"For I too am a man under authority." Luke 7:8
Principle: God releases His power, through praying people who choose to be under His authority.
Luke's account of the exchange between the Roman centurion, and Jesus provides an ancient story that clarifies a contemporary application of the power of prayer.
The Roman centurion was a stranger, and an invader in the land of Israel. He had discovered the key to the hearts of the people, his emperor had sent him to subjugate and dominate. He loved them. When his servant was near death, he entreated his Jewish friends to plead his case to Jesus.
The Bible says, "When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave." (Luke 7:3) This simple statement is loaded with significance. The elders of the village were the men who spoke for the people, and settled disputes among them. The occupying Romans were a thorn in the side of any Jewish authority. The Jews were conquered people and subjects of a foreign king. The centurion was his representative, and was authorized by Rome to do what was necessary to subjugate the people of Israel. Somehow, this Roman centurion had found a way to honor his king, and win the respect of the people he was sent to rule over. Nation building is not a new concept. Soldiers know instinctively that wars are not won solely on the battle field, but in the hearts of men.
For a nation at war the Middle East, the next passage of Scripture gives a glimpse into the art of war that soldiers on the battlefield in every century have learned to implement, in very tough assignments. The Romans had won the war with the Jews, but the continued occupation of their land was not likely to win their hearts. However, one centurion had found a way to do it. "And when they had come to Jesus, they earnestly entreated Him saying, 'He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation, and it was he who built us our synagogue.' Now Jesus started on His way with them." (Luke 7:4-5)
Jesus went with the elders in response to the request He received from the centurion. The Jewish pleas of intercession on behalf of a Gentile must have stirred His heart. As he approached the home of the soldier, another delegation arrived, "...the centurion sent friends saying to Him, 'Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.' " (Luke 7:6-7)
This statement, figuratively and literally stopped Jesus in his tracks. The friends of the centurion went on to explain his reasoning. Halting Him was not a matter of any disrespect he held for Jesus, but a recognition of The One True God who was in authority over Jesus. "For I, too, am a man under authority with soldiers under me, and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes; and to another; 'Come!' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it.' "
Ron Dunn, a heaven sent teacher of the Word of God, pointed to this passage as the key issue in the life of the believer. Ron has been in heaven since July of 2001, but his insight into this principle remains one of the guiding lights of contemporary Christianity. Ron would say this passage is often misunderstood. When it is read, prideful ears do not hear what Jesus heard. The bible says "a man under authority." Most of the time people read this, and understand it to say, "in authority." The correct understanding of the statement reveals where the power of Jesus comes from. The wrong reading reveals where pride believes it comes from. Jesus was under the authority of God. The Gentile, Roman centurion sensed this in the life of Jesus.
People who seek to be in authority, without being under authority, will never know the full power of The Authority. God has ordained prayer to be the means of communication by which He delivers His power and Presence in the life of the believer. Prayerless people are prideful people. Prayerless pastors do not sense any need for the fullness of God's Presence and power, because they are full of themselves. They believe their past performance or present position are sufficient proof of their importance to God and the people they are called to serve. Appearances can be deceiving.
Jesus was profoundly moved, by the insight of the centurion. He recognized God was at work in the life of Jesus, because the Son could be trusted to carry out the will of the Father. He
saw between God and Jesus, the existence of a synergistic relationship. It was similar enough to the one he had with his own king, that he could see with the eyes of faith into the unseen hand of God at work. "Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that was following Him, 'I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.' " (Luke 7:9)
The amazing insight of the Roman centurion brought great commendation from Jesus. His discernment was based upon his experience as a soldier under the Emperor of Rome. He knew his power was derived from someone greater than himself. It was only available to him, if he maintained his submission and obedience to this higher authority. The centurion recognized this dynamic in Jesus. It was His proper relationship under the authority of God that allowed Jesus to be a representative of God's power on earth. The principle is the same for every soldier in the army of God. Jesus set the pattern. To be a public dispenser of God's authority, He knew He must first be under God's authority. No servant is greater than his Master.
The Practice of Prayer: Do people in authority rub you the wrong way? Do you chaff under the exercise of authority in your life? Do you struggle to be on your own, or to have your own way? Do you undermine people in authority over you? Do you always have a better idea, keener insight, and infallible hindsight, when you evaluate those to whom you are accountable? Pray for them, and ask God, "What do you want me to learn from You by being under Your authority?
Thought for the Day: A position of authority is no guarantee of the Presence of God's power. God grants His power to people who come to Him in prayer, and yield themselves to His authority over their lives.
"Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence." Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"For I too am a man under authority." Luke 7:8