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“But say the Word and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:9)

(Jesus demonstrates what it means to be “the Word.”)

Jesus is not given to exaggeration. Yet what He said about the centurion recorded in Matthew (8:5-13) and Luke (7:1-10) appears to us to lean in that direction. Jesus said this Roman centurion had faith that was greater than the faith of anyone in Israel. This claim would entail that the faith of this non-Israelite was greater than the faith of Peter, James and John and the believing members of the synagogue. Such faith would bring this man into the company of Old Testament believers like Job and Abraham. Yet this man did not know Jesus personally! He was not even an Israelite. He did not consider himself worthy even to ask Jesus to come into his house. So what made his faith so remarkable?

This man, this Gentile believer no less, had faith that was so exceptional that both Matthew and Luke record that Jesus marveled at this faith. Yes, marveled. That is, Jesus expressed admiration. To the crowd Jesus said: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Jesus met tens of thousands of people during His ministry but seldom did He have occasion to marvel at someone’s faith.

What was so exceptional in this instance? What was there about this man’s faith for Jesus to marvel at? A great deal! And Jesus uses this incident to teach His disciples, Israel and us an important lesson. Even today, two thousand years after the event, Jesus uses this incident to drive home the lesson of what it means when Scripture emphasizes that He, Jesus Christ, is “the Word.” In an age where the knowledge derived from “science” has been elevated to idolatrous heights, we have lost awareness and sensitivity to the unique nature and power of “the Word.”

The centurion in this account employs an analogy to make his point comprehensible to his listeners. He draws a comparison between himself and Jesus with respect to authority. He says to Jesus:   You and I, we are both men who have been given authority.  I have soldiers under me. I say to the one soldier, “Go”, and he goes. To another, “Come,” and he comes. And to my servant I say, “Do this,” and he does it. As centurion, no one questions my authority.

This centurion believes that Jesus also is a Man who exercises authority, authority infinitely greater than his own. He believes Jesus has the awesome authority to command all aspects of creation.  All Jesus needs to do to exercise this authority according to the centurion is to say the Word.  Just say the Word, Jesus, and my servant will be healed.  No questions, no calculations, no doubts.  What a tremendous faith. As children place their trust in their father and mother, so this Gentile believer places absolute trust in Jesus. Just say the Word, Lord. Sickness, disease and death will flee at your command. He fervently believes. All Jesus has to do is speak the command. This Roman centurion would have had no difficulty believing the biblical record that Jesus spoke the creation into being by the power of His Word.

Yes, the centurion believes that Jesus’ authority is that great. Just say the Word, Lord, and my servant will be healed. And that, says Jesus, is an expression of faith that should fill the hearts of all believers. But I have not found faith like that anywhere, no, not even in all Israel among the hundreds of thousands of descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Mark 6:6).

In the depth and breadth of his faith this centurion acknowledges Jesus as Creator and Lord over all creation. God enabled this man to understand the “servant character” of creation. He acknowledges that Jesus is creation’s Lord and has the power to command the entire creation to do His will. Even as the centurion’s underlings obey when he says, “Come,” and “Go,” so also creation instantly obeys the command of its Sovereign and Lord. No questions asked, not a moment’s hesitation, no backtalk. Just say the Word, Lord. Just say the Word. And Your will is accomplished.

That, says Jesus, is faith upon which My kingdom is built. If Christian professors and students at universities and seminaries around the globe would believe Scripture with the same unquestioning faith, if they would lead lives of uncompromising trust and faith and view the origin and unfolding of creation with the unshakable conviction that God in Jesus Christ is absolute Sovereign over creation, well, then, the pulpits would reverberate with the Word of power and the people of God would rejoice till the rafters shook. Even unbelievers would marvel at such faith.

God indeed commands His creation as His servant! The “servant character” of creation is foundational to the Christian’s faith. Even as the centurion believed! Just think what that means for our understanding of the creation account in Genesis. The same Jesus who commanded the centurion’s servant to be healed was present as God “in the beginning.” And “in the beginning” He commanded the creation into existence “exactly” as described in the various books of the Bible. That is, by the power of Christ’s “Let there be.” A description which must be accepted in faith because the act of creation surpasses our understanding. No one can search out the “mechanics” of the nature and power of Christ’s spoken Word. Why? Because the mechanism of creation is the Word. The power which brought the creation into being on command is the same power that “flowed out” of Jesus and gave life to the touch of the woman with the debilitating issue of blood (Matt. 9: 18-22; Mark 5: 21- 34). The power that “transformed” nothing into a universe of millions of objects constructed out of an array of atoms and elements is the same power that commanded the stinking corpse of Lazarus to rise and walk out of the grave. A re-created Lazarus identical in appearance to the predeceased Lazarus and with the complete memory of a lifetime restored.

The spoken Word in action. To repeat: no one can search out the “mechanics” of the originating, creating activity of the spoken Word. There is no possibility of reverse engineering here.The finished creation, which is a manifestation of the Word objectified, is the proper object of human inquiry; the act of creation is not. The Word, after it comes to visible expression as creation, is man’s proper field of study, not the creative activity of the Word itself. And once we try to understand the finished creation, that is, try to understand what is referred to in some circles as the creation order, we should do so with the acknowledgement that this “order of creation” came into being solely through the creation acts of God. And God sovereingly determines the order of His creation acts.  Once again, the creation acts of God cannot be subjected to human analysis. To attempt to do so would be to attempt to subject God to our finitude. Here caution must be exercised for that is blasphemy.

Genesis I is God’s revelation of His almighty creation acts. Let there be! Let there be! Let there be! Genesis I as the revealed record of God’s creation acts is not ours to analyze anymore than we can analyze the resurrection of Lazarus. Which physician of sound mind would do a post-resurrection examination on Lazarus to determine what brought him back to life and how? So also with the ten “Let there be’s” of Genesis I.

Christians who stumble over the powerful and magisterial, “Let there be!”  of Genesis 1 will stumble again when they meet Christ again in the New Testament. In the New Testament they hear Christ’s commanding, “Let there be!,” again and again. This time, if they persist in their unbelief, they will not rise again. The New Testament will become a snare to them, a how-to-book of morals and personal conduct, a book of health and wealth.  The sovereignty of God and the creative, unfolding, upholding power of Jesus’ “Let there be!” will remain a mystery. The New Testament will then be a closed book that cannot possibly end in a mighty, universal resurrection when all the inhabitants of the earth respond to Christ’s command: “Lazarus, come forth!”

Contemporary Christians under the blinding deception of the pretended autonomy of science have fallen into the destructive habit of reading Scripture as a collection of metaphors. We no longer know how to take God’s Word seriously. We have lost sight of the power of the Word. We have in important instances needlessly metaphorized the Word. We have lost sight of who Jesus is and who Adam could have been. We read in Job 9:8b that God “treads on the waves of the sea” and we are inclined to say, “O, that is merely scripture’s way of poetically portraying God’s power. The poetic genre is not meant to be taken literally.  God never actually deigns to walk on the waves of the sea, not literally. Does He?

Scripture tells another story. At the height of a storm Jesus’ disciples, seasoned fishermen, feared they would perish in a raging sea. Jesus, however, rebuked the winds and the sea, and commanded a great calm (Matt 8: 23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8: 22-25). That is, the wind and the sea listened and obeyed their Master. They would have obeyed a faithful first Adam as well. On another occasion (Matt. 14: 22-33, Mark 6: 45-52; John 6: 15-21), when the disciples were in their boat in the middle of a storm, Jesus, who had gone into the mountains to talk with His Father, approached them walking on the sea. If Peter had exercised faith in measure to the centurion’s, he also would have been enabled to walk on the sea. It was his unbelief that sank him, not his lack of authority over the creation. 

Metaphors apply to humans but seldom to God, other than to help make God’s acts in history comprehensible. Metaphors often engage in overstatement. It is not possible to overstate God’s abilities. God’s power over His creation is awesome. Job spoke prophetically when he declared: “God treads on the waves of the sea.” When the Son of God clothed Himself with flesh, He did just that. He walked on the waves of the sea for His disciples to see and to remember and to witness to you and to me. Failure to comprehend the servant character of creation skews our understanding of the entire Bible and minimizes our ability to glorify God. There are no metaphors in play here on the boisterous sea. What we see is what Abraham heard, “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 35:11).

Do not fall into Satan’s trap of unnecessarily metaphorizing Jesus’ Word into a powerless literary device. Scripture may not actually be speaking metaphorically even if we think so. “The Word” of God is the Person of the Trinity through whom the entire creation was spoken into being. And that Word continues to uphold the creation to this day. Think of summer and winter and spring time and harvest. Think of the sun, moon and stars in their courses above. Christ can credibly declare, if such a declaration were necessary, that the “mechanism” that brought the creation into being is His spoken Word: “Let there be!” But that “mechanism,” that creative Word is not subject to human analysis. No one can express in scientific terms (or non-scientific) how creation came into being. What is subject to human analysis is the completed structure of creation as it confronts us, not God’s act of “creating” itself. For that reason alone the source of life will never be discovered by science (knowledge discovered) because all life originates with God and God alone (John 5:24-29; gen 2:7). 

And it makes no difference whether Christ, in the act of creation, is creating “out of nothing” or out of pre existing material. (Material some commentators believe they find in Genesis 1:2.) In the case of the re-creation of Lazarus, Christ was working with maggot-infested, rotting material. It made no difference compared to creation “out of nothing” in the beginning. The “mechanism” (or “process”) that brought Lazarus back to life instantaneously was the creating power of the Word: “Let there be!” “Lazarus, come forth!” 

We, the living, can today “experience” and witness the creative power of the Word. As a wolf-like creature “evolves” (evolution within the species) into six hundred North American species of “dog” before our eyes, so it is that the creative Word of God continues to unfold before our eyes. Seven billion people today inhabit the earth. People of different nations, colors, physical appearances. Few of these seven billion people look alike as one would have expected if they were the product of some mindless cookie cutter process of evolution. What we actually witness in the world around us is the dynamic potential God placed in creation “in the beginning” coming to actualization before our eyes.

Even as the spoken Word healed the centurion’s servant instantly and raised Lazarus from among the dead, in the blinking of an eye, so the Word is revealed to operate in power throughout Scripture again and again and again. And so it operated with power “in the beginning!” And again when Christ became One of us and lived among us. It is Christ’s exercise of this awesome, creative power that reveals the character of God. And for those who have eyes to see, this power of God is still manifested today, for instance, as one kernel of Iowa seed corn is planted in the earth and in a few months time bursts into a cob bearing 800 kernels in 16 rows. Where did that “creative” power within the seed corn come from?

“Let there be …,” God said in Christ in the beginning and again two thousand years ago in the Person of Jesus Christ. Literally! For there is no other way for Christians to “understand” the creative power of God even as creation now continues to open itself up to us, but to accept in centurion like faith, that God said: “Let there be.” And behold: “It was.” 

God does not owe theistic evolutionists an explanation. Their contention that God is the author of a messy process of evolution birthed by mysterious physic-chemical chance processes resulting in the malfunctioning or malformation of existing “perfect” genes and driven by a “natural selection” of whatever it is that is out there to be “selected”, over a period of billions of years, borders on blasphemy. God thereby becomes the servant of so-called autonomous processes. It makes God the subordinate author of “design by death and failure and chance and time.”

Lazarus and the son of the widow from Nain as well as the daughter of Jairus, all resurrected on command, testify against this monstrous falsehood. God is not party to a wretched neo-Darwinian process of evolution. As sovereign Creator His commanding Word and His Word alone is the “mechanism” that brought the universe into being. The entire creation bears testimony against theistic evolutionism, against an “evolving” that is no more than a parasite that feeds on God’s creation. For God, even to this day, continues to speak to us clearly through His Word and deeds. Behold the riveting beauty of creation each year anew as God’s nature bursts into Spring, as eggs hatch and the newly born eagle spreads its’ majestic wings. Life, a burst of growth and exotic color everywhere! My God, how great thou art! Behold and tremble in awe all you peoples of the earth, for God did a wonder filled thing when He spoke a pregnant (after their kind) creation into being. 

If only God give us the eyes of the centurion.

©copyright 2013

John Hultink