Only Say the Word

Word with scrabble blocks

As the Priest invites us to go forward to take communion the liturgy of the Mass includes the response of the people;

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

This quote comes from the gospel story of Jesus and the Roman Centurion.

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.

‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’

The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith …. Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment.” (Matt 8:5-13 NIVUK)

This Roman Centurion, a non-Jew, is congratulated on his faith; a faith which surpasses any Jesus has found amongst his own people, the Jews.

This soldier understands two things:

Firstly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he understands about authority. He understands that when authority is invested in someone whatever they say, goes; there is no argument, no discussion, no debate. The one is authority speaks his will and others run to carry it out.

Secondly, this unnamed soldier has come to understand that Jesus has authority over sickness and disease.

His faith is proved to be well founded as Jesus does “speak the word of command” and the sickness leaves his servant’s body.

All of which is rather wonderful, but we need to understand that, wonderful as it is, this authority to heal is merely a tiny part of the universal authority of Jesus.

“Then Jesus came to them and said,

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18 NIVUK)

Do you get this?! ALL AUTHORITY!!

There is NOTHING in the created universe that is not under Jesus’ direct command.

No situation, no power, no world leader, no nation, no plague, no pestilence.

EVERYTHING is under his command.

“Only say the word”

This phrase then becomes for the Christian a wonderful summing up of the limitless possibility of God. He has only to say the word.

By a wonderful fluke, in the English Bible the words of the Centurion are found in Luke 7:7 (and Matthew 8:8). Those with some background knowledge of Jewish culture will know that 7 is the known as the number of perfection, of completeness.

Our faith will be perfect, will be complete, when we can hold onto the fact, in each and every situation, that no outcome is definite, no possibility excluded, until God has spoken. He has only to say the word, the word of limitless possibility, and everything can change. He has the authority to do so. And we need to remember it.

I am reminded of the reaction of the crowd in the synagogue when Jesus cast a demon out of a man.

“And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, ‘What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.’” (Luke 4:36 AKJV)

“What a word is this!”

Perhaps we need to live more with this kind of expectation. All we need is for Jesus to speak a word, and everything can change.

Indeed, it is only because Jesus wields such unlimited power and authority, that he was able to continue his discourse as he did;

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIVUK)

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