Luke 6:1-10

By Tim Lehman

Luke 6:1-10 – The situation: A leader in the Roman army (the Centurion) has a sick servant and sends for Jesus to heal him.  Jesus is amazed that he has faith that this will work.

My question/insight: I noticed that the centurion initially sent “elders of the Jews” to see Jesus.  Later, as Jesus was approaching the house, he sent his friends.  By my understanding, the “elders” would be the leaders in the Jewish church, often referred to in conjunction with the chief priests and teachers of the law (Luke 9:22, 20:1, 22:52).  This group is also referred to as the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:22).  It is this group that eventually conspired to get rid of Jesus.

This seems to be early enough in Jesus’ ministry that the Jewish elders are not yet antagonistic towards Jesus.  I wonder if they are at least suspicious of him, however?  Jesus has already ruffled feathers in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16f), during the healing of the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17f), at Matthew’s house party (Luke 5:29f), while picking grain on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1f) and while healing a man’s shriveled hand on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6f).  In fact, it was this last event, according to Mark (3:6), that led the Pharisees and Herodians to enter into a plot to kill Jesus.  It seems to me that word of these events would have been sent to the various synagogues in the region, warning them of this man who was stirring things up.

So why did the centurion send elders?  Why not send his friends to start with?  Did he figure the elders would have more influence with Jesus?  To me that doesn’t quite seem to fit the centurion’s profile – even as a Gentile, he is a man of faith, beyond what Jesus has found in Israel.  Did he doubt that Jesus would come?  I suppose there is room for that – he was confident that healing would occur, but unsure whether Jesus himself would come or not.

I’m not clear on why that would matter to him, though.  He recognizes that Jesus is a man of authority and is in a position of power.  He can understand that Jesus may have reasons for not coming to deal with his personal issue.  He knows that Jesus doesn’t have to be present for the healing, he just has to be willing to heal.  So why would he send the Jewish elders in the hope that they would be better able to convince Jesus to come?

The idea of “sending” the Jewish elders also seems to be suspect – as though he gave the command and they went.  From what I know of Jewish culture, the elders were the head of the church and the local community.  Unless I’m mistaken, it doesn’t seem like a Roman centurion would be in a position to tell them what to do.  Because of their respective positions of authority in their own circles, I wonder if the relationship between the centurion and the elders was perhaps an amicable power struggle – who is more powerful than whom?  If that was the case, the elders may have jumped at the chance to “show off” their Jesus, while at the same time, appreciating the chance to get closer to Jesus themselves to see what the ruckus was all about.

I don’t know the answers to these questions or the details behind the scenes.  Do you have more insight?  I’d be interested to hear it.

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