Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Centurion and the Galilean: A study in authority

When a Galilean carpenter commands "Go" nobody moves; they may look at him curiously wondering if he is all right. When he beckons to someone to come they may, but not always! Nobody is under his command and he has no authority over anyone.
However, a Roman centurion is different. He has 100 soldiers under his command. When he walks in, they all stand in attention and salute him. When he commands one of them to go and fetch something he does. When he shouts 'march' they march on in an array. All of them are under his command. His words work. They can change things; they make things move!
The Roman centurion whom we find in Luke 7 was in desperate need, a need which was beyond the resources he had at hand. One of his servants was sick and no words of him will heal him. The sickness or whatever that caused that sickness was not under his authority. They won't heed his commands. He was helpless.
However, he was humble. Humility is the pre-requisite for faith. He knew higher authorities exist. He knew from his experience that authorities higher than him had higher commanding power. An officer in-charge of a legion had much higher power than a centurion.
Centurion's knowledge and experience shaped his faith. He did not want Jesus to come to his house. The reason for not taking Jesus to his house is not that it was not big enough for Jesus. The reason was simple; Jesus doesn't need to be there. His word is enough! 'But say the word, and my servant will be healed' (Luke 7:7). The article (the) on "word" is important. He meant "the word" for sickness to leave! He knew there is a word to make the army march, there is a word to make the army to retreat, so there must be a word for sickness to leave and healing to come in. The one who has authority over sickness can command using 'the word that heals.' In Jesus he recognized that authority and the power of Jesus' command.
Centurions' faith was commended because his faith came from his experience and his recognition of Jesus' authority. In Jesus he saw more than a Galilean tramp, a man of authority. In Jesus he saw a man who has authority over all sickness. That's what is called faith!

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