When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. (Luke 7:1-6a)
O. Henry lived through the Asian flu pandemic of 1889-1890 which killed a million people globally. Afterward, he wrote a short story about three artists: Johnsy, Sue, and a neighbor, Behrman, who claimed he’d someday paint a masterpiece. Johnsy, near death, decided she would die when the last leaf fell off a partially uprooted tree outside her window. Sue told Behrman, and he painted his masterpiece, a leaf on the building the tree leaned against. He protected that painted leaf during a night of cold, pounding rain and died from pneumonia.
We don’t have to die to offer our lives to another. The centurion, a Gentile, gave part of his life to Israel, building their synagogue. He shepherded a hundred soldiers and many servants, valuing them highly, above himself. Because this centurion passed on the depth of love God wants us to have, three elders interceded for him, telling Jesus the centurion deserved the miracle he asked for. We’ll find out tomorrow the centurion felt he deserved nothing.
Father God, thank you for the blessings of forgiveness, hope, good friends, family, and Your love, none of which I deserve. Help me go above and beyond, showing at least one person your generous love today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.