Matthew 8 records that a centurion came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant. It says that “a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him” (v. 5). But Luke 7 says that Jews came to Jesus in the name of the centurion, and then the centurion’s friends came to Him (vv. 3, 6). There is no evidence that the centurion ever actually spoke with Jesus. Is there a conflict here? Does the Bible contradict itself?
No. The centurion spoke with Jesus through representatives. Also, the centurion represented his sick servant in his request that Jesus heal him. The centurion understood the doctrine of representation. He even went so far as to say that Jesus did not have to enter his house in order for the servant to be healed (Luke 7:6b). Then he said, “But say the word, and my servant will be healed” (v. 7:7b). He understood Jesus’ authority. He was implicitly testifying to Jesus’ position as God’s representative, for he compared Jesus’ authority to his own position as a representative of Caesar:
“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Luke 7:8-9; New King James Version).
The Jews spoke to Jesus in the name of the centurion. His friends also spoke in his name. The centurion spoke to Jesus in the name of Caesar (above him) and in the name of his sick servant (below him). Understand, he was publicly subordinating himself to Jesus’ authority, despite his official position as Caesars lawful representative. This took great faith, as Jesus publicly affirmed to the crowd. The centurion recognized that Jesus spoke in the name of God the Father (above Him) and could therefore banish the power of sickness and death (below Him). Jesus also was a man under authority. The centurion recognized clearly that Jesus’ covenantal subordination to God was the basis of His power over sickness and death, just as the centurion’s covenantal subordination to Caesar was the basis of his power over his troops and servants.
We have come “face to face” (representationally through the printed word) to the doctrine of representation: to speak in someone else’s name before God, and to speak to men in God’s name. This is the structural basis of human authority in God’s world of plural, hierarchical, institutional authorities.
In the Name of. . .
The centurion spoke in the name of his servant. The servant was lying in bed, close to death. The servant could hardly speak for himself. It was this very incapacity that was the basis of the centurion’s need to make intercession for him. The centurion recognized that he himself had to speak to Jesus in the name of his servant.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)