The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant

READINGS

O Zion, that declarest good tidings, get thee up upon the mountain: O Jerusalem, that declarest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; say, Behold your God; behold the Lord Jehovih cometh in strength, and His arm shall rule for Him (Isa. 40:9-10).

Luke 7:1-10
1 Since, in fact, He completes all His declarations in the hearing of the people, He entered into Capernaum.” 2 Now a certain centurion’s slave, who was held in honor by him, having an illness, was about to decease.” 3 Now, hearing concerning Jesus, he dispatches to Him elders of the Jews, asking Him so that He, coming, should be bringing his slave safely through.” 4 Now, coming along to Jesus, they entreat Him diligently, saying to Him that “Worthy is he to whom Thou shouldst be tendering this, 5 for he loves our nation, and he builds us the synagogue.” 6 Now Jesus went with them. Now, as He is already not far away from the house, the centurion sends friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not bother, for not enough am I that Thou mayest be entering under my roof.” 7 Wherefore, neither do I count myself worthy to be coming to Thee. But say the word, and my boy will be healed.” 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having soldiers under me, and I am saying to this one ‘Go,’ and he is going, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he is coming, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he is doing it.” 9 Now, hearing these things, Jesus marvels at him, and, being turned to the throng following Him, said, “I am saying to you that not even in Israel did I find so much faith.” 10 And, returning into the house, those sent found the infirm slave sound.”

Apocalypse Explained 815[3]
There came a centurion to the Lord, saying, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof; but say the word only, and my boy shall be healed. Jesus hearing, marveled and said to them that followed Him, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And He said unto the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed be it done unto thee; and his boy was healed in that hour (Matt 8:8, 10, 13).

The Lord healed this person and others according to their faith, because the first and primary thing of the church then to be established was to believe that the Lord is God Almighty, for without that faith no church could have been established. For the Lord was the God of heaven and the God of earth, with whom no conjunction is possible except by an acknowledgment of His Divinity, which acknowledgment is faith. The centurion evidently acknowledged the Lord to be God Almighty, for he said, “I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof; but say the word only, and my boy shall be healed.”

SERMON

The Lord enters those who are in the practise of His Word for it is His Word that brings the Lord into conjunction with human beings when they are looking to apply its truths to the life of their minds.  We see this in the opening verse of our reading from the Gospel where we read…

Since, in fact, He completes all His declarations in the hearing of the people, He entered into Capernaum. 

To truly engage with the Word is to come into the sphere of heaven and its angels where every declaration of truth goes forth from the mouth of the Lord.  The idea of declaration in the Word, or of declaring something, is speaking about the influx of the Divine Truth as light into the heavens and so the enlightenment of the internal mind of those whose desire it is to have their life characterised by goodness.

AE 478 By “declaring” (evangelizing) is signified to announce the Lord’s advent and His kingdom, for the Gospel is a glad messenger.

Truth declares what is good, which means that it instructs us how to live a spiritually focussed life and when received brings enlightenment that releases the power of the Word to reform and regenerate the human mind.  To “complete all His declarations” is to offer truths accommodated to the understanding of the natural mind from which the Lord’s Divinity can be acknowledged so that the mind can be elevated into a clearer perception of what the internal or spiritual sense of the Word teaches.  To acknowledge the Divinity of the Lord internally is to acknowledge that the Word is the Lord through a life according to it.  This declaration is made “in the hearing of the people” where by hearing is understood obedience, and by people is understood truths resident in our minds.

It is into those truths that we are working with in an effort to apply to the life of our thoughts and affections that the Lord makes His declarations, or through which the voice of the Lord is able to be heard in us.  To work with truths is to be in the life of repentance, and it is this life that prepares the way, or the mind, for the coming of the Lord.  This life prepares the way for a fuller perception of the Divinity of the Word.  So we read that “He entered into Capernaum”.  Places in the Word correspond to states of mind, and the meaning of their names provides insights into the quality of the mental state to which the events surrounding it relate.  Capernaum means, “field of repentance”, or an alternate reading is, “place of comfort.”  Both apply, and are related in the sense that no comfort can be received from the Lord without a life of repentance for the Word teaches that “without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sins.”  All spiritual discomfort or anxiety of mind arises from the presence of evils and falsities, and it is a life of repentance, or the application of truths from the Word to the life of the mind, that constitutes the only way that they can be removed.  Through their removal the Lord’s love or comfort is able to be more fully present to us.

The Lord enters into Capernaum or our efforts to live from truths from the Word.  Even the smallest of efforts is enough to invite a fuller sense of the presence of the Lord into the conscious plane of our mind.  It is only when we make sincere efforts to live from the Word that we can come to see where our deficiencies lie.  In the beginning we move from an obscure understanding of what the spiritual life entails – but we do so because we see from our limited understanding of higher things that all is not as it should be.  We know that evils and falsities must be present for we find we can’t live as we wish; that our mind seems to be enslaved to destructive patterns of thought and unhelpful ways of being that rob us of the abundance of life that the Word promises.  It seems as though our understanding of spiritual and religious things lacks power as lower affections and thoughts centred on self continually raise their voices and impel us to act in ways we don’t want.

The natural mind is supposed to be a servant of the spiritual mind assisting it to bring spiritual goodness forth into life.  When it rules however, our mental life can be said to be in a state of disorder in which spiritual things are rendered ineffective.  If we can’t live as we should, and are in the realisation of that, then that mind whose function it is to support the spiritual life can be said to be suffering from “a spiritual illness, and about to decease.”  The Centurion with a slave suffering from an illness who is about to die describes this state of life.  The word “centurion” literally means, “the leader of one hundred.”  Spiritually numbers refer to qualities and the number 100 refers to a state of fullness of what the Heavenly Doctrine refers to as remains.  Now this Centurion is not an Israelite but is a commander in the Roman army, in other words he is a “gentile.”  The term “gentile” describes a state of mind in which there is a desire for goodness but a lack of truths or doctrine to teach what genuine goodness is.  This state is held in contrast to that described by the term “Jew” which is a state in which there are truths but, due to a lack of any desire for goodness, these truths have been falsified to support a natural rather than a genuine spiritual life.  Both classes of people describe states of mind that exist in us all and are to be read according to their spiritual meaning so as not to be taken to refer to anyone in the world.

The Centurion refers to a developing affection for truth that arises from a desire for goodness.  This state in us is characterised by a desire to be instructed in truths as they apply to the life of the mind.  In contrast the states represented by the “elders of the Jews” are those states of life rooted in traditions that make up our “historical faith.”  This kind of faith is an unexamined faith that has been received on authority from others (parents, faith community, society etc.) rather than one formed from a personal investigation of teaching that leads to an experiential grasp of spiritual principles.  Yet in our story today we see that the Centurion approaches the Lord through the “elders of the Jews”.  This describes the process by which a person moves from a historical or second-hand faith to a personal or saving faith in which the power of the Word to bring forth goodness in life is experienced first-hand.

We can only move from the understanding that we have, and in the beginning our understanding of spiritual things is often no more than what others have taught us to be “the truth.”  We faithfully apply this truth to our external life in activities that express a love for natural good and an understanding of truths that support that good.  This is expressed in the words of the “elders” who appeal to Jesus on behalf of the Centurion saying…

“Worthy is he to whom Thou shouldst be tendering this, for he loves our nation, and he builds us the synagogue.” vs 4-5

To love their nation means to be in the love natural good, and to build the synagogue means to have built up a natural understanding truth, for a synagogue is where religious instruction is given.  But external expressions of good and a natural understanding of truth (the letter of the Word) are not saving, both must be elevated if they are to become spiritual and the Lord’s salvation realised.

Arcana Coelestia 9412 …truth in its power is not present with those restricted to the outward sense of the Word, separated from the inward. The reason why truth is not present with them in its power is that they are separated from heaven and so from the Lord; for the Word joins a person to heaven, and through heaven to the Lord, because all the things constituting the sense of the letter of the Word correspond to the spiritual and celestial realities which exist with angels. There is no connection with the angels if the Word is understood according to the letter alone and not at the same time according to some teaching of the Church on the inner level of the Word.

The realisation of a need to seek help in regard to the condition of the servant, who represents an understanding of the outward sense of the Word without some teaching of the Church on the inner level of the Word, is the realisation that precedes a shift from a natural to a spiritual or saving faith.  It’s the realisation that something more is needed in terms of what has served as our sense of spiritual life to this point.  Such a shift involves coming to see the Word in a whole new way, from something that supports what we’ve been taught under external authority, to it being something that is so central to our spiritual life and practise that we can’t do without it.  In those states, represented by the, “elders of the Jews” our relationship to the Word is as something that supports our doctrinal positions, which is often the position our faith community holds to with the expectation that those who profess to be members of that community will also subscribe to its traditions.  The relationship to the Word in this state is little more an intellectual grasp of truth that doesn’t go much higher than an acknowledgement from the memory in keeping with what the external church expects of those who belong to it.

The centurion, or gentile states, arise when the previous external state has run its course and reached its fulfilment.  This is the meaning of the number 100 (10×10), which tells us that all that can be gained from what is available in this external relationship to the things of religion has now been reached and can now serve as a platform into the internal states of spiritual life.  So, for example, where we may have intellectually been in the acknowledgement that the Word is Divine, and as such is the Lord, we now begin to actually live from that acknowledgement.  We approach the Word from an understanding that is moving from the intellect into the life.  In this state of life a person is beginning to personally experience the power of the Word to affect them and see the letter of the Word as something translucent that reflects back into their awareness the realities directly linked to the processes involved in their regeneration.

This is what’s reflected in the Centurions response, who, even on the literal level of the text, expresses a profound understanding of the power of the Lord to bring wholeness to his servant, even at “a distance.” (Distance in this case being reflective of an acute awareness of what is of self as opposed to what is of the Lord in us)  When we see that the Word is Divine, or the Lord present with us, so there arises a deep sense of humility, wonder and awe.  To see that the Lord is Divine is to acknowledge that He is Jehovah the One God of heaven and earth and as such, being omnipresent is found in all that is from Himself within the human mind.  The servant being found sound describes the influx of Divine power into the natural knowledges of the Word found in the natural mind so that the letter becomes living, and having been vivified by the influx of life from the Lord is able to present the internal or spiritual sense of the Word in our conscious awareness.

We close with a few further comments on the Lord’s words…

“I am saying to you that not even in Israel did I find so much faith.” v9.

By these words we are instructed that if we are to know the true power of the Word in our life then we have to go beyond resting in just knowing about these things intellectually (faith found in Israel) to applying them to the inner life of the mind.  From the Arcana Celestial we read that…

Arcana Coelestia 30 [2] With people who are being created anew faith develops as follows: First of all they have no life, for life does not exist in anything evil and false but in what is good and true. Then they start to receive life from the Lord by means of faith – first by faith existing in the memory, which is factual faith, then by faith existing in the understanding, which is conceptual faith, and after this by faith existing in the heart, which is loving or saving faith.

Amen

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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