[The Roman officer said,] “I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” (Matthew 8:9)
Some of us have a tricky relationship with authority because we have been hurt by those who have abused their authority. As a result, we don’t trust authority figures and we don’t trust authority unless we hold it. The underlying issue is safety.
Properly understood and used, authority should provide safety and protection for those under it. But authority needs trust in order to do its job properly. A police officer directing traffic will not be able to do their job if the drivers around them do not recognize and submit to their authority. When those drivers trust the officer, they are able to fulfill their role and keep everyone safe in the process.
In chapter 8 of his biography of Jesus, Matthew tells us about several healings that Jesus did in the area around the Sea of Galilee after He preached the Sermon on the Mount. In His conversation with the man who had leprosy, Jesus indicated His willingness to heal. By completing this and other healings, Jesus showed His ability to heal. By healing the Roman officer’s servant, Jesus demonstrated His authority to heal.
It was common in that time to summon gifted people to come and heal loved ones. They would come and apply ointments to the ill or injured person, perform rituals and pray. Any healing that happened would be a gift from God. But, generally speaking, the healer would have to be present with the person needing healing and the healer would have to do something. Jesus Himself usually healed this very same way.
The Roman officer recognizes that Jesus has the authority to heal and, with that authority, Jesus does not need to be present nor does He need to do anything. Matthew tells us that the Roman officer, a person from a different faith background than Jesus, said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.” (v. 8)
Jesus responds by turning to those who were following Him and saying, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (v. 10)
Faith recognizes the authority of Jesus to heal and to save. Because we trust in Jesus, we place ourselves under His authority. We go where He calls us to go and we do what He calls us to do because we choose to give Him authority over all that we are and all that we have. He is our Lord.
That uneasy tension that some of us have with authority is still there, and all of us falter and fail in our efforts to willingly grant Jesus authority over our lives and follow Him. But the Good News is that the healing work that Jesus does in our heart and soul is not dependent in any way upon us. The safest place in all of creation for us to be is under Jesus’ authority. There He watches over us and keeps us eternally safe in His loving care.
One of the main word pictures that Jesus uses to describe how He cares for us is a Good Shepherd who watches over His sheep. In John 10, we read these promises from Jesus, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)
A shepherd has authority over his sheep, but it is the kind of authority that preserves, protects and provides. We need that kind of authoritative, compassionate care and Jesus is always ready, willing and able to provide it. With the faith the Holy Spirit gives us, we embrace Jesus and His loving, healing authority.
Dear Jesus, thank You for using Your authority to heal and restore. By Your Spirit, help me to live under Your authority. Under the umbrella of your authority and rooted in Your love, I pray that You would bring healing to my heart and produce fruitfulness in my life which blesses others and draws them closer to You. Amen.