In our journey through life, most of us find ourselves under one or
more authorities. The policeman hands out traffic tickets to the
hurried, employers dispense paychecks for those faithful in their
duties, and parents reward or punish their offspring in hopes of
teaching them early on the skills necessary to live under authority.
Some of us learn sooner — others later — how to maneuver within the
confines of the authorities in our lives. The law generally takes
account of this maturation process through a “juvenile justice system”
of one kind or another, dispensing breaks for younger offenders. But as
we age, the authorities in our lives expect more of us — and allow for
Some try to evade authority. This takes various forms: self-employed,
entrepreneurs, professionals, and of course writers. But authority will
not be cheated; it merely dissipates and reappears more virulently among
dozens or hundreds of clients, customers, patients or readers.
In the end, most of us end up answering to somebody else with just a
bit more money, power, talent or charisma than we can muster. And there
we are — trapped — serving the gods we have chosen to
follow — incarnated in someone who sits just beyond our reach, calling
the shots and pulling our strings.
“What,” we sometimes wonder, “must it be like to reach the top of the
ladder and be accountable to no one?” What would it be like to possess
all necessary authority and be accountable to no one for
its use? In short, what would it be like — to be God?
It must be an intriguing question for many of us, because humanity
has been trying to play God since way back in the Garden of Eden, when
the serpent first tempted Eve. Seeking to alleviate
her fears, “… the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For
God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will
be like God. …” (Gen. 3:4-5).
Like God. In charge of everything. Accountable to no one. Able to do
as we please, how we please, whenever we please. Multitudes of us, each
with our own agenda, busily imposing it upon those around us, forever
enslaved to our own self-will. Playing God — while our world dies under
the strain of so many self-appointed deities. Forever laboring to escape
God’s judgement upon us for Adam and Eve’s disobedience: “… you are
dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
Generation upon generation of dust and ashes. Then something
remarkable happened. Someone with the necessary authority over the cycle
appeared. And no one understood it better than one Roman soldier:
“Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at
the point of death. When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the
Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to
Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do
this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.’
And Jesus went with them. 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 to have you come under my roof; therefore
I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant
be healed. For I 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
to my slave, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he
marveled at him and turned and said to the multitude that followed him,
‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ And when those
who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well”
Jan Hettinga renders the passage in more modern language:
“Don’t trouble yourself further. Our friend, the centurion,
recognizes Your authority. … Just say the word because clearly your
have the authority to handle this matter.
“Jesus stopped in his tracks, stunned. ‘This is incredible! This man
gets it. Here’s a man who understands who I am and how to respond to me
appropriately’” (Follow Me, Navpress, 1996).
The Roman centurion immediately recognized something about Jesus that
many of us fail to understand: Jesus wasn’t playing God. He clearly had
authority over life and death. Jesus responded
favorably to the centurion’s correct understanding of the situation. He
exercised his authority, in the context of love, and healed the servant.
Jesus’ message to us today is the same: Stop playing God. Let Me heal
your world. I have all the necessary authority.