The centurion found in Matthew 8:5-11 was a man who understood the concept of authority. He was someone both subject to the authority of those who ranked higher than him as well as someone who had authority over others. This understanding opened a path for the centurion to have great faith in Jesus to heal his servant. Since he understood the authority given to Jesus by the Father, he was able to believe Jesus had authority to heal.
Many on the outside looking in may have seen the centurion’s faith as ridiculous. After all, he was not only asking for a miraculous cure, but also for his servant to be healed from a distance.
To further complicate matters, the centurion belonged to the invading Army of the Roman Empire. He would have likely been seen as an oppressor of the Jews, someone on the outside of the circle of faith (not unlike the many tax collectors encountered elsewhere in Scripture).
Some may have asked, “how could he have faith, let alone receive healing?”
Jesus has authority to attract and heal even those “on the outside” for “many will come from the east and the west,” Jesus says in Matthew 8:11.
What is our understanding of Jesus’ authority to heal the wounds of our world today? Do we believe He has authority to heal the illnesses that surround us, to bring good out of disaster or a pandemic, to save the oppressed as well as heal the oppressors of our time? Do we believe He has authority to heal the worst criminals of our day and to save the world from an environmental disaster? Do we believe He has authority to unite our country and our world across the canyon of deep-seated division we are experiencing and the violence that has erupted as a result?
When we pray in the name of Jesus, do we pray with great confidence in his authority over all things?
For our own growth in understanding Christ’s authority over all that is happening in our world today can fuel our Advent hope this season. Will our hope this Advent be contained by a limited view of what Christ can do, or will it expand as we continue to come to Christ in hope and faith with what may seem impossible?
Each time we receive the Eucharist, we too are asked to unite across what may divide us and allow God to expand our own perception of what Christ can do in our world and our lives. We do so by expressing together in great faith the authority given to Christ as we repeat the words of the centurion: “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
What does your soul need to be healed of today? Perhaps we are all invited to be healed of a limited understanding of what Christ can do when we learn, as the centurion has learned, to place our hope in Christ alone.
“So by fixing our hope up above, we have set it like an anchor on firm ground, able to hold against any of the stormy waves of this world, not by our own strength but by that of the one in whom this anchor of our hope has been fixed. Having caused us to hope, after all, he will not disappoint us, but will in due course give us the reality in exchange for the hope.”