17 March 2010

Jesus Has Authority

"After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health."
Luke 7:1-10

From a Jewish perspective there is much to despise about the centurion.  He was a military leader from a Gentile nation occupying their land.  But, apparently he was well regarded since, according to the elders, he showed interest in their culture and backed his interest with the action of building the local synagogue.  Jesus chose to honour the centurion because of his faith.

The centurion heard about Jesus from others and the others explained who Jesus is so well, the centurion understood who Jesus is.  At the very least, he understood Jesus to be someone sent by God and that God had given Jesus authority to carry out His will and mission.  A military leader understands this perfectly.  They receive their orders from someone in authority over them.  They do not ask the why or the how of the orders.  They are not even privy to how the order fits exactly with the overall plan from the emperor.  Those in authority over the centurion had given him authority over others in order that the centurion would be able to complete the task that he had been given.

He understood that Jesus was under the authority of his Father in heaven and that Jesus had authority to carry out his Father's will on earth.  He demonstrates his faith by acknowledging two things.  First, people with great authority need to have an audience requested before any sort of request is heard.  People with great authority don't see just anyone.  People with great authority need to be humbly approached.  This is why the centurion did not personally see Jesus or bother Jesus with the trouble of entering the house.

Second, people with great authority use words to accomplish the mission.  People with great authority give commands to complete the task.  He understood who Jesus was and knew that Jesus could simply heal his servant with a word.  There was no magical incantation or ritual, no loud, laborious dance that Jesus had to perform.  Jesus did not even have to see the servant.  All that was required was the authority of Jesus.  

Jesus was so amazed at the centurion's understanding that he seems to turn to his Jewish disciples and say, why can't any of you believe in me the way this Gentile does?

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