. But there is something important about Capernaum. In Luke’s Gospel, this is not the first time Jesus has entered Capernaum. It is the second time Jesus has entered Capernaum. The first time was in Luke 4:31-41. Those verses begin with Jesus teaching on the Sabbath in Capernaum at the synagogue (4:31-32). Capernaum was not the big city. It was a small town. Let’s take an educated guess; in a small town of say, 1,500 people, how many synagogues could there have been? At least one.

Luke 4:31-32 is about Jesus’ teaching or about Jesus’ words. The rest, Luke 4:33-41, is about Jesus’ works. And his works demonstrated the limitless bounds of his power and authority. In that short recap I just want us to see two things: Jesus’s words and Jesus’ works. And notice that the works follow the words. Now come back to Luke 7:1-10. How do these ten verses begin? It is with a reminder of Jesus’ words. He just finished his teaching. And it is a short reminder, just one verse. What possibly then could the remaining verses be about? Could the other nine verses be about his works? Luke 7:1-10, the second time in Capernaum, follows the same pattern as the first time in Capernaum. Jesus’ words followed by Jesus’ works. This is important for this reason: I understand his works when I understand his words.

A Certain Centurion in Capernaum

Luke 7:2 then introduces us to a centurion. The King James translation describes him simply as a “certain centurion.” The word certain is used of a person when the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly about the person. However, Luke ends up writing more particularly about this centurion! How is he a certain centurion?

First, he has a servant who is sick or suffering terribly. This same account is found in Matthew 8:5-13 and the servant there is described as paralyzed and suffering terribly. And Luke adds that he is to the point of death. Then something particular is said. This centurion highly regards this servant. We do not know how many servants he has, perhaps this is the only servant, but something particular is made known. He does not regard this slave as a garden tool, but as a man with a soul. What does that say about this centurion?

There is more. He sends the elders of the Jews with a message for Jesus. Now keep in mind, the centurion is not Jewish. He is Roman, the sworn enemy of the Jews. But he apparently has a particular relationship with these elders, these leaders in which they gladly become his messengers. And notice two things. These elders have come asking Jesus to come to the centurion’s house to heal the servant. And in their plea they say, regarding the centurion, “He is worthy.” He is worthy for Jesus to do this and just take a look at this man, they plead. “He loves our nation!” And we have briefly expounded on that word love. But look at what else. “He is the one who built us our synagogue.” He is responsible, most likely financially, for the existence of a building which houses worship; a place for worshipers to sing God’s Word together; to read God’s Word together; to recite God’s Word together; to hear God’s Word preached together; and to pray together. Which synagogue could this have been? Could it be the synagogue in Luke 4, where Jesus’ words were heard and then Jesus’ works experienced?

What makes this centurion a certain centurion? There is something we skipped over in verse three. He heard about Jesus. Actually, verse three reads, “when he heard about Jesus,” suggesting that he heard that Jesus was back in town. But there is more to it. This is a centurion who knows Jesus. He knows Jesus’ words and he knows Jesus’ works. Further, how does Luke 7 begin? Jesus has finished what is probably his best known teaching. And following this best known teaching of Jesus, Luke has us meet a man who knows Him. How can we be certain that he knows Jesus?

Surprised by Faith

Well, after listening to the elders, Jesus makes his way to the centurion’s home. But then, when he knows that Jesus is near, the centurion sends his friends to meet Jesus with a note. The note reads, “I am not worthy for you to enter my home” (7:6). He even calls Jesus ‘Lord.’ Remember what Jesus said at the end of Luke 6? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” There is a sense of humility in this man. And he knows something about Jesus. He knows that Jesus does not have to be in the same room or the same vicinity or the same city to fulfill a prayer request. All that is needed is Jesus’ word and it will be done. How can we be certain that he knows Jesus? He acknowledges Jesus’ authority. So, when Luke tells us that this centurion heard about Jesus, it is much more than Jesus is back in town. He knows Jesus. He knows Jesus’ words and he knows Jesus’ works. He knows the limitless bounds of his authority and power. And he understands Jesus’ works because he understands Jesus’s words.

And what is really important, the big idea, is verse nine. “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him.” Only twice in the Bible does Jesus ever marvel at anyone. And both times it is about faith. In Mark 6:6, he marveled at those who just heard his teaching. He marveled at their unbelief. And then here is a certain centurion. He heard about Jesus. He knew Jesus. And Jesus marveled at his faith.

Does Jesus marvel at me? This could be good or bad. He either marvels at my unbelief or he marvels at my faith. What is faith? This certain centurion is a living embodiment of Luke 6:46-49, of building his life upon the rock. Faith has a lot to do with doing. He believed the words of Jesus, built his life on those words and then called upon Jesus to display his works. Or, he understood Jesus’ works because he understood Jesus’ words. This was a man who loved his enemies (Luke 6:27; 7:5). This was a man who was generous (Luke 6:30; 7:5). This was a man who was humble or poor in spirit (Luke 6:20; 7:6). This was a man who was merciful as God the Father is merciful (Luke 6:36; 7:2-3). And Jesus said he had not found a faith like this in all of Israel.

Do you know Him? Knowing Jesus has a lot to do with understanding Jesus’ works because of understanding his words. The embodiment of this is building life upon his words and looking to him and maintaining our gaze upon him even when the storms come.

[1] https://thefrontporch.org/2016/02/preaching-the-gospel-is-not-like-horseshoes-and-hand-grenades/

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