What does Luke 7:4 mean?
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:
NKJV: And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving,
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Luke 7:1–10 records the story of a Gentile centurion with humble faith. The centurion's servant is dying, so he sends messengers to only ask for healing, assuming Jesus doesn't need to be physically present. Jesus is amazed at his faith. Matthew 8:5–13 also records the story; John 4:46–54 is a different event. The centurion's faith contrasts Simon the Pharisee. Simon invites Jesus to a banquet without realizing his unworthiness to have such a guest (Luke 7:39–50). Jairus is another foil (Luke 8:40–42, 49–56) while the Syrian general Naaman serves as a prophetic parallel (2 Kings 5).
Chapter Summary:
Luke 7 presents a chiasm: a set of themes mirrored around a reflection point. The humble centurion (Luke 7:1–10) contrasts the legalistic Pharisee (Luke 7:39–50). The widow of Nain (Luke 7:11–17) and the sinful women (Luke 7:36–38) have nothing to offer but gratitude for Jesus' blessings. In the center are John the Baptist and his disciples who struggle to trust that Jesus is worth following (Luke 7:18–23), then the sinners who do choose to follow Jesus and the religious leaders who refuse (Luke 7:24–35).
Chapter Context:
Luke 7 continues Jesus' mission primarily to the people of Galilee expressed as a series of pointed events and teachings punctuated by calls to follow Him. He has finished teaching the rigors of discipleship (Luke 6:17–45) and invited the crowd to place their faith in Him (Luke 6:46–49). Here, Luke describes different reactions to Jesus' miracles and message. Next, Jesus will reveal the mechanics of and reactions to His call (Luke 8:4–21) before showing His great authority over nature, demons, sickness, and worldly powers (Luke 8:22—9:17). After a final call to the disciples to deepen their faith (Luke 9:18–50), Jesus will turn toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51—19:27).
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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