Luke is my favourite book in the Bible, and chapter 7 always stands out to me. The story of the Roman officer who had faith that amazed Jesus is a crucial passage, that I think we often miss. First I think we tend to confuse power and authority Here’s an explanation if you are interested.
So, why does that matter? One way of thinking about it that I’ve always found helpful is that a police officer does not have the power to stop your car. He does have the authority. If you don’t pull over when a guard/police officer tells you to, it is not them you answer to. It is the government they represent. The Roman officer recognises his, and Jesus’ authority.
Secondly, we tend to miss that the Roman officer is talking about being under authority…not just about having authority. I have written about this previously, so I won’t go into it in much detail here, but a couple of things stood out to me as I read it recently.
Jesus & Authority
The first item that stood out is that the first 3 stories in this chapter are about authority. Jesus’ authority over sickness (v. 10)…Jesus’ authority over death (14-15)…and then Jesus’ authority over blindness and other infirmities (v. 21).
Jesus clearly demonstrated his authority over each of these throughout scripture. But when the disciples of John the Baptist show up, we learn about areas where Jesus chooses not to exert authority.
• He does not exert authority over an individual’s choice. He does not “make” Herod release John. I’m guessing that is what John would have preferred.
•He does not, as many were hoping he would, exert political authority over the Romans.
When responding to John’s disciples Jesus says go tell John, all of these are the things that are happening. Take a minute and compare that list to Luke 4 where Jesus presents his ministry calling, and you will notice one glaring difference. Missing from this list in Luke 7 is Jesus announcement of “freedom for prisoners.”
Justo Gonzalez in his commentary on Luke points out that after John’s disciples left, Jesus added, “blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.” Gonzalez proposes that part of this statement was an encouragement to not allow The differences between who Jesus actually is, and our expectations of him take us off track.
Another thing I find fascinating is how the chapter is “bookended”. The first story in the chapter is of an outsider…a Roman. A man who recognises that he is not worthy of having Jesus come under his roof. The final story, bookends the chapter in two ways.
First consider the host of the party, Simon. He not only does not imagine himself as unworthy to have Jesus in his home, he refuses to demonstrate what would have been common courtesy; Washing Jesus feet and welcoming him with a kiss.
While Simon demeans Jesus, a second character, and another outsider, a woman with a poor reputation, recognises Jesus and honours him by anointing him with oil and kissing his feet.
I think we are supposed to notice the contrast between the two men. And I also think we are supposed to notice that those who seemed to have a glimpse of who Jesus really was were both outsiders. It was the insider…the religious guy who failed to see who Jesus was.
Those were a few thoughts I had reading through this chapter…but there is so much here.
What did you notice as you read through it?