God has visited us today – Luke 7:1-23

It’s a remarkable truth to remember at Christmas that God has visited us.

All of the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – arrange their material around themes. They’re less interested in the chronological order than we are today. They want you to get the overall theme: Jesus. In our reading today, we’ve got two amazing miracles followed by an important question from John the Baptist.

His question for Jesus was, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Why did he ask that? When we dig into why he might have asked that question, we realise that these amazing miracles don’t tell us the full story.

And that puts Christmas in a new light: It heralds Good News, but also points to something else – something still yet to come. God has visited us and will visit us again.

These words ought to drive you to prayer, to compassion, and to urgency in spiritual things.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church Wirral in December 2022. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Have active faith (1-10)

The first part concerns this Roman officer, or centurion. The local Jewish elders clearly had a great respect for the Roman officer and for very good reasons. In fact, before we look at his interaction with Jesus we can get quite a background picture.

  • It’s interesting to notice his concern for his slave.
    • Remember that the word “slave” meant many things in many cultures. 
    • Often, they were people committed to the service of their master in return for food and a place to live.
    • A good master could expect loyalty and trustworthiness from his household.
    • This particular slave was “highly valued” – literally, “highly valued by him [the officer]”. A personal value.
  • We also note the Roman’s sensitivity to Jewish customs.
    • Part of his “unworthiness” to having Jesus visit him in his Gentile house was almost certainly to do with him respecting Jesus’ Jewish ‘cleanliness’.
  • And then there’s the statement that he built a synagogue.
    • He loved the Jewish people and built them a synagogue in Roman-occupied Capernaum. 
    • That would have been as generous a thing to do as it would be today.

What do we make of him? Not your average Gentile unbeliever. If a tree is known by its fruit, we might well detect a God-fearing heart. Luke is doing something quite daring here.

  • He’s got his second book of Acts in mind; thinking about Peter’s visit to Cornerlius’s house.
  • The Good News of Jesus isn’t just for Jews, it’s for us all.

So what’s his message to be passed on to Jesus?

Jesus’ authority recognised

Read Luke 7:7-8.

He’s heard about Jesus healing the sick and driving out evil spirits – and he’s recognised authority in Christ.

  • Just as he has to obey a command from Caesar far away, he knows that Jesus can also issue a command from far away and have it obeyed. A command to be healed.
  • So this (seemingly) God-fearing man asked Jesus for help.
  • He asked humbly, but with expectancy grounded in Jesus’ own authority.

You might want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this unexpected believer, and see how you measure up.

  1. Does your trust in God lead to acts of kindness to those in your household, or people you work with? Are you kind in unexpected ways (like Roman officer to his slave)?
  2. Does your trust in God lead you to a sensitivity towards the needs of others? Or are you the kind of person who just says people need to accept you the way you are?
    • People of other religions. Other colours. Other languages or accents.
  3. Does your trust in God enable you to spend your time and money on things to do with his kingdom, rather than feather your own nest?
  4. Do you actually trust Jesus to hear your prayers and act on them?
    • Ten people went to a prayer meeting to pray for rain. Only one took an umbrella. Would that be you?
  5. Do you only pray for ‘safe’ things? Or are you like the officer whose trust in Jesus led him to pray for the impossible with confidence?

Active faith

Faith isn’t a passive, inactive thing. You don’t just “have faith”. You have faith in something or someone.

That man’s faith in God led him to acts of kindness and love to others. His faith in Jesus’ authority led him to ask for healing, to prayer. If your faith only leads you to a warm fuzziness that doesn’t go anywhere, it might not be faith at all.

The next miracle should remind you just who it is you’re putting your faith in:

Hear God’s voice (11-17)

We now travel to Nain, to an event only recorded by Luke. If you picture the Sea of Galilee as a clock, Capernaum was at 12 o’clock on the coast. Nain would be some distance inland, somewhere off the number 7 (on the clock). About 20 miles away from Capernaum.

The scene at Nain is heart-breaking. Read Luke 7:11-12.

This woman had lost her husband, and now her only son. No widow’s pension; no universal credit; no hand-outs. Her hopelessness was as massive as her grief. Part of it.

No-one asked Jesus to get involved. We don’t even know why he was there that day. There was no request from Mary & Martha, as when Lazarus died in John 11. No messengers sent, as by the roman officer. Jesus showed up and took action.

Read Luke 7:13.

Sometimes you see something to distressing, so upsetting and moving that you have a physical reaction, deep within. That’s what Jesus is experiencing there – a deep compassion. Notice that he has compassion for the mother, not the dead son!

Jesus knows about grief. 

  • When you grieve, he knows. He feels.
  • He doesn’t change. He has the same compassion for you as he had for that widow that day. 
  • He sympathises with you. He knows.

He walked over and touched the coffin. Everyone stopped. What happens next?

Old Testament Parallels – and important differences

The way Luke tells this account, he deliberately includes reminders of something Elijah did in the Old Testament.

  • It was about 50 miles further north, in Zarephath.
  • A widow’s only son had died. 
  • She asked Elijah for help (1 Kings 17).
  • Elijah prayed to the LORD for the boy.
  • The LORD gave the boy his life back – and gave the woman her only son back.
  • Luke uses some exact same phrases in telling what Jesus did.

All of which makes what Jesus actually did do all the more amazing.

Read Luke 7:14-15.

  • Elijah prayed, and the boy in 1 Kings 17 was restored.
  • Jesus commanded a corpse to live, and he lived.

Jesus is Son of God Most High. He is Immanuel, God with us. So read Luke 7:16.

Yes, a mighty prophet visited. But more than that, God visited his people that day. Jesus, Son of God, eternally the same. His own compassion drove him there that day. No-one asked him; his compassion drove him. And he brings life and hope and restoration even for the dead.

Imagine: God entered the world, in towering grace and compassion, to bring life and hope to dead and hopeless people. “God has visited his people.”

So when you hear Jesus’ voice, you hear God’s voice. So, with the centurion, you have confidence God will hear your voice when you pray. That faith and confidence should drive you to action – both in prayer and love for others. And with this widow’s son, you have confidence that Jesus is God’s Son who brings life to the dead. Even to you.

And he does that out of his own compassion for you.

Which brings us to John the Baptist’s question, and why on earth he needed to ask it: Read Luke 7:18-20.

Be ready for God’s return (18-23)

We know from Matthew 11 that John the Baptist was in prison when he sent his messengers. The question that often gets asked is whether John is asking for his disciples’ benefit or because he has doubts himself?

Look at Jesus’ reply: Read Luke 7:21-22.

Jesus is deliberately picking up on Old Testament imagery that would accompany God’s salvation, his Messiah, coming to save his people.

  • Isaiah 25:4,7-8 But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress… [In Zion] he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.
  • Isaiah 29:18-19 In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
  • Isaiah 35:5-6 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
  • Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favour has come,

Has death been swallowed up? Yes, even if it was only temporary for the Centurion’s slave and the widow’s son!

Has there been healing, the deaf hearing and the blind seeing? Yes!

John the Baptist’s Question

Does John the Baptist’s question seem utterly ridiculous?


  • There’s no doubt Jesus is drawing on Isaiah’s imagery of the coming Messiah.
  • But if you look the texts up, you might feel you can say “You’re only reading the nice bits!”

Let’s read just a little further with two of those readings:

  • Isaiah 29:18-20 18 In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The scoffer will be gone, the arrogant will disappear, and those who plot evil will be killed.
  • Isaiah 61:1-2 CSB The Spirit of the LORD GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, and the day of our God’s vengeance;

As you look at what Jesus was doing in Luke 7, wondering if he is the Messiah, it’s very reasonable to ask 

“Where’s the baptism of fire? Where’s the killing of those who plot evil? And where’s the day of God’s anger against the enemies of his people?”

But remember Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 in his “manifesto” sermon earlier on in Luke 4.

A year and a day

In his first coming, Jesus has ushered in the year of the Lord’s favour.

  • That’s the time we’re in.
  • The time of salvation is now.
  • He entered the world to live an unblemished life, so that he could die in your place. An innocent man taking the punishment of the sins of others in his death at the cross.
  • That’s what Christmas is: God’s compassion to you, demonstrated in his intervention – the Son given to us, Almighty God, Prince of Peace.
  • He will raise you from your spiritual death and heal your soul, victorious over sin and death in you forever.

And one day he will return. The year of the Lord’s favour will be over. His day of vengeance will be swift and terrible. The day Jesus returns to the earth for a second time.

On that day, every human will say “God has visited us today.”

For those who turn to him now, crying out in faith, in repentance, crying for mercy and compassion, the day of his visitation will be glorious. He will wipe away every tear; we will leap like calves let out of a stall.

For you who refuse to turn to Jesus today in this year (as it were) of his favour towards you, that visitation will be terrible. You will be one of those enemies swept away, to death, forever.

Whether John the Baptist’s question was for his benefit, his disciples, or you doesn’t really matter: The answer does.

Jesus is God with us; he came in great compassion. He calls you to come to him for healing, peace, restoration, life. He calls you to come today, before he returns, and the year of his favour will be ended.