(08-10-12) Authority - Ephesians 6.1-10; Luke 7.1-10
Authority can get a bad press today. Quite often, when we hear about authority we are hearing about its abuse, rather than its thoughtful and appropriate exercising. I don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that there’s an underlying mistrust of authority in society. And that’s a shame, because good and proper authority leads to good results / Mae awdurdod da yn arwain i ganlyniadau da.
The centurion in today’s Gospel reading understood and trusted the authority structure of which he was apart. He would have both received orders and given them. To not obey orders that he received would be anathema to him and for his own orders to not be carried out would not only perplex him, but also anger him. This appreciation of appropriate authority, coupled with a knowledge of Jesus and his deeds combined to produce a faith which, the Gospel-writer informs us, ‘amazed’ Jesus / Roedd ei ffydd yn rhyfeddu Iesu. ‘When Jesus heard this, He was amazed...’ Luke tells us. Does that surprise you? Do we imagine Jesus being amazed, taken aback or surprised? It’s certainly not the first thing that springs to mind!
So what is it about the man’s faith that impresses Jesus so much? One answer might be that it is a faith that causes the centurion to act / Mae e’n ffydd sydd yn achosi e i weithredu. True faith is active, as it underpins and affects all that we say and do. The centurion had faith that Jesus could heal his servant. He also had faith that Jesus could heal him from a distance. What is more, he had faith that Jesus would heal him / Roedd ganddo e ffydd bydd Iesu yn ei wella. And that causes him to act. He asks Jesus to do what he believes he will do. And, of course, Jesus doesn’t disappoint.
The centurion had many resources available to him; access to doctors and money to spare on them. He could have relied on other methods to try to save his servant. Even believing all that he had heard about Jesus healing other people, he could easily have chosen not to bother Him. But understanding the power of authority, and correctly transposing that understanding onto Jesus turned his belief into faith, and his faith caused him to act. Jesus did and does have authority over all things / Roedd ganddo ac mae dal ganddo awdurdod dros pob peth. Truly, God doesn’t exercise that authority in quite the way we might imagine – he allows us free will – but within the constrains that He has set Himself, that authority cannot be denied nor withstood.
Like the centurion only more so, we have access to the holder of this authority. In fact, we are under His authority. Were He to say ‘Go’, we would go; if He tells us to do something, we would do it. And as the centurion had soldiers in his employ, so Jesus has us in His. The centurion, exercising his authority properly and appropriately, would have ordered for his soldiers to be fully equipped to obey his orders. Which brings us to Paul’s description of the armour that God provides for us. It is truly inspiring; truth, righteousness, peace with God, faith and salvation. Mae’r pethau yna yn helpu ni i sefyll / These things, we are told, help us to stand – to withstand the attack of the enemy of our faith and our God. This uniform, this armour comes from our commanding officer, the one who has total authority; not just over us but over all things. He has truly equipped us to stay safe amidst the battle. And more, he has given us a weapon / Mae e wedi rhoi arf; the Word of God / Gair Duw.
No soldier worth his pay would fail to don the armour and equipment that his superior gave him, and nor should we ignore what God provides for us. And so, fully equipped, we have even more reason to trust that the one with complete authority is trustworthy. We have cause to believe in Him and to have active faith in Him; faith that causes us to come and go and to do as He asks us to. Not, in this way, like a commanding officer, barking out orders, but as both a Friend and a King. So let’s ask Him to turn our belief into active faith, and submit ourselves to His authority today and always.