Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
July 6, 2008
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof:
7 wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say the word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
9 And when Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned and said unto the multitude that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole.
- I. The "Great Faith" of the Centurion.
- A. The record focuses upon the centurion's sense of personal unworthiness [great faith begins with great humility].
- 1. He sent the elders of the Jews to ask Jesus for grace.
- 2. When he saw that Jesus had responded to his desire, he sent "friends" to dissuade Him from coming into his house. This is actually the "point" at which the centurion knew that Jesus was going to heal his slave. His "great faith" was not "in place" until he knew that Jesus was amenable to his plea via the "elders" (who almost completely gummed up the process with their legalistic/proud demandingness).
- B. The record reveals the centurion's thoughts.
- 1. He linked Jesus to "authority".
- 2. He linked Jesus to "Roman" authority.
- 3. He tied Jesus' authority to "saying the word".
- a. This was "speak to the issue", not "say" the "word" (as if "word" was a direct object).
- b. His illustrations were "I say (lego) to this one ... and to another ... and to my servant..." and they "do it".
- C. The record reveals Jesus' "surprise" at the "faith" of the man because He had not found anything approaching it in Israel.
- 1. This is not to say that the Jews were not flocking to Jesus with their diseased and demon possessed, for they were. That they were doing that shows that they surely "believed" what they had seen and heard about His powers.
- 2. This is to say that the Jews had missed something profound in respect to Jesus' identity in regard to "authority". There is, in Paul's later explanation, a connection between "Love" and "Faith" (Galatians 5:6) that cannot be disassociated without ruining both. In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul posited the possibility of "Faith" being prompted by something less than "Love" and that such a reality would ultimately prove fruitless. By the same token, "Love" without "Faith" is worthless to accomplish any good thing. Thus, the Jews had missed the profound linkage between "authority" and its Root. Even for the centurion, "authority" was the ability to "speak to the issue" and the "issue" would bend to the will of the speaker. But what of that "authority" which "speaks to an issue" but does not enforce compliance? Many are the "disciples" of Jesus who basically ignore His authoritative speech. Is He less "authoritative" with them than He is when He speaks to "demons" with "authority" and they are forced to obey Him? No, the difference seems to be this: when Jesus speaks to those who are adamant about being His enemies, He brooks no disobedience (He "speaks" and they "obey" even though they are grinding their teeth in rage as they do it), but when He speaks to His own, He desires their obedience because of "Love" and if they can not give it to Him for that cause, He allows their disobedience. He is not so much concerned with a thing being done as He is with Love being exercised. Their disobedience is extraordinarily harmful to them (Jesus does not "command" us for any one's interests but our own so that He would not tell us "do this" for any but a good reason and any rejection we exercise only brings on the thing that Jesus would have prevented by His "command"), but that "harm" is not going to "go away" until "Love" reigns.
- 3. This raises this question: in what way was the centurion's "faith" different from that of the multitudes of Israel? Surely, the text forces us to consider the abject humility of the centurion in contrast with the elders of the Jews, but was that what was missing in all of Israel? Not obviously, for there were many down-trodden in Israel who had come to humility. So, what is the difference? It has to have something to do with the mixture of the centurion's humility and his "reasoning" regarding Jesus and "authority" but in some way that is different from the record surrounding Luke 4:36 where the Jews faced this "authority" issue also. What was it about Jesus and "authority" that was so "not" in Israel and yet so central to the centurion's kind of "faith"? Can it be the distinction that exists in the way Jesus exercises authority? This is the second textual focus (humility being the first). With Jesus there exists two kinds of the exercise of "authority". One kind brooks no disobedience and the other permits it. The Luke 4:36 context only addresses the "authority" of Jesus toward diseases and demons as "loveless" enemies who cannot/will not be subject to Him except by "force". This the Jews understood. For them the terror of the Law's penalties was the "force" that pervaded all of their theology. Because of the pervasiveness of the perverse use of Law by the leaders of Israel, there were, apparently, none in Israel who could relate to Jesus and "authority" on any level other than "force". So, how did the centurion escape that pervasive notion? He escaped, first, by not being a part of that culture, and he escaped, second, by simple reasoning: if Jesus would hearken to a Gentile's plea, His "authority" had to be driven by "Love", not "necessity". If that is the case, the centurion reasoned, "Love" does not "need" Jesus to "come into the house". How so? What is the connection between "grace" in "authority" and Jesus' "proximity" to the problem? How is "Don't come, just address the issue" a statement of "such faith" as was not in Israel? Does it not have to be a matter of "degree" rather than the presence/absence of some key element? For the centurion, "authority" against disease brooked no disobedience whereas anyone could see that "authority" against simple lovelessness allowed for disobedience. But, also for the centurion, "proximity" was a useless factor. If the kind of "authority" that disallows disobedience is exercised what difference can it possibly make where the Exerciser of that "authority" is in respect to the adversary? Does the proximity that allows for a "touch" make "authority" more real? In the Luke 4:36 context, the entire city gathered to Jesus and He "laid His hands on ... them, and healed them" (4:40). Thus, we may conclude that the "faith" of the centurion was one which set aside one of the most crucial perceptions of the "soul" -- that God must be near to be a Helper. For the centurion, the only "need" was for Jesus to be "willing" to hear the plea of an unworthy man. This willingness he saw when Jesus was drawing near to his house.
- 4. The fact is this: God will always do what Love constrains Him to do so that if we do not "get" what we seek from Him it is our task to find out the "unlove" in our request. Instead of blaming Him for not loving us, we ought to search out the way(s) that our request shows that we are not loving Him. It is "knee-jerk" for men to justify themselves and vilify any who oppose their "righteous" demands even if it is God Who opposes the demands.