Friday, June 13, 2008

Faith and Authority

“The apostles said to Him, ‘Increase our faith.’ ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,’ the Lord said, ‘you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.’ ‘Which one of you having a slave plowing or tending sheep will say to him…’” (Luke 17:5-10 CSB)

In response to what Jesus taught about forgiveness, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus remarked about how little faith is actually required and used the example above about a mulberry tree and mustard seed.

The paragraph that followed, however, seems totally unrelated. Some Bible versions put a heading over these two paragraphs titled, “Faith and Duty.” They do so because that is what the paragraphs seem to be about. It is possible they are simply separate and unrelated, one about faith, and one about duty. But it is also possible that Jesus intended them to be understood together. How so?

The tie between the two paragraphs is obedience. If an order is given in faith to the mulberry tree, it will obey. If an order is given to a servant, he obeys because he is duty-bound, and because his master has the authority to command.

This suggests that the two statements of Jesus are connected not by “faith and duty” but by “faith and authority.” And that idea is further supported by the incident with the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus was enroute when the centurion sent word that he was unworthy to have Jesus come into his house, and that if Jesus would just speak the word his servant would be healed. He said that because he understood authority. If you recall, Jesus remarked that he had not seen such a great faith in Israel. The centurion made the connection between faith and authority. Maybe we also need to give further thought to that connection.

Lord, Teach us how faith and authority are related in You. Amen.

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