“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
I think we can all relate to how it feels to have a loved one severely ill and in need of healing by the chief physician. I think back to when both my daughter and son were in the hospital with a ruptured appendix. My wife and I reached out to our family, friends, and church for prayer and support. In both cases, everything turned out fine, but never before have I felt as vulnerable and in need of comfort as only the Holy Spirit can provide. Not only did he see me through the situation, but carried me every step of the way!
Another situation I found myself in was being on a small boat in the Gulf of Mexico fishing with friends. It was a perfectly calm day, and the fish were biting. We were only a couple miles offshore, so we felt comfortable with the gentle seas. At noon, it was another story! How quickly the conditions changed as the tide changed over from high to low and the winds picked up. Thick fog set in and now we had to navigate 3 – 4-foot seas around oyster bars that were previously under water. It was all that we and the fishing boat could handle. I now knew how the disciples felt when they were crying out to Jesus, because I would have been right there with them! Using our electronics and much prayer, we made it back to the fishing camp! It never felt so good to have solid ground under our feet. I can personally relate to two serious situations found in Matthew chapter 8. Ironically, both of these deal with authority and faith.
“For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
When we read about the Roman Centurion in chapter 8, we come away thinking “Wow, this guy gets it.” God revealed Himself to a Roman Centurion, a Gentile, to explain how the Kingdom operates. As my business law professor would put it: “Here are the facts of the case.”
- The Centurion was a commanding officer. Probably, he was in command of 100 soldiers.
- He came to Jesus with a request. Luke’s account of this story is that he sent his servants.
- The Centurion respected Jewish law. Knowing that a Jew entering his home would make them ceremonial unclean (although Jesus was willing to come anyway!).
- The Centurion understood authority. One can’t be in proper authority without being under authority (9).
- He knew Jesus operated under God’s authority. All Jesus had to do was speak the words, and his servant would be healed (13).
- Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. The Roman Centurion understands the mystery of the kingdom. He ‘gets it’ that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus commends the Centurion in front of the multitudes present.
- The Centurion’s faith exceeds that of those in Israel (10).
- Jesus reveals many from the East and West (outsiders/Gentiles) will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven
If we came with “Wow, this guy ‘gets it’” in this story, we also come away with “These guys don’t ‘get it’ in the next story where we see authority and faith (or little faith in this next case). As I mentioned earlier, I can’t be too hard on these guys. I know what it feels like to be in a small boat in turbulent waters. As I listed above, here are the “facts of the case”.
- Jesus gets into the boat, and his disciples follow him. So far so good (23)
- A great storm arose, and the waves start coming over into the boat. Getting ‘shaky’ here (24)
- Jesus is asleep!
- They woke Jesus and pleaded for him to save them (25)
- Jesus rebuked them “oh you of little faith” (26)
- Jesus rebuked the winds and sea, and there was great calm
- The disciples marveled at his authority (27)
It’s easy for us to to be harsh on these guys, right? I mentioned before that raging seas are very unsettling and can make you feel vulnerable. Not an easy place to exhibit faith. Keep in mind that Jesus didn’t say “no” faith, but “little” (or ineffective) faith. This was again a teaching moment with His disciples. But this time they saw it with their own eyes and no words were needed for this teaching moment. His actions spoke this lesson.
In both of these stories, we see authority and faith in action together. The Centurion shows us that authority comes from above. God is the ultimate authority and has placed all things under his beloved son (Colossians 1:15-20). Romans 13 instructs us to honor governing authority. It serves to protect everyone under its jurisdiction. Christ gives authority to men. Starting with these fearful men who were with him in the boat. Later these same men became powerful and fearless Apostles and preached the Gospel tirelessly, even laying down their lives for the Gospel. God also put his authority into his word for us to read, study and apply to our lives. This produces faith in Christ.
“So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).