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Under Authority

November 5 2023

Book: Luke

Scripture: Luke 7:1-10

Imagine meeting the greatest man who ever lived and imagine that the only words he says to you are the greatest compliment he’s ever given.

That’s the story we will read today. Jesus, the greatest man who ever lived, gives the most unlikely person the greatest compliment you will find in the Gospel of Luke.

1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.

2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him.

3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.

4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him,

5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”

It is rare that you would find a Roman official who is loved by the Jews. The Romans were occupying Judea. But this man has earned a reputation of being a friend of the Jews.

6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.

7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.

We can already see this man’s heart. He has a tremendous respect for Jesus and obvious humility. But there’s more.

8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

What an amazing compliment… Jesus publicly honors a Roman centurion, saying to a crowd of Jews, “This man has more faith than any of you.”

Why? What is it about verse 8 that shows Jesus his faith? Let’s read it again.

8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

I have to admit, this used to be a very confusing passage for me because I did not understand Jesus’ perception of his own ministry.

The centurion recognizes that Jesus is a very powerful man BECAUSE he is a man under authority. That made no sense to me because I thought power came from being IN authority. But Jesus commends the centurion for his faith, because he gets it.

In God’s kingdom, all power and authority are DERIVED from God. The centurion had authority because he was a servant of the emperor. His authority was derived from the authority of his ruler.

Jesus, likewise, received power and authority from the Father. He willingly humbled Himself. Taking on human flesh, Jesus willingly became a servant, submitting Himself to the Father’s will.

This is a major theme in the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John.

I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. – John 5:30

I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. – John 6:38

The Apostle Paul explained that Jesus submitted to the Father willingly for the glory of God and to demonstrate to us an important aspect of the Kingdom. (Philippians 2:5-11)

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Over and over, Jesus demonstrated incredible power. He showed his power over sin, death, sickness, demon possession, and even the weather.

But, in His own words, Jesus did all of that was under the authority of the Father!

The centurion recognizes that Jesus is a servant and Jesus calls that “faith”.

Think back to the beginning of Luke – to the first picture we have of Jesus… the first recorded words of Jesus. He was missing for three days. Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple. And what did Jesus say to them? (Luke 2:49)

“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

These are the first words of Jesus in the Bible – honoring His Father. But it is also the first sign that something is wrong with everyone else.

Jesus became aware of the fact that we don’t have the kind of relationship with the Father that He does. And that He was the only One who could fix that.

Think about the fifth commandment. Do you remember the fifth commandment? “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Paul calls this the only command with a promise. If we obey, we will be blessed.

I once heard this described as a “circle of blessing”. Our parents set appropriate rules and boundaries for us. They tell us what they expect from us. When we honor and obey our parents, it’s like standing inside a circle of blessing. There are rewards for staying inside the circle. But if we step outside the circle, there are consequences.

Jesus is the only person who has ever lived that never stepped outside of the circle. We were all outside the circle, but Jesus only ever did what His Father wanted. Even His death on the cross, when He carried our sins and guilt, even that was obedience to the Father.

And that’s how Jesus made it possible for us to get back inside the circle of blessing. His perfect obedience is available to us because God says that we can be united to Jesus by faith.

And what is faith? It is trusting the authority of our perfect King. We trust that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Just like the centurion, we are not worthy to go to Jesus. We are not worthy even to receive Jesus. But we ask for help in faith, trusting His power to make things right.

Like the servant, we were sick and dying and helpless – lost in sin. Only an encounter with Jesus could save us.

And when that happens, God places us back inside the circle of blessing – something the Bible calls “union with Christ”.

Our union with Jesus is the foundation for all the blessings we have available to us, including the power to change and mature as believers.

It’s important to understand – we get back in the circle because of Jesus. We stay in the circle because of Jesus. But now that we are back in the circle of blessing, God absolutely desires our obedience.

God wants us to live every moment under His authority. He wants us to become more and more like Jesus – for our lives to begin to mirror His character and His mission.

We are called to a life of service in God’s kingdom. Every single Christian…

We are called to submit to God’s will for our lives. It’s a good and perfect will, but the path looks and feels a lot like the path of Jesus. Glory at the end, but a lot of suffering in the middle.

Jesus has the power to make everything new. And One day He will do it, because He is a good King. But if you want to experience that world, faith and repentance are absolutely necessary.

The Gospel is both an invitation and a challenge at the same time. God is inviting into a new life – a life only available to us because of what Jesus did. But He is going to ask a lot of us.

God takes us the way He finds us, but He never leaves us the way He found us.

Think of the best teacher you’ve ever had. Or the best coach. Or the best boss or mentor. Think of that person. Chances are, they did two things well.

They gave you access to their knowledge, their experience, maybe even their life. But they also challenged you to be better at something than you were before.

And you didn’t hate them for it. You appreciated it. You’re a better person because of their investment in your life. Part of it was the relationship. Part of it was what the relationship demanded of you. And you were grateful for it. That’s why you’re thinking of them right now!

This is also true for followers of Jesus. He’s invited us into His world. He gives us a seat at His table. He’s done everything necessary. We’re in.

But He’s also challenging us to start living for Him. Seek His kingdom. Turn from our sin. Enjoy the relationship AND get to work. Not because you have to, but because you GET to! Because He put you back in relationship with the Creator… He’s given you new life… He’s given you a purpose and a calling… and you’re grateful!