There was “a certain centurion” begins one of the great Gospel stories (Luke 7:2 KJV). He’s anonymous to us, but he’s not ordinary. Roman soldiers were brutish, even sadistic, like those that flogged and crucified Jesus, all the while mocking him and laughing it up. But this high ranking solider was different. Though he was the top man in the area of Capernaum, he was humble and kind. He was a good governor, generous with his wealth to help his subjects and to support their Jewish religion (Luke 7:5). And he had a servant who he loved like a dear son.
When his servant became sick and was about to die, the centurion couldn’t bear to lose him so he found Jesus and said, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress” (Matthew 8:6).
Without even being asked to do anything, Jesus replied, “I will come and cure him” (Matthew 8:7). Dallas Willard, when discussing this story in Hearing God, comments, “It seemed to be nothing extraordinary to him. For Jesus his healing this servant would be like our saying, ‘Now I’ll raise my hand.'” (p. 129)
The Faith that Impresses Jesus
Jesus was greatly impressed by this soldier, not by his high ranking position or material generosity, but the quality and magnitude of his simple Faith. Listen to his complete confidence in Jesus’ authority:
Don’t trouble yourself, Sir! I’m not important enough for you to come into my house — I didn’t even think I was fit to come to you in person. Just give the order, please, and my servant will recover. I am used to working under orders, and I have soldiers under me. I can say to one, “Go,” and he goes, or I can say to another, “Come here,” and he comes; or I can say to my slave, “Do this job,” and he does it. (Luke 7:6-8, JB Phillips)
“Just say the word!” Jesus was astonished! “Just say the word?” This was more than the humble courtesy of a Gentile not wanting to defile a Jewish rabbi by having him enter his house — it was the great faith of a man who understood how kingdoms work. He was like a king in his own small arena and there he was authorized to speak for a higher king, Caesar. “He knew what authority was,” Dallas Willard explains. “He knew what it was to command an event. He knew that Jesus was doing the same kind of thing, so it was a simple matter for him to step into the situation by faith.” (Hearing God, p. 130)
Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings. As “the quality of mercy is not strained,” so also with faith. Most of what we think we see as the struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not… [The centurion] has much to teach us about faith and about its dependence on a proper understanding of the word of God.
God created, God rules and God redeems through his word. God’s creating, God’s ruling, and God’s redeeming is his word. (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, p. 118-119)
Jesus’ Power has Been Given to Us!
Jesus healed the centurion and countless other people in the Bible and right up to today. He has transferred his authority and power to ordinary people, according to the measure that they are able to handle. First he did this with his twelve apostles and then the seventy others, commissioning them to proclaim and manifest the gospel message, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Luke 9:1-6, 10:1,8). He was letting them have a go of doing the preaching and healing ministry they’d seen him do. Sure enough, it worked!
At this point, Jesus saw Satan in defeat, through the transfer of the word of God and its power to ordinary people who could then speak for God under his government (Luke 10:18).
In this touching passage (Luke 10:21-24) Jesus seems positively gleeful, as in no other scriptural passage. Luke says Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”; the Greek word used here (agalliao, v. 21) suggests the state of mind in which people may jump up and down with joy. (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, p, 132)
Like his apostles we can learn to act in Jesus’ name. First of all, this means to bear his name well by doing as he would do in our position. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). This includes that we confidently offer Healing Prayer in Jesus’ name for those who are sick or hurting emotionally, not worrying about whether healing will happen now, but proceeding out of love for the one in need.
To act in Jesus’ name also means, “Just say the word.” As Dallas Willard explains, “Sometimes… we should be in a position to speak, to say on behalf of God and in the name of Christ how things are to be… We are called to grow into this capacity.” (Hearing God, p. 134)
With Jesus we will skip with joy and dance with delight when we “just say the word!”