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Daily Devotional • May 5

Ben Hankinson
Under Authority
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 7:1-17

1 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and, turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow, and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he was moved with compassion for her and said to her, “Do not cry.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout the whole of Judea and all the surrounding region.

Order and authority go hand in hand, something the centurion knew quite well. If Jesus, who the centurion rightly calls Lord, is who he says he is, then he is the authority, the one for whom life and light are ordered aright in the midst of the death and darkness of the world. Thus, the centurion’s plea is simply this: Lord bring order in the midst of chaos. 

While we were still sinners, disordered in our lives and our loves, Christ came among us as one of us. The Son of God, the Lord of creation, stepped down into the messiness and chaos amidst his creatures that he might bring order into the world and into our lives. He did it from a cross, and he did it from an empty tomb. He reordered the whole of creation so that an ordinary means of destruction and death became the ordinary means of salvation and new life in him. 

Perhaps this is why this petition of the centurion has been adapted for use in prayer before Communion. It is an acknowledgement of the unworthiness of our reception and the necessity of Christ’s action on our behalf to order our lives aright in that particular moment as well as in the ongoing conversion of our souls.

As we seek to live in the new order of our lives in Christ, we, like the centurion, are to submit ourselves to the authority of God. The one who brings order out of chaos draws near to the tabernacle with us by entering under the roof of our bodily temples and speaking the word of health and of life unto our souls.

The Rev. Benjamin Hankinson is the Director of Admissions for Nashotah House Theological Seminary and Priest in Charge of St. James in West Bend, Wisconsin. Originally from South Carolina, he has also served parishes in the Diocese of Springfield.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham – The Church of England
Grace Church, New York
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