Luke 7:1-10, 36-50

Two passages are connected by a similar theme, which is faith. Two people are in focus, one is a centurion who is a Roman soldier, wealthy and respected. The other is a woman on the other side of the social spectrum. She is called a woman of the city and is unnamed in the passage and most likely she was a prostitute.

Jesus responds to both their faith.

9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 
50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Today we are going to see what is saving faith?
We all have faith in something. Faith is not just for those who believe in God. We all live by a code, set of core beliefs, values which we hold close to our life. Having faith in money, science, family, education etc. does not need supernatural help. It is natural to believe in these things and put our trust in them. But saving faith is supernatural. The Holy Spirit redirects our natural faith to Christ. It originates from God, given by God and directed by God. We are saved by faith. So what is saving faith? In Luke 7 we see three aspects of saving faith. It involves a change of mind, heart and life.

A. Change in mind

2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 

It is unusual for a Roman centurion to care for his servant or be loved by the Jews. But we see this Centurion with extraordinary character.

Notice in v.4, when the elders approach Jesus, they say the Centurion is worthy for Jesus to do a miracle. He deserves it and he has earned it. Why? Because he is a good man, respected, loved and admired by all. He is compassionate, loving, caring, humble and generous. He is a role model and has impeccable character record. And so, he is worthy for Jesus to heal his servant and grant his request.

But Jesus notices the Centurion’s outstanding faith and Jesus himself is amazed by his faith.  

9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Why? What about his faith? It is because of the Centurion’s response.

In v.4, the elders say he is worthy.  
4 …“He is worthy to have you do this for him,       

But in v.6, the Centurion sees himself unworthy.
6 …“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 

This is a fundamental difference between a religious posture and a gospel understanding.

In a religious framework about God, we come to God based on our self worth, hard work, success and effort. We say, look at all that I have done. I am a nice person, respectable, moral, educated, help others, do good and don’t hurt anyone. I try my best in this world to be a good person. Therefore God should accept me, answer my prayers and bless me.
We view ourselves as having done enough for God and feel proud. Or not having done enough for God and feel like we should do more.

But the Centurion looks at how all his accomplishments and views himself as unworthy. This is a gospel framework.

It is not just thinking about himself as unworthy but he eve asks Jesus to answer in spite of his unworthiness. How is that possible? A religious view would say, God I am unworthy, so I want to run from you, I cant come before you, I will stay afar and I will try to clean myself first before I come to you.

But a gospel understanding says, I am unworthy but I come to you not on the basis of my self worth but on the basis of what Jesus has done for me. The Centurion, though does not fully understand his faith is beginning to get it and that amazed Jesus.

Saving faith involves a change in mind from our foundational beliefs in our own hard work, success, self worth and accomplishment and we transfer that faith to Jesus.

How do you stand before Jesus today? Where is your foundational trust? A change of mind has to do in the area of our foundational trust.

B. Change of heart

In the next passage, Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus for meal and again something unusual happens.

37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment & standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears & wiped them with the hair of her head & kissed his feet & anointed them with the ointment

Woman of the city most probably means she’s a prostitute or an adulteress, though it is not mentioned explicitly.  She brings an alabaster flask of ointment. This is an expensive perfume, which can cost a year’s wages. This is a sign of being wealthy, attractive and important. Women in that culture wear this small flask around their neck, which is a symbol of beauty. And this woman does the unthinkable. She breaks the flask. Though it does not say she broke it, but traditionally that’s how you can get the ointment out. The neck is too small for the ointment to pour and when you open the lid, only the fragrance comes out. That’s why it lasts a whole lifetime and even passed on to generations.

She breaks it. She does not care about people around her. She falls at Jesus’ feet, wipes his feet with her tears and hair and kisses his feet. She anoints it with this expensive perfume.
What she does is, she offers her total affection and devotion to Jesus. She has given away her life’s worth, what makes her attractive and beautiful and pours it at Jesus’ feet. She pours what is dearest to her heart, what she treasures and what’s deeply significant to her heart.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 

Jesus tells Simon, you invited me home and you did the right thing. It was your duty and you show your support. It’s the right and respectable thing to do. But you have not given me your heart. Simon, you have shown me respect but you have not given me your heart.

Have you given your heart to Jesus? Where your treasure is there your heart is says Jesus.
What do you treasure in your life? What do you value? What are you running after? What’s precious to you and off limits to God?

Jesus says, lay it at my feet. Saving faith is a change of heart. It has to deal with your foundational treasure.

and ur faith will save u
What ur holding on – looks like it will save u – in the end – lose ur life

C. Change of life

How can we experience such a life? How can we express such a faith?

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins r forgiven

Saving faith is not just mental assent saying I believe in God or I believe in Jesus. Even demons believe and shudder. – Saving faith involves a change in mind and a change in heart. It has to do with your foundational trust and treasure.

How can I live like this?

Do you see what Jesus did for you? The woman poured her heart and treasure before Jesus.
Jesus poured himself for you. In Phil 2:7, Jesus emptied himself, poured himself, for us. In    Isaiah 53:12, it says Jesus poured his life unto death for us.

The extent to which you see Jesus pouring his life for you is the extent to which you will transfer your trust and treasure to him.

The more I recognize this and lean on Jesus, the more joy and freedom I experience.

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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