Saturday, December 10, 2011

Under Authority: Reflections on Sovereignty

But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."  Matthew 8:8-10

Matthew 8 describes two scenes in which Jesus performs miraculous healings.  The first is a leper, the second, a servant of a Roman centurion, a Gentile.  Both are radical, both reveal faith in the ability of the Christ to heal, and both express a willingness to accept His will in the matter.  What has always confused me, however, was the speech of the centurion in verses 8-10.  Certainly, it makes sense that he might feel unworthy in Jesus' presence, but why on earth does he begin to talk about authority?  In the past, it appeared to me as a sort of random rant that had nothing to do with anything.  Rabbit trail maybe?  In scripture?  Probably not.

To add to my confusion, just after this little speech, scripture says that Jesus marveled at his words and claimed to have never witnessed such faith in anyone in Israel.  Maybe he was just ignoring the rabbit trail.  Again, not a likely conclusion.  Tonight, however, I began to understand why the centurion begins to speak of authority.  He was not simply going on about his responsibilities or bragging about his power, rather, he was acknowledging Christ's authority over physical ailments.  He likened his own ability to command soldiers to Jesus' ability to command sickness or pain to do His will.  He understood that this man had authority over our very flesh, and this was why Jesus points out his great faith.  If the servant was not healed, it wasn't because the Son of Man did not have the authority to do so, it would have been because He did not will to do so.

What a hard and awesome concept to wrestle with.  We pray for healing, we pray for miracles, we pray for our way and when it doesn't happen our faith is often shaken.  But what if, along with the centurion, we believed deep within ourselves that our good God has the authority to heal, but may simply choose not to on the basis of a wisdom we can't possibly understand?  We might just live our lives differently.  We might realize that our way may not (is probably not) the best way.  We might even find peace amidst physical suffering, knowing that God is good and sovereign and will not with hold His best from us.

How terrifying it would be to worship a god who did not have this authority?  He could be sweet and all that, but completely powerless, sitting by and watching just as helplessly as one of us.  Do we really want to worship a god like that?  The fact is that He does have authority over all things, that He is good, and that His will will be done.  

No comments: