One of the verses that had a huge impact on how I saw discipleship was a passage in Luke chapter 7. It is the story where the centurion sends someone to Jesus asking Jesus to heal his servant. And at the end of the story, Jesus is Amazed by the centurion’s faith and says he has not encountered such great faith even in Israel.
I’ve always thought if Jesus is amazed by something, we should learn what that is. So here is the passage. I’m sure you’ve read it a bunch of times but read it carefully.
“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.”Luke 7:1-10 NIV
This is on my mind because I have a devotional that lands in my email inbox daily and I get a lot out of it. This morning he wrote about this passage. I began reading thinking, “I hope he gets the main point.” But while he shared a lot of good stuff, he missed it…but I find a lot of people do.
Here’s what I think he missed. The centurion tells Jesus, “like you I am in authority. I have soldiers under me.” Right? For the longest time, that is how I read that passage.
But actually, that is not what he says. The centurion claims to be, like Jesus, a man UNDER authority. He does say he has soldiers under him, but the first part of the sentence is about his submission to authority. Whose authority would that be? Caesar’s. As long as that centurion remained under Caesar’s authority, when he gave orders to his soldiers, he had the weight of the entire Roman Empire behind him. Disobey an order from this centurion and you don’t answer to him…you answer to Caesar.
(There is a longer post here about power and authority as well as authority based on position, versus authority based on who you are as a person…but not what I want to get at here.)
Just as the centurion recognises his authority comes from his standing with Caesar, he recognises that Jesus’ authority comes because he too is under authority.
And while we normally read this passage and focus on how Jesus has authority, it is a pretty clear concept in scripture that Jesus is under authority:
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.John 5:19, 30 NIV
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
In Matthew 28, after his resurrection, he tells his disciples that all authority has been given to him.
Jesus authority came from his relationship with his Father. He only did what the Father told him to do. His Authority came from his relationship with the Father.
So why does this matter? Because we too, are to be people under authority. One of the ways Paul describes us is as ambassadors for Christ. Since we actually have ambassadors, this is often an easier term for us to understand than Lord or King.
What is an ambassador’s job? Basically to represent their country’s interests in a foreign nation. She does not have authority to negotiate treaties or sign contracts…she can only do what her government tells her to. And if she stops doing that…she is recalled…and fired.
There were a lot of people who were amazed at Jesus’ authority…they heard his teaching, saw his works, and commented on his authority…which was so unlike the religious leaders of his day.
BUT, there was only one who amazed Jesus. It was the one who recognised where Jesus authority originated
(The image is one of Dublin Bay, which I am missing today)