Matthew 8:9 “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell one to go, and he goes; and another to come, and he comes. I tell my servant to do something, and he does it.”
The greek term for authority is ‘Exousia’, which means being as a right or privilege”) – authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment (“authorization”), operating in a designated jurisdiction. This definition shows me that the heavenly power I’m living under is not my own but has been conferred upon me. To delegate power is not to abandon a position but it indicates trust in the one it has been delegated to.
The centurion who approached Jesus was a man who had been delegated power from Rome. At the time, Caesar was the most powerful position in the world and the centurion was an advocate of that power. If you offended a centurion, you offended Rome and the conviction was harsh.
When the centurion approached Jesus, he recognized the authority of God which had been conferred upon Jesus. Whether or not he believed Jesus was the Messiah was not indicated here, but to acknowledge Jesus’ divine power was a step in the right direction. Notice that the centurion didn’t ask Caesar to heal his servant? It was not uncommon to relegate some divine countenance upon whoever held the position of Emperor. The expectation that people pledge their allegiance to Rome was practiced in this false worship that had infiltrated the highest office of Rome. Anyone with that much power might begin to think more highly of themself than they ought. What started out as a tribute to Caesar turned into a ritualistic expectation of servitude.
Exodus 20:3 ““You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The commandment was clear, the expectation of God upon mankind extended to all of Creation, not just to His people Israel. Israel was and is today an archetype of the church. God conferred His power upon them to reveal to the world that He alone is God. To be a representative of God is a great honor with great responsibility. The Lord doesn’t take it lightly and neither should any who are called by His name. Purity and holiness were the expectations of God’s people and He routinely reminded them of how to practice these qualities. There were rituals that God instituted which reflected a deeper spiritual meaning behind them. Whether it was following the Moral Law which was an expectation or in ritual, how to build an altar, each detail was not to be overlooked.
Recognition of Authority
The centurion approached Jesus and was vexed. Matthew 8:5 “Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
The compassion the centurion showed toward the lowly servant was a demonstration of the tenderness of his heart. There had to be thousands of available servants to choose from, many would relish the opportunity to be an indentured servant in the house of one who was greatly honored by Rome. The food, accomodations, and respect had to be more than a lonely peasant could hope for when being considered for such a position. The fact that the man approached a Jew who was looked down upon by Rome had to take a considerable amount of humility as well. Recognizing that you need help and then asking for that help is one thing, asking someone who you consider beneath you is another but the Centurion took it a step further: Matthew 8:8 “The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. “
- The Centurion recognized the authority of Christ.
- Jesus immediately showed compassion.
- Recognition of Jesus’ divine power was an act of Faith.
Matthew 8:10 “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
How could a man who followed a pagan emperor believe Jesus wielded such great power?
First, the impact Jesus had on those around Him was not relegated only to the disciples. When we represent Christ to the world, we model His image in ways that we may not understand. If we model that image falsely, we could undermine someone’s understanding of who Jesus really is. We could give someone a false impression of God’s authority, judgement, or grace.
Second, if we get so caught up in our religious doctrines that we can’t see God through the ritual, our religion actually becomes a hindrance. The Centurion wasn’t relegated to following a manipulated pharisaical law that subjected the people to a faith built on works. He could see Jesus’ power demonstrated independent of the skepticism associated with religious pride and tradition.
He could see Jesus for who He really was.…
Jesus reserved His condemnation not for a Centurion representative of a pagan culture but Jesus immediately conferred it upon His own unbelieving people.
Matthew 8:11-12 “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Did this mean that Jesus was judgemental of all of Israel?—Actually, yes, it did. His own people had missed the mark when it came to being found faithful. The Lord had revealed knowledge of His holiness to that stubborn people for thousands of years, only to see them turn away in a few short generations. The Lord would bring judgement upon them, they would repent and return to Him, then they would eventually fall away all over again. Stubbornness and hard heartedness were attributes God has described His people by, and yet these attributes extend to all people.
Romans 2:5 “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”
Just like Israel, God has revealed His goodness and power to us. Whether it is through His Creation or by a demonstration of His power in a multitude of ways, we all see evidence of God….the question is, how do we respond to Him?.
With each refusal to listen to His call, with each decision to follow our own path and neglect the One that He has set before us, we bring judgement upon our own heads.
How long must God be patient with us?
How do we expect Him to respond regarding our poor behavior?
How long can we test Him while continually expecting grace?
These are questions I’ve had myself for years. I have felt like I have tested God’s patience far to many times. I’m always shocked when I see the evidence of His grace in my life, time and time again.
The frustration that Jesus exhibited towards His own people at that moment as He witnessed this profound faith in a man who was not a Jew was a godly frustration that had built over generations. Do you want to see God’s heart? Watch how Jesus responded to people like this.
Matthew 8:13 “Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.”
The Lord honors Faith.
*Regardless of who is demonstrating the faith, when faith is placed in Christ alone, it is to these God reveals His power.
Do you have an area that you desire God to intervene in? How much do you trust Him? Really, these are the questions we must ask ourselves.
Trusting in the Lord is more than hoping He blesses you as you do your own thing. Like the Centurion it may require a forsaking of your previous allegiances, it may require humility, or it may be necessary for you to swallow your pride and recognize that God has a purpose and plan that you are not aware of and you simply need to trust His providence.
When Hope is placed in God’s court—-look out! He likes that kind of faith…alot. You will see His goodness in your circumstances if you will only be patient and allow Him to work according to His wisdom and timing.
Afterward, you will reap the blessing of greater faith, peace in knowing that He is in control, and others will see and their faith will grow as well.