I am Worthy or Am I Worthy

Jesus is surrounded by people. This usually happens to him after he had performed many miracles of healing and had taught with such authority. His attention is disrupted by a delegation of Jews from another village. Seems that there is a Roman Centurion who has a request for healing for a servant.

“He is worthy,” said the delegation.

They said this to convince Jesus to come to his aid. This is actually shocking. The Centurion was Roman, not Jewish. Jesus was seen as a rabbi, a teacher in the Jewish tradition. Most Jews had as little interaction with non-Jews as possible. Especially if they were the religious ones.

This group said that the Roman was worthy of Jesus’ attention. So, Jesus turned his attention on the problem of the servant. He started to go to the home of the Roman, thinking as they all were that his physical presence was required.

But the Centurion sent another messenger. “I am not worthy.”

Huh? He is worthy. He is not worthy. This also is a strange comment, that an important Roman leader would say that he is not worthy of a visit by an itinerant Jewish teacher and healer. Is the world turning upside down?

“I understand authority,” the Centurion continued. He accepts commands from his superiors in the army and he issues commands to those whom he leads. And all those orders are obeyed.

He expects the same from Jesus in the spiritual realm. He sees Jesus as under authority from God and having authority over the spirits that were ailing his servants. “Just say the word, and he will be healed.” And Jesus did, and he was.

Jesus used this as an example of faith that he had not even seen from Jewish people.

I’m interested in the concept of being worthy in this story from Luke 7. The Roman had many Jewish friends and he had even contributed to their causes. The friends were afraid that Jesus would shun a non-Jew. They didn’t yet understand that Jesus’ message was for everyone. Non-Jews. Women, even.

For the Roman to say he was not worthy of a personal visit is a remarkable admission. We in the US, some in Western Europe and I think increasingly around the world are living in a time of self-absorption. We have been raising kids to think they are always worthy of everything.

But, we are all under the authority of God whether we realize it or not. And if we do, we can say we are not worthy, but please use your authority to bring us to wholeness (a sense of the word to heal). To say we are not worthy does not mean that we psychologically unhealthy in a low self-esteem way. It just means that we recognize the chain of authority and where we fit.

I believe this is a most misunderstood concept. To be humble does not mean to be docile.

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