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January 4 – Not On The Schedule

In the old TV show M*A*S*H there was a tense scene when they were trying to bring a patient’s fever down. All the heaters were turned off. For some reason, they couldn’t get any ice to help bring the fever down. Nothing was working. One of the doctors, I assume it was Hawkeye because Hawkeye was always the hero, walked in to the room, recognized the problem, grabbed a scalpel, and slashed open the windows letting the cold Korean air into the room, helping to bring down the temperature. All the rest of the staff face-palmed because Hawkeye had gotten it, when they hadn’t.

Solutions aren’t always obvious, but the key to finding creative solutions begins with understanding the problem and then understanding the resources available. When you understand the situation like that, you can find a way to solve problems. MacGyver didn’t moan about the materials he didn’t have, he made use of what he did have. There is a story from the time that Jesus walked on earth that shows that same kind of ingenuity; and the clever player in this story is a Roman. “So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.’” (Luke 7:6-7)

This story has many strange aspects. First, we have a Roman centurion who cares about his slave. Slaves were a dime a dozen back then and he could have replaced the slave, but this centurion actually cared about his slave. The centurion heard about Jesus so he asked some of his Jewish friends to talk to Jesus on his behalf. What? Jewish elders speaking to Jesus on behalf of a Roman? Outlandish! The plea of the elders is ridiculous. “Jesus, this Roman deserves your help because he loves the Jews and he built our synagogue.” Okay, stop the presses. We’ve heard this story plenty of times so it doesn’t strike us as odd, but given the Jews feelings about any gentile, let alone the Romans, for them to say that a Roman is deserving is beyond belief. Any Hollywood equivalent script reader would throw the story our right here. Truth is stranger than fiction. Then, there’s Jesus’ response: He headed towards the centurion. Jesus didn’t worry about the theology of “well, no one deserves anything from God but death alone,” He didn’t worry about what other Jews would say; He went.

This is where the story really gets strange: a Roman centurion tells a backwater Jewish teacher that he isn’t worthy of having the teacher come all the way to him. He tells Jesus that if He would just say the words, the sickness would leave and compares Jesus’ command over sickness and evil spirits to his command over his legions. He had that much faith that Jesus was amazed. The result was that the servant was healed and everyone went home happy. There are a couple of lessons for us in this story. The first lesson is probably obvious. Have faith. Trust in God. Let God work in your life on your own terms. The second lesson is probably a bit harder. Be like Jesus here. Be willing to take time out of your schedule to minister to people in need. Minister not because others deserve it, but because God loves them enough to care for them. Be the hands, the feet, the heart of Jesus on this earth.

Oh Lord, I need You. I don’t deserve Your love or forgiveness, yet You give it to me far more than I could imagine or hope for. Remind me what a privilege it is to share Your love with others and help me to make it such a priority that I would be willing to change my plans to share Your love and grace.

Daily Devotion by Bob James


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