A Man Under Authority
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man 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 servant,  ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel  have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
This is a great story of faith. The centurion, a Gentile, believes that Christ can heal – that he has such control over sickness that he doesn’t even have to be there to heal his servant.
One of the interesting things I noticed in reading this again is the idea of being a man “under authority”. I think we skip past this while reading this story: what about being a man under authority gives the centurion confidence that Christ can heal? In our culture, the idea of being under authority signifies an inability to get things done. Authority is looked down upon in America – it is often questioned and rebelled against. However, the centurion looks at authority as a good thing. A centurion was a man who the Roman Empire had placed over 100 soldiers. When he says that he too is a man under authority, the centurion is saying that Rome has backed up his command, so that what he says to those under him must be obeyed. Likewise, he recognizes that Jesus is under authority – that God has put creation under his command, and that he can command it as he pleases. No wonder Jesus marvels at his faith! This centurion clearly sees God the Son’s role as the person who submits to the authority of God the Father, but he also sees that this submission also brings a great authority along with it. Submission to authority gives the person who submits all the power granted by that authority. A centurion had the authority of Rome behind him – he had control of those under him. Jesus has all the authority of the Father behind him – when the Father tells the Son to carry out a command, the Son has all the power he needs to do it.
Does this have implications for us? Yes – the Bible says that we are “fellow heirs with Christ”. (Romans 8:17) In light of what the Roman centurion understood about what it means to be under authority, how amazing is this statement? We are not merely subjects, but heirs! An heir is one who is meant to rule: to say that we are joint heirs means that God will not simply put us under Christ’s authority (he will do that – we will not be in authority over Christ), but God will give us creation to rule over at the side of Christ. In light of what the centurion understood about authority, we should realize that it is NOT a imposition to follow authority, but rather a blessing. We serve a God who will appoint us over creation with Christ: following his commands will not be burdensome, but will be done out of a heart of gratefulness.