Stories with Luke Week 10:

"Four Faces of Faith"

Pastor Terry Inman

05-21-17

 

Luke’s gospel is full of supernatural stories. A blueprint for just how and when God intervenes with miracles, signs and wonders would be an instant best seller. It’s like an unsolved mystery.

 

We do know faith is involved. Jesus applauds many for their faith and reproves others for little or lack of faith. Sometimes it’s others faith, or no ones faith. God just does what he going to do for his own reasons.

 

Today in Luke’s stories we are going to look at “Four different faces of faith”. This chapter begins and ends with a statement about faith. First a Roman centurion’s servant is healed and Jesus says, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Luke 7.9 (NIV)

 

The chapter closes with the salvation of a so called, “sinful” woman.

Jesus says to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7.50 (NIV) Both of these examples of faith, are from people outside the faith.

The dictionary defines faith as “belief in God” or religion. All religions are called “faith communities” But it also suggests trust or confidence in God.

 

Hebrews is a book about faith. It includes a host of heroes of faith.

It begins with this statement. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Heb. 11.1 (NIV)

 

Faith is indisputable optimism in invisible reality. It’s more than “I hope it’s true”- It’s, “I know its true no matter what I perceive”. The next verse says, “the visible universe was created out of something invisible.”

 

Some say “seeing is believing” but faith is “believing without seeing”.

The bible says, “we walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Cor. 5.7 (NIV)

 

Jesus performed many signs wonders and miracles but he also said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." In fact he suggests that the need to see signs and wonders could be a lack of faith. "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”

John 4.48 (NIV)

 

So let’s look at some unusual faces of faith that include both seen and unseen miracles! Each story reveals something of the nature of faith.

 

First Luke tells the story of a military officer’s heroic act of faith. This is the first healing experienced by a Gentile in the ministry of Jesus.

 

This Centurion is a good man, well respected even by the Jews. He sends some of the synagogue elders to appeal to Jesus on behalf of his servant. They tell Jesus this man deserves attention because he loved the Jews and built their synagogue.

 

While Jesus is on his way the Centurion sends word telling him not to bother visiting his house. He says “I don’t deserve to have you under my roof”. He doesn’t feel worthy to be in Jesus presence. Now here’s our first hint at Jesus’ response that he has “great faith”. The Centurion isn’t pulling rank to get Jesus favor; in fact he is rather humble.

 

He is also very familiar with delegated authority. He is a commander. He says, “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.” Luke 7.8-9 (NIV)

 

He sincerely believed Jesus had the authority to heal. Jesus is amazed, he faces the crowd and says, “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. Luke 7.10 (NIV)

 

Faith is demonstrated by humble respect for God’s authority!

We are not entitled to God’s favor. "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (James 4.6 NIV)

 

Luke’s next story is the first record of Jesus raising the dead. Here Faith is a gift of God’s mercy and compassion.  

Large crowds followed Jesus and His disciples to the small village of Nain. As they approached the city gate a large funeral procession was making its way out of town. The coffin was carrying the only son of a widow. Her only means of support was now gone. She would be destitute and many women in her circumstances would become victims of human trafficking.

Dr. Luke loves to feature the humanity of Christ. He says, When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Luke 7.13 (NIV) This miracle is one of many references to Jesus compassion.

 

Faith can be someone’s humble respect for authority or just God’s merciful gift of compassion. (Heb. 4.15 NIV) says, “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with feeling of our infirmities” 

In the crowds and the commotion Jesus “saw her” his “heart went out to her” and he said don’t cry. Now that would be an insensitive thing to say unless you were capable of wiping away the tears.

 

The compassion goes a step further as Jesus risks becoming ceremonially unclean by touching a corps. Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7.14-15 (NIV) This miracle is a mercy healing.

 

Can you imagine the emotion here as mother and son are reunited in life? The crowds react to the miracle and the incredible act of compassion.

 

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Luke 7.16-17 (NIV)

 

This is reminiscent of the prophecy giving at the Birth of John the Baptist. “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
(Luke 1.68 NIV)

 

Then Luke purposefully takes us to John the Baptist and his inquiry.

John is in prison prior to his beheading for confronting Kings Herod’s immorality. He prepared the way to the Lord. He announced Jesus would come to baptize with fire. He baptized Jesus and witnessed the affirmation from Heaven. He said, He must increase I must degrease.

 

John disciples reported on Jesus ministry—his teaching and miracles in Galilee. But John’s circumstances legitimately create questions.

He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7.18-19 NIV)

Faith is tested by unexplained adversity. There is a season in our spiritual journey when there are no answers for life’s suffering. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Our faith matures and our focus changes from a God that serves us to the God we serve.

 

Peter who went though fire writes, Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

(1 Peter 4.12-13 NLT)

 

What qualifies as the “sufferings of Christ”? Certainly suffering for his name. There are more Christians being persecuted now than ever. Suffering that seems undeserved and unexplained is also partnering with Christ’s suffering. We don’t always get answers but we will be rewarded.

 

John Baptist is not rescued. He eventually looses his life. In the face of this injustice Luke reports that Jesus continues to cure people of diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and restores sight to the blind.

The prophet Isaiah declared that the Messiah would heal those that could not see, hear, walk, or speak. (Isa. 35.5-6 NIV)

 

Jesus sent them back with this confirmation. “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7. 22- 23 NIV)

 

We are blessed when our faith does not fail in the face of adversity! According to the parable of the seed and the soils, it is hardship that causes some abandon the faith.

 

The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. (Matt.13.20-21)


Jesus turns to the crowd and talks about the character of his cousin John.What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?

If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Luke 7. 24-26 NIV)

 

This is serious satire. John, like many other prophets was edgy. People found him on fringes of society making proclamations. He was resilient—un-swayed buy political correctness—not a politician he was a prophet.

 

Jesus affirms John as the projected forerunner of the Messiah. This is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” (v.27)

 

Then Jesus says something a bit obscure. “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (v.28) John came to announce the kingdom. He was great but it’s even greater to experience the kingdom.

 

Luke mentions the receptive crowds (including tax collectors) to the message of John and now Jesus. But the religious leaders reject God’s purposes. They view John’s austere practices as extreme—even demonic.

 

They accused Jesus of excessive eating and drinking with tax collectors and “sinners”. Jesus says, “wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (v.35) “the proof is in the pudding” or wisdom is proven by it results!

 

John had unanswered questions but unswerving faith! Adversity is part of the journey. In the parable of the unjust Judge and the persistent woman, Jesus said, “When I return will I find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18.8 NIV)

 

Luke concludes this chapter with a final face on faith. A sinful woman demonstrates that faith is a sincere expression of devotion.

The Pharisees fault Jesus for his friendship with sinners. So Luke compares a sinner and a Pharisee. Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. “A woman who had lived a sinful life” shows up with what may have been the tools of her trade, an alabaster jar of perfume. It was customary for needy people to show up at a banquet for the leftovers.

 

While Jesus is reclined at the table she is standing behind him weeping. Her tears are falling on his feet. She bows to dry his feet with her hair. It gets dramatic. She kisses his feet and pours the perfumed oil over them.

 

It was typical for honored guests to have their feet washed, their head anointed and greeted with the mid-eastern kiss of shalom.

 

While this is going on the Pharisee is muttering to himself. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7.39 NIV)

 

Rabbi’s were not to touch or even look at a woman. Jesus is aware of Simon’s judgment. He tells him an incriminating story about two borrowers who were forgiven disproportionate debts. One owed ten times as much as the other. Jesus asked him which one would love him more.

 

With some hesitation Simon replies, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Luke 7.43 Jesus says, “You have judged correctly”

 

Simon’s first judgment was external. Jesus looks at the heart. Jesus exposes Simon’s lack of hospitality. “You didn’t even give me water for my feet. She washed them with tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t welcome me with a brotherly kiss, she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. You failed to anoint my head, she pour her perfume on my feet.

 

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (v.47) Jesus then turns to her and says, “your sins are forgiven” and while the guests are debating his right to forgive, Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7.50 NIV)   

 

(slide 15) Today we have been exposed to four faces of faith:  

 

(1.) An officer’s faith is revealed by humble respect for Jesus’ authority.

(2.) A widow is given back her son and her livelihood. Sometimes faith is    simply a gift of mercy and compassion.

(3.) John the Baptist’s faith is tested by unexplained adversity.

(4.) For a sinful woman faith is a sincere expression of devotion.

 

What does faith look like for you right now?