Luke 7:4

ESV And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him,
NIV When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, 'This man deserves to have you do this,
NASB When they came to Jesus, they strongly urged Him, saying, 'He is worthy for You to grant this to him;
CSB When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy for you to grant this,
NLT So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. 'If anyone deserves your help, he does,' they said,
KJV And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

What does Luke 7:4 mean?

It's possible Luke wrote his Gospel during Paul's two-year imprisonment in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). Luke was with Paul when he arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17) and during the voyage from Caesarea Maritima to Rome (Acts 27:1). It would be natural for him to use the opportunity to speak to the apostles and others who knew Jesus while he was in Judea. After all, Luke was a Gentile living in Jewish territory, worshiping the Jewish Messiah.

If so, this story provides a unique opportunity to give an example of how Jews and Gentiles benefited each other even before the establishment of the multi-ethnic church. Elders of the town of Capernaum so respect the local centurion that when he asks them for a favor, they readily agree. The centurion's valued servant is paralyzed and near death (Matthew 8:6; Luke 7:2). The centurion knows Jesus can save his servant, but as a Gentile he is not worthy to approach an honored Jewish rabbi. So, he asks the elders to go as his representatives.

"Earnestly" means they have wasted no time. They immediately approach Jesus and passionately try to convince Him to act.

The term translated "worthy" here also reflects the ancient concept of benefactors. The word literally means "creating a balance of the scale" That is, the restoration of the centurion's servant would be an appropriate reciprocation for his service for the Jewish community. The elders go on to say that the centurion loves the Jewish nation and even built the local synagogue (Luke 7:5). It's even possible the centurion, like Cornelius (Acts 10:1–2), is a God-worshipper: not a full proselyte, but a Gentile who respects and honors the Jewish God, though the text doesn't say this directly.

Ironically, the Jews hold the centurion in higher regard than he does himself. Later, as Jesus approaches, he will send another message: "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof" (Luke 7:6). Considering the extensive authority soldiers of the Roman Empire had over civilians, the elders' valuation of the centurion's honor is proven true.
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