When we read the historical accounts in Scripture, it is important to remember that these are not just fairy tales or made up stories with an ending moral. They are actual accounts of real people doing real things in real time.
Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 are parallel records of an incident in the life of Jesus as he was teaching and ministering in the Galilee region. His fame had gone out throughout the region as stated in Matthew 4:23-25. One might say Jesus was in all of the headlines and the topic of all the watercooler conversations.
That being said, there happened to be a Roman Centurion stationed in Capernaum. As a Centurion, he and his military unit were also a part of a larger Roman Cohort (comprised of six centuries and equal to one-tenth of a legion). This Centurion had a servant who was “paralyzed, grievously tormented” according to the account in Matthew and “was sick and at the point of death” according to Luke.
This Centurion, hearing about Jesus and all of the miracles he was performing and things he had been teaching, sent agents as his representatives (see The Revised English Version commentary on Matthew 8:5) to request of Jesus that he would come and heal the servant. Jesus started walking towards the home of the Centurion. As he approached, the Centurion sent friends out to meet Jesus, and we pick up the record in Luke 7:
6And Jesus went with them. Now when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy for you to come under my roof.– Luke 7:6-9
7That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you, but say the word, and my boy will be healed.
8For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9And when Jesus heard these things, he was amazed at him, and turned and said to the multitude who followed him, “I say to you, I have not found such great trust, no, not in Israel.”
We are not told weather or not this Centurion was a believer in Yahweh. But from the record we see that he held the Jews in high regard because he had financed and built them a synagogue in Capernaum. He also recognized that Jesus was a holy man demonstrating the power of God (or at the very least a god unknown to the centurion) and he exhibited his humility and respect for Jesus when he said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy for you to come under my roof.” and“That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you”. But he did not address Jesus as a god or as someone equal to God. Remember, these are real people doing real things in real time.
The latter half of verse 7 and verse 8 show that this Centurion fully understood chain of command, as rightfully he should. He was a man under the authority of the Pilus Prior, the senior Centurion of the cohort. When given orders, as a faithful solider, he carried them out with exactitude. He also had between 60 and 100 men under his command. When he gave his troops an order, he expected them to be carried out without question. He knew that if Jesus simply spoke the command, his servant would be healed.
But there are two interesting words in verse 8. They are the words “for” and “also”. There are translations that omit the word “also” such as the NIV, NLT, Berean Study Bible, CEV, GOD’S WORD® Translation and possibly others. However, it is clearly in the text, καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός and needs to be treated honestly, as does the word “for”.
καὶ is a connective conjunction and when καὶis used rather thanδέ it is most alwaystranslated as either “and” or “also,” whereas δέis most often left untranslated. The conjunction here (“also”) makes a connection by way of comparison between the Centurion and Jesus.
γὰρ is an explanatory conjunction and can be translated as “for” or “because”. It begins the explanation for, or reason why, the Centurion said “but say the word, and my boy will be healed.”
The Centurion said “For I also am a man placed under authority”. The “also” makes a comparison between the Centurion and Jesus with respect to being under authority and having authority appointed to them to give commands. The Centurion recognized that Jesus could only carry out the orders given to him by his superior (Yahweh) and should he speak that command, it would be done.
Notice, the Centurion did not say “as a god”, or “as co-equal with God”. He stated what he understood from the things he heard about Jesus, that Jesus was doing the will of God and performing miracles by the power of God, not by his own authority. Something Jesus himself testified to.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son is not able to do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever he does, the Son also does in the same way.– John 5:19
Many times the verse prior, John 5:18, is misrepresented, misunderstood and therefore misinterpreted. For an explanation of John 5:18 please see the Revised English Version commentary as well as the commentary for John 5:19, 5:30 and 8:28.
I am not able to do anything on my own. As I hear, I judge. And my judgment is righteous because I do not seek to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.– John 5:30
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one. And I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things.– John 8:28
Jesus did not consider himself equal with God or as His co-equal. If Jesus was co-equal with God living in eternity past then why would he be totally dependent on what the Father said?
Notice also, Jesus did not correct the Centurion. Jesus did not respond by saying, “I’m not under anyone’s authority, I’m co-equal with God” or “Please allow me to clear up your understanding, I am 100% man and 100% God, so this is an easy task for me”. Had the man been wrong in his assessment of Jesus, Jesus could and likely would have corrected him (see for example Mark 10:18, Matthew 16:23).
Jesus’ response was that of affirmation: “I say to you, I have not found such great trust, no, not in Israel.”
The Centurion was correct. He was a man (just like Jesus) under authority (just like Jesus) able to give commands that agreed with his upper chain of command (just like Jesus).
Jesus was acting as Yahweh’s agent just as the Centurion was acting as his Pilus Prior’s agent (see REV Commentary on Matthew 8:5).
The Centurion was not co-equal with his Pilus Prior, just as Jesus is not co-equal with Yahweh. Jesus is a man appointed as both Lord and Christ by God (Acts 2:36) to carry out God’s plan of redemption.
And Jesus will reign as King in the Millennial Kingdom for 1,000 years. But even then, as a vassal King, he will be under the authority of Yahweh to whom Jesus will deliver the Kingdom in the end.
20But in fact, Christ has been raised out from among the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.– 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
21For since death came by a man, the resurrection of the dead also came by a man.
22For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming.
24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to his God and Father, after he brings to an end every ruler and all authority and power.
25For it is necessary for him to reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26The last enemy that will be brought to an end is death.
27For he has put all things in subjection under his feet. But when it says, All things have been put in subjection, it is clear that the one who subjected all things to him is not included.
28And when all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will subject himself to him who subjected all things to him, so that God is all in all.
All praise be to God and to His Christ because God had a plan of salvation and redemption. He planned for the Savior, and when the time came He appointed THE man, Jesus of Nazareth, under His direct authority to complete His plan. Jesus earned the title and appointment given to him.