Authority – January 27, 2019
“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.”
First, it is drilled into them. Then, it becomes part of everyday life. Within the ranks of the military, authority counts!
It makes no difference if the command is issued by someone two feet away or two thousand miles. Legitimate authority produces results. That’s true in the U.S. Armed Forces of today, and it was true in the Roman legions two millennia ago.
Jesus was a witness to it.
The soldier was a centurion. He commanded about 100 troops. That he was a Roman centurion, tells us he was part of an effective and polished military power. That he was in the land of Jesus, means he was deployed to one of the troubled backwaters of the Roman Empire.
Here he would pay a warrior’s tribute to his Superior Officer. Here, he showed the world what it means that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord.
His servant was on the verge of death. He sent local religious leaders to beg help from the well-known Jewish miracle worker in his AO, area of operations. Yet, when Jesus set off to provide that help, the centurion stopped him with the surprising words, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself….”
It’s not that he changed his mind. It’s not that he doubted Jesus could help. Actually, this soldier was so convinced that Jesus did have authority over life and death, that he knew Jesus would not have to be physically present to save the servant’s life.
His message was: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself…for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” He explained how authority worked when he told a soldier, “Go” or “Come” or “Do this.”
There must be more to the story, and there is. The people the centurion had sent to Jesus told him: “This man deserves to have you do this….” They explained why: “…because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
Amazing! He was a Gentile, not a Jew. At this time in history, Romans worshiped heathen gods—if they recognized any god at all. Moreover, Roman troops generally had little regard for the people who lived under their military fist.
This soldier was different!
This soldier loved these people and built a synagogue for them.
He knew about Jesus! He addressed him with the respectful title, “Lord.”
Since Jesus was using Capernaum as his home base after the citizens of Nazareth tried to kill him, it does not surprise us that this Roman officer knew about the one who stirred the crowds with his teaching and miracles. What does surprise us is what Jesus said about him: “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
This soldier had placed his faith in Jesus. It was proven valid. We hear, “Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well” (Luke 7:9,10).
The prophets had said that even Gentiles would come to bow down before the Messiah. What was often scoffed at was fulfilled, not only by the Wise Men, but by this soldier.
Not only by this soldier, but by us.
We believe him when he tells us our salvation is completed with the words from the cross, “It is finished.” We do not need to see him do it to believe it.
His words have the authority to make it so.
Prayer: Savior Jesus, too often we doubt your power and your love. Too often we want to see you act with our own eyes. We easily forget the words you spoke to doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Holy Spirit, give us the faith of that Roman soldier. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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