Another Sunday — Sojourn IV

This entry is part of my series on my on-going “church journey” that I’ll be documenting as it takes place. You can read about other visits with the “journey” tag.

Jesus and the centurion in Capernaum (Matthew ...

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Another Sunday teaching kids at Sojourn. This week, the lesson was about respect.

It was interesting timing; I came out of last week annoyed and frustrated at the lack of respect that a small number of the kids had shown to me and their peers during the lesson. Frankly, I really didn’t want to have to teach this particular lesson to that particular group; it seemed very much like a case of casting pearls before swine.

As it turned out, those kids weren’t there anyway. It was a much smaller group, and pretty much the opposite of the class from the month before — rather than being too disruptive, they were too quiet; it was hard to get answers to questions initially (though they eventually warmed up a bit).

The lesson was out of Matthew 8. A Roman centurion comes up to Jesus and tells him his servant is sick. Jesus says, “No problem, I’ll go heal him.” And the centurion says, “Dude, you don’t have to do that. I know you can just give the word, and he’ll be better.” The centurion explains that, being an officer over large group of soldiers, he gets the idea of authority. All he has to do is give the order, and what he orders will be done. He gets that Jesus has an even greater version of that sort of authority. “You give the order, Jesus, and it’s done.” Jesus is all impressed, saying that in all of Israel He’s never met anybody with faith like that. He tells the centurion he can go home, that He’s healed the servant like he asked.

It’s a cool story. I like the stories were somebody gets it. The stories where Jesus is happy, the ones where, without it being written, you know He’s grinning. I’ve written before that I think there are a lot more of these than we acknowledge; tone of voice can completely change the meaning of the same words. I think people tend to read Jesus as dour when there was actually a grin on His face or a sparkle in His eyes. I think Jesus had a huge smile when Peter fell in the water and Jesus called him “ye of little faith.” But all of that’s beside the point. There’s no question Jesus was proud of this guy for getting it.

The lesson was about respect, and we talked about that. For the centurion, life was about authority. If he had a problem, he gave the order for it to be resolved. If he couldn’t, he went up the ladder to someone who could. If he lacked the authority, he would go to someone with more authority. He expected respect from those with less authority; he gave it to people with more authority. Jesus had authority to do something he couldn’t, so he respected Him. The kids and I talked about ways they could show respect to God.

But the authority part of it is fascinating, too. The centurion had authority over life or death. At his word, he could cause someone to die. Conversely, he could allow someone to continue to live. He got that as Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” He had no reason not to believe that Jesus could order healing for the servant. We fail with that sometimes. We believe in the theory of an omnipotent God, but we have trouble with the reality of it. We have trouble with the fact that a God who could do everything could do anything.

What can your God do?