Jesus Under Authority
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The centurion confesses before Jesus that he is not worthy. In fact, the only hope this soldier has that Jesus will do what he asks is that he knows Jesus is under authority, that is, "under orders." My brothers and sisters in Christ, the uncomfortable truth we all must face is that you and I are not worth saving. There is nothing in us which is worth the Lord's time and attention. We are born sinful, and we die the same way. There is none who has loved God or neighbor. These things the Scripture teaches. And this is the confession of the centurion.
The centurion knows he has no claim on Jesus. He has nothing to offer Jesus. He has nothing to give Jesus. There is no bargain he can make. All he can rightly say is this: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof! Only say the word and my servant will be healed!" Dear brothers and sisters, this is true and saving faith: that we confess we have no claim on God's mercy, no right to His blessings, that we deserve nothing but eternal punishment for our sins. Most popular preachers deliver the preaching of flattery which will only tell you how precious you are to God. God just can’t resist you! He just had to come and save you because you were worth saving. Such preaching only flatters; it certainly doesn't save. Flee such preaching! Confess with the centurion that you have no claim on the Lord and His mercy, that only His Word saves us.
Why does Jesus save us? The centurion answers this. He says, "I also am a man under authority." In other words, he receives orders and he will obey, and he gives orders which will be obeyed. Likewise, our Lord Jesus is "under orders." He is under orders from the Father to save sinners. Jesus comes to save us, not because we are worthy, but because He loves His Father and obeys His Father's will. Just as the centurion orders his servants and they carry out his will, so we confess that Jesus obeys the Father's will. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prays in the Garden: "Father, if it be possible, take this cup from Me; but not My will, but Yours be done." Our salvation hangs in the balance! Our Lord desires not to drink the cup of the damning judgment against our sins. But He did not come to do His will. He came to do the will of the Father who sent Him. That is our salvation. He saves sinners whom the Father commands Him to save, sinners who have no hope but in the Son’s obedience. He saves us by being obedient, even unto death, shedding His blood in our place to rescue us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
The centurion teaches us this also, that the salvation Jesus brings is brought to us by His Word. "Just speak the Word and my servant shall be healed." This salvation that our Lord brings does not come to us by any other means than His Word: Word spoken into our ears that proclaims that God's mercy is ours in Jesus Christ; the Word joined to the water which washes away our uncleanness; the Word which sets before us the body and blood of Jesus to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins.
The centurion knew that what He needed from Jesus was His Word. The ones whom the Father draws through Jesus are those who have no claim on His goodness other than the Lord’s mercy given in His holy gifts. Jesus is under holy orders, and He has fulfilled His orders from the Father and saved us. Now, from the men who are also under holy orders, we receive the same mercy of God in Jesus Christ, delivered in His holy gifts. "Speak the Word and my servant shall be healed." The Word of Jesus has been spoken: the Word of Absolution, the Word in the water, the Words of Institution which make simple bread and wine a feast of Christ’s body and blood. The Word has been spoken. May it be done for you as you have believed. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.