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For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under myself; 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.” Now when Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” Luke 7:8-9

What is Jesus drawing from the centurion's comment that made him so amazed and respond with the comment about faith?

In my view the 'under authority' is a critical point of enquiry. This is not about having authority directly.

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The Roman Centurion operated under the authority of his superiors in Rome. His Roman masters would issue orders and he would execute them. As a commander of men, the Centurion had authority to issue orders to his men and expect them to do as he commanded. He understood how authority was delegated.

The Centurion must have realised that Jesus was also a man with authority. He knew that Jesus only had to command and it would be done. The Centurion felt no need to approach Jesus in person to ask him to heal his servant. Instead, he sent some elders of the Jews to plead with Jesus. Scripture tells us that the Centurion was a man who loved the Jews and he had built the synagogue in Capernaum (Luke 7:4).

When Jesus drew near to the house of the Centurion, he told Jesus there was no need for him to come under his roof. He must have known that a Jew would ceremonially defile himself if he entered the house of a Gentile (Luke 7:6). The Centurion, a Gentile, had faith that Jesus only had to utter the command (to heal his servant) and it would be done.

No wonder Jesus was amazed! His own people, even those who lived in his home town of Nazareth, considered Jesus to be “a prophet without honour”. Because of their unbelief, Jesus was able to heal only a few people in Nazareth (Mark 6:6). Yet here he was, in Capernaum, and a Roman Centurion, a Gentile, had faith that Jesus of Nazareth had the authority and the power to heal his servant simply by speaking the word.

The Roman Centurion recognised that Jesus was a man who had authority to command and to heal, unlike the people of Israel who did not have such faith.

Edit in response to "under authority":

Let's be clear - the Roman Centurion, a mere mortal, was under the authority of his superiors.

Jesus, on the other hand, was no mere mortal. Jesus had authority to perform miracles, to heal the sick and even resurrect the dead. While on earth Jesus subjected himself to his Father in heaven, in order to do the will of him who sent him, but still exercised his divine authority.

I see no point in pursuing this question further with anyone who denies that Jesus was fully human and fully God, and who denies his pre-incarnate existence. I know what you are trying to get at, but neither Luke nor Matthew suggest that Jesus was like the Centurion, who was "under" authority.

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  • Ty for a lovely explanation. Though, you have missed the under authority mentioned and highlighted in the text.
    – steveowen
    May 21 at 21:51
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    The question is clearing probing for the matter of the Son (in deity) being subject to the Father and the matter of authority within deity : 'My Father is greater than I'. And probing for the implications behind this matter of authority. This is the (unstated) 'critical point of enquiry'. It would be better to actually state it, in my view.
    – Nigel J
    May 22 at 8:05
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    I agree with Nigel J - it would have been far better to come out with the real purpose behind this question at the outset.
    – Lesley
    May 22 at 9:50
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What is Jesus [concluding] from the centurion's [words] that amazed [Him]?

Answer: Jesus recognized a powerful faith in the man, more so than in all Israel.

This is precisely what verse 9 is describing:

Luke 7:9: Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith” (emphasis added).

No doubt, unlike many Gentiles, and perhaps more specifically, Roman soldiers, Christ was amazed that someone in this man's position could ever be so humble and forthright:

Luke 6b-7a: "[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 even consider myself worthy to come to You" (emphasis added).

Many Gentiles, including this Roman official, were very interested in hearing the words of Christ. Obviously some high-ranking military officers were impressed and humbled by the Lord's authority to perform miracles — something only deity could accomplish. His fame had surely become known to many outside Israel.

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  • Ty, though I think you missed the point of the authority connection.
    – steveowen
    May 21 at 21:46
  • @user48152 Thanks. I edited to include that.
    – Xeno
    May 21 at 22:00
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If we read the entire context, Jesus is praising his humility, and his trust/faith that Jesus could do what it was he desired:

Luke 7:1-10 And when he had finished all his words in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capharnaum. 2 And the servant of a certain centurion, who was dear to him, being sick, was ready to die. 3 And when he had heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the ancients of the Jews, desiring him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying to him: He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him. 5 For he loveth our nation; and he hath built us a synagogue. 6 And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to him, saying: Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. 7 For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to thee; but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. 9 Which Jesus hearing, marvelled: and turning about to the multitude that followed him, he said: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith, not even in Israel. 10 And they who were sent, being returned to the house, found the servant whole who had been sick.

We use these epitomic words of humility and faith in the Roman Liturgy (with a first person twist) directly before reception of the Eucharist:

Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima me.

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

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"For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under myself..." v8

The emphasis is on the word 'also'. This is what links the two verses/phrases - both the centurion and Jesus were 'under' authority. They had this in common. Jesus seized on the centurion's realisation of this truth to make a point about faith and this reality they shared.

When one understands authority - not the man-made kind the Pharisees ruled with, but the divine mandate that Jesus operated under, then authority is good. It is for our good and not our harm or disadvantage.

We can easily think bad of authority as it is 'lorded' over us - not for our benefit but for sake of those wielding the power. Sadly this is what mankind has become accustomed to.

Jesus wielded authority too, but it was by love, respect and justice because he represented God when he healed, made wine, fed thousands etc.

The centurion was aware of the power Jesus exercised. He was able to grasp that Jesus was also under authority as he was. He saw the fruits of Jesus life and the events that occurred by his hand and word and noticed there was a power for good working through him.

"I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” v9

The centurion's understanding was regarded as faith by Jesus - marvelling that not even amongst God's people was this understanding and trust/faith evident.

Notice Jesus 'turned' and said this to those Jews/Israel who followed him - a reprimand of sorts for their 'little' faith considering what they should have had with their entire backstory, experiences and heritage as God's people of promise.

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Matt 11:25

Throughout Jesus' short ministry, God allowed several 'gentiles' to understand and leap past the Jews' hindered view of what was going on in their midst - the Messiah that they waited for was here, but they saw and believed him not.

When Jesus spoke, his word carried the weight of the One over him - his Father and God. The centurion probably never saw the depth of this reality, but he did understand the concept and that was enough to believe in. It was enough to have his servant healed.

Jesus, by his response, affirmed that he indeed was under the authority of God.

But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matt 9:8

Christ never took glory for himself - he always directed glory to God - to God's power, God as the miracle worker etc. We see further on this expressed.

A sense of awe swept over all of them, and they glorified God. “A great prophet has appeared among us!” they said. “God has visited His people!” v16

This latter phrase is not of course to assume that Jesus is somehow God, but that he represents God - just as a (Godly) prophet always did.

In summary.

Jesus' response points to the matter of him being under the authority of God and of the faith that is dependant on that reality - not of God directly doing good amongst them, but of God through a man, Jesus. Jesus persistently points to God in all things. Jesus' faith, trust, dependence, reliance is exactly what he wants us to understand and live by because it is only through him that we might come to the Father.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:26

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If we look at the semantic structure of the verse in question, the centurion himself makes it clear that by “under authority” he is referring to the fact that he has soldiers and slaves who are under his authority and obliged to obey him.

  • For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under myself; 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.” - verse 8

Instead of a chain of command, perhaps the words “under authority” reflect a philosophy of leadership. In other words, the centurion saw himself as one who is under or who bears the burdens and responsibilities of authority. This interpretation of his words is supported by the actions that he took and what they reveal about his character. Though he was clearly a man of high rank, he took pains to care for and be of service to a mere slave. And in order to save this servant, he, a centurion, did not think it beneath his dignity to humble himself before Jesus, a Jew.

The idea of a leader as one who is under authority contrasts with the definition of leadership as having authority over others (Mt 20:25). In this sense the centurion shared Jesus’ leadership philosophy.

  • But the greatest of you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. - Mt 23:11-12

  • You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’; and you are correct, for so I am. 14 So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. - Jn 13:13-14

The word "also" indicates that the centurion saw a parallel between himself and Jesus, that they shared a common understanding of what constitutes authority and what true leadership entails (v. 7).

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