The Worthy Centurion

The elders of the Jews said of the centurion, “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.” – Luke 7:4

The centurion said of himself, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” – Luke 7:6

Jesus said “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” – Luke 7:9

This could easily be handled as a text on humility. The centurion said he was unworthy, the Jews said he was worthy. Isn’t that how humility works? It isn’t what you say about yourself but what others say about you. Well sort of, but Jesus’ reply shows that it isn’t about humility in this case. In an interesting turn, this story is about authority!

The centurion was a man who understood authority. A centurion commanded a squad of 80 troops and some commanded cohorts which consisted of 480 troops. That is a lot of authority. And when Jesus comes to heal the centurion’s servant, the centurion response comes from what he knows. He understands that Jesus has authority over the sickness and death and life. The centurion understood that if Jesus issued the command for disease and death to depart that they would. This is why Jesus responds the way he did. He didn’t say “I haven’t seen this kind of humility in Israel” because though the centurion was being humble, it was his faith in Jesus’ authority that was most noteworthy.

The next string of stories continue to show the extent of Jesus’ authority. He raises a boy from death. When John’s disciples ask if he is the one, he point to the miracles he’s done. He shows his authority to forgive sins when a “sinful woman” washes, kisses and anoints his feet.

Just as it would be an oversimplification to say that the centurion story was only about authority, it would likewise be wrong to say that these other are only about authority. Each story has major and minor themes and applications in the book. I just found it interesting how the word “worthy” showed up twice and then how it really wasn’t the point!

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