The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 110: Tiny Bible Study: Luke 7
Hi friends. This week brought me into a little study of one chapter of Luke’s Gospel, and in the next couple of episodes, I thought I’d model for you what a study like this might look like, and how accessible it is for all of us. If you were born and raised Catholic, you may have been exposed to the Bible only in the specific readings that were chosen for each Sunday mass, and your study of those passages may have begun and ended with the priest’s homily that day. And that, my friend, is kind of a shame, because the stories in the Bible, especially the Gospels, are an important way for us to understand God and they can be a way for God to speak to us as individuals and as church. With today’s technology, the availability of various translations of the Bible and of a wide range of study options and resources makes this process easier than ever. Bible study is not just for clergy, it is for everyone. You and I can learn from scholars and other experts, and in a practice like Lectio Divina, we can hear for ourselves what God might be saying to us through a particular reading. I’ll link to resources on Lectio Divina and lots more in the show notes for you so that you can learn to study on your own. And if you are new to this kind of thing, I would just say friend, be not afraid.
My own tiny study of Luke, chapter 7, breaks down into five very short and manageable pieces, and today I’ll cover the first two stories from the chapter – the one where Jesus heals a centurion’s servant and the one where He comes upon a funeral procession at the town gate and brings a young man back from the dead. After each story, I’ll offer a short reflection. As we listen to the passage, let’s ask ourselves: what does this story have to say to me today?
There are lots of translations of the Bible we can read – I’ll link to more on that for you in the show notes as well, but today I’d like to let you know that I’m reading from the Amplified Translation:
Luke Chapter 7 1-11
After Jesus had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.
Now a centurion had a bond servant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick and at the point of death.
And when the centurion heard of Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Him, requesting Him to come and make his bond servant well.
And when they reached Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying, He is worthy that You should do this for him,
For he loves our nation and he built us our synagogue [at his own expense].
And Jesus went with them. But when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent [some] friends to Him, saying, Lord, do not trouble [Yourself], for I am not sufficiently worthy to have You come under my roof;
Neither did I consider myself worthy to come to You. But [just] speak a word, and my servant boy will be healed.For I also am a man [daily] subject to authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bond servant, Do this, and he does it.
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].
And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bond servant who had been ill quite well again.
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great throng accompanied Him.
This is the Gospel, the Good News of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Okay, well, a few things stick out to me in this story, but the overarching theme is what faith and humility look like in practice, and how our level of faith affects the heart of God. Romans had conquered Jerusalem in this time and the centurion’s role was to enforce Roman rule alongside local leaders. It was a tense and fraught time and that this centurion helped build the synagogue for the Jewish people is a detail that should not be missed. The account of this story in the Gospel of Mark has the centurion approaching Jesus directly for healing for his servant, but here in Luke, he sends a group of Jewish emissaries to make the request for him. In both accounts, the centurion, a strong and powerful figure, states that he is unworthy of the presence of Jesus in his home where the sick servant is, but that he understands how authority works. He trusts that if Jesus says that the servant will be healed, it will be done, and it is. Jesus is said to marvel at this kind of faith, the kind that believes that what Jesus says He will do, will happen, even if it’s outside of the laws of nature, even if the request comes through another person, and even if they don’t understand how in the world He will do it.
And I wonder, do we have trust like this? Do I? I’ll be honest, the centurion’s prayer here seems sort of short and to the point to me. Sometimes when I’m praying, in contrast, it feels like I’m walking Jesus over to my concerns over and over again, attempting to control Him with my long, repetitive prayers. So silly. What freedom to know that it can be as easy and as hard as belief. I do believe God loves and marvels at our faith because He knows how hard it can be for us sometimes, but the centurion’s prayer is a model: short, trusting, humble, and did you notice, it even comes through an intercessor. The request is not even made face-to-face, it doesn’t happen in a house of worship or in a religious form or with a ceremony. There is no flowery language around it. It’s a simple request made in trust out on the road, in the course of real life, and Jesus is moved to astonishment by it, answering the prayer immediately.
The second story for today is a short one but my goodness there is so much here for us, friend. Let’s listen in.
Luke 7: 12-17
[Just] as He drew near the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large gathering from the town was accompanying her.
And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep.
And He went forward and touched the funeral bier, and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!
And the man [who was] dead sat up and began to speak. And [Jesus] gave him [back] to his mother.
Profound and reverent fear seized them all, and they began to recognize God and praise and give thanks, saying, A great Prophet has appeared among us! And God has visited His people [in order to help and care for and provide for them]!
And this report concerning [Jesus] spread through the whole of Judea and all the country round about.
This too, friends, is the Gospel, the Good News of the Lord.
Well, this story is all about the compassion of Jesus. Friend, I wonder, can you imagine this Mom? A widow who lost her only son in this time and place would have lost not only her whole family, but her standing in the community and her home and means of support, because women of her community could not own property, so she was emotionally and practically wrecked, and Jesus sees this all over her face as He walked toward the town gate that day. This is the story that originally brought me to this chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel this week, and when I heard it, it struck me, and I made a note on my phone about what this story says about God. It is really just this simple, and, friend, it is such good news.
God sees us.
God understands our situation without our explaining it.
God comes near to us in our pain. He does not shy away.
God resurrects what we all believe and know to be ‘dead’.
God returns us to each other.
God makes a way where there was no way.
That was my little phone note. Well, this compassionate and healing God is the one that everyone talked about, and this is why word about Jesus spread so quickly and I wonder, do we know this Jesus? Is this the Jesus that we or our Church professes? And if not, why not? My takeaway from this story is that Jesus sees and understands and resurrects and returns us to each other even now, and that is very Good News that we need to talk about more.
So, in seventeen short verses, we find a good human example of faith and humility, and a beautiful story of God’s compassion and tenderness. Pretty good for a tiny Bible study, I’d say. Next week, I’ll finish up Luke chapter 7 with three more of my own takeaways, but until then I’d encourage you to explore a story from the Gospels on your own and let God speak to you through it. God always wants to draw close to His beloved and slowing down with a scripture is just one way for us to open the door and let Him in.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my new website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, as the centurion said, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but thankfully, you do, anyway. Help us to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to make a home for you in every way we can. Help us to come to know you as the kind, merciful, healing, compassionate Friend that you are. In Jesus’s name and wrapped in the mantle of our mother, Mary, we pray, amen.
Thanks so much for listening today, friend. I’ll see you next time.
This week we take a look at one chapter of one book of the Gospels, and I’ll share my own takeaways while modeling an accessible form of study for yourself.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Animated Video: Luke 1-9 from Bible Project
2. Article: Beginner’s Guide to Lectio Divina from Busted Halo
3. Podcast series: Beth Moore Bible studies from Living Proof Ministries
4. Bible reading plans/commentary from She Reads Truth
5. Podcast: The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz
6. Article: Enter the Story: Gospel Contemplation (Ignatian), from Prayer and Possibilities
7. Bible Gateway – a searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages