2 June 2013

Luke 7:1-10

“‘For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me …’ ... when Jesus heard this he was amazed at him.” (vv. 8, 9)


This little story of an individual's trust in his faith is surely as moving to us as it was to Jesus. It is not often that we encounter such expressions of total belief 'though elsewhere in the world many people that I have spoken to, would not consider this rare.

Jesus had been trying to convey how important it is that we root our faith deeply, when messengers arrived to request Christ's presence to heal a servant. Not only was the servant at a distance from Jesus but the servant's master, a centurion, perfectly illustrated what Christ had been saying. He describes how he understands his belief to be such an integral part of his life. Christ recognises that the centurion is very special if not unique, so that when the messengers return to the house they find the servant healed because of the centurion's faith.

The Jewish elders, whom the centurion had sent as messengers, convey a message that tells of a chain of command, a line of authority that begins with a declaration of the centurion's humility. He feels unworthy to receive Jesus in his home and keeps him at a distance, whilst at the same time describing his own situation as one who gives orders as well as one who receives them.

Does he feel constrained by this line of authority? Is he stuck in a social system that he finds hard to break out of, for his modesty, surely, would take little delight in holding such an important rank? Yet he uses this to tell of his faith and his trust in Jesus.

What an example to us all of how to conduct our human relationships! So often we see people take delight in their own supremacy, especially over those less fortunate than themselves. We have only to look at some city bankers, politicians and local government officers or police personnel to see how power and authority can corrupt.

The centurion's acceptance of his place in society and the responsibilities that it carries throws a light on how we might behave when we too are caught up in social chains of authority. For it is not the supremacy of position that matters here, but how we care for one another within the systems that exist, and how we trust that good will happen through our own lives and the way we lead them.

To Ponder

  • How do we form the nature of our human relationships? Where do we see ourselves as having authority and what is the nature of that authority?
  • The centurion was trusting in the unseen. How might you justify your faith to a sceptic when so much of it relies on the unseen?

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.