Only one time in the Gospels are we told that Jesus actually ‘marveled’ at the faith demonstrated by another person. That in itself is reason to pause, and ponder, what made the faith of the centurion so amazing? What was it about his faith, what did he know, what did he believe or how did he express it that Jesus stood still and paused for moment is utter amazement?
Was this person that Jesus marveled at a learned Pharisees that had memorized the five books of Moses, a Sadducees who could recite theology in his sleep? Nope it was a heathen, a Roman Centurion.
Luke 7:2-10 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 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. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 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.” 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.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
Jesus did not marvel at first
We see that Jesus has responded to the basic demonstration of faith, the centurion has expressed that he believes Jesus can, in some way, help his servant and so Jesus starts heading to the house. At this point Jesus is not marveling, he is just going. Most people that believe in God have little trouble believing that Jesus can heal the sick, but that kind of faith does not make Jesus marvel, something more is needed. Something more needs to be demonstrated that is beyond the norm, beyond ‘simple belief’. As Jesus nears the house the Centurion sends another envoy to meet him and it’s this moment that really catches the imagination and wonder of Jesus.
I too am a man under authority
The entire reason that Jesus declared that this Roman centurion had the most impressive faith he had ever seen was because this centurion understood that the power that Jesus had flowed directly as a result of his submission to authority. He tells Jesus, I know you don’t have to be here, just say the word! I know how authority works so I know how your power and your words will work in this situation! Notice he says I too… not I am, and therefore I understand, but I too. Not only did he understand authority because he was under it himself, under the authority of Rome, but he also recognized that Jesus also was under authority, the authority of the Father. So what is it about the understanding of authority that made this centurions faith so impressive?
I say ‘go’ and he goes, ‘come’ and he comes
The centurion went on to explain his understanding, experientially, of how authority works (and therefore how the authority of Jesus works). He explained that he tells servants and soldiers who are under him, to go and they go, to come and they come. This is profound! When someone is submitted to your authority, they obey your commands! If a man is your master you obey what he says. If a man is your commanding officer you obey what he says! But this whole point hinges on the fact that the centurion’s authority over his soldiers only exists because he himself is under authority.
You must be under authority to have authority
The soldiers obey the centurion because they know that ultimately, to disobey him is to disobey Rome. When he gives an order, it’s as though all of Rome is standing behind him in agreement. When Jesus gives an order to sickness or foul spirits, all of heaven stands behind him as power flows from the Father. When he says Go! Sickness goes! Sickness and evil spirits cannot resist the power and authority that Jesus unleashes when he speaks and it’s the understanding of this power, this authority, this structure and flow, that the centurion has that makes his faith something to marvel at indeed! He knows his own authority and he knows how to exercise it, he knows then that Jesus does not need to come to his house for he knows that Jesus authority is over all things! Now that's some faith!
Jesus was impressed by two key statements; (1) I tell this one go and he goes, and (2) I tell another one come and he comes. What amazes me is that these are the same two commands that Jesus gives those who would follow him and call him their Lord and obedience to them is the greatest expression of faith… trusting in his decisions and responding to his authority.
The first thing Jesus says to his disciples is ‘come’. Every Christian has responded to this call, this command, to come to Jesus to be saved. This first command is the command of a Savior offering salvation. You cannot rely on you good deeds or your knowledge to be your savior, only Jesus can save you, only Jesus has the authority needed to redeem your life and rescue you, and me, from sin and death.
The last thing Jesus says is ‘go and make disciples’. This is not just the command of Jesus your savior but of Jesus your Lord and it’s here that many stumble, it’s here that many struggle to accept the authority of Christ in and over their life. Everyone wants a savior, but not everyone wants a lord. Jesus wants to be both or none. This is why the flow of power is often hindered in a believers life because the flow of power is dependent on the flow of faith, which as we have seen, hinges on an acceptance and understanding of the authority of Jesus. The centurion understood and submitted himself to the authority structure that Jesus was operating under. We too, if we are to call Jesus Lord, must submit to and live under the authority structure that God has placed over us, namely, Christ. The truth is, everyone has a lord, something we submit to, something we honor above other things, something we trust in and disobedience to Jesus as Lord means we must be obeying something or someone else, often, ourselves. We want Jesus as a functional savior, we want the perks and benefits of salvation, but not the yoke of Christ’ lordship.
⇒The flow of power is dependent on the flow of faith
To disobey the command to Go is to disobey and disregard the authority of not only Jesus your Savior and Lord but of the one he is under, God the Father. Jesus said in John 14, if you love me, you will obey my commands. And Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith, for the most part, is practical obedience to the commands of Jesus. Come: Love God, Go: Love your neighbor & make disciples. Coming to Jesus is just as important to Going for Jesus; both are acts of obedience and faith, both are acts of worship and submission. Once you have come, you must go, make disciples.