Faith – violent and powerful
Today’s reading contains some very well known stories, and yet there are some important points here to learn. The central theme of the passage is about faith, about the violent and powerful force it can be, the lack that appears because of its absence, as well as the devastating effects of the opposite: unbelief. Let’s walk through the story together, meet the different characters, and look at their faith, or lack thereof.
In v21, as soon as Jesus lands on the shore, after his trip to the other side of the sea, a great crowd gathers around him. I would propose to you that they are not there because of their faith, they have come for the show. They know that where Jesus is the ‘normal’ laws of nature no longer apply, and they are looking for something to talk to their friends and neighbours about: “Do you remember when Jesus landed here on the shore, and how He …”. Not because they believe he is the Son of God, the Messiah, but because He is sensational. They have come because they expect a show, not because they expect to meet with God. We’ll get back to the crowd in a bit.
A few people in the crowd are different, the first one is Jairus. He comes to Jesus because his daughter is dying and he believes (has faith) that Jesus can heal her. Jesus grants his request and comes with him. And so does the crowd.
Then enters the second person who has faith, well actually she more slips in unseen from behind. An unnamed and desperate woman. She had been bleeding for 12 years, which means she had been ceremonially unclean for 12 years. She was not supposed to be there. Under Mosaic law you became unclean if you touch anyone or anything unclean. However the Age of the Kingdom was breaking through, so when you touch someone or something unclean, the unclean becomes clean. Notice here that Jesus is not performing the miracle, he merely becomes the conductor for the power of heaven. In Matthew 11:12 Jesus says: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” This woman just committed the only violent act that can affect the kingdom: She tore apart the veil that separates heaven from earth and grabbed hold of the healing that she needed. And Jesus felt it. It is my understanding that Jesus was not planning to perform this miracle, however by faith a desperate woman took hold of heaven to take what she needed.
This is where the crowd comes on again. It saddens me to think that we could be so close to all the power of heaven and simple lack of faith and expectation leaves us without that which we need. The same power available to the woman was available to the whole crowd, but unlike the woman, they were not aware of it. Jesus commends the woman, but a little later dismisses the crowd.
Finally back to Jairus. Still full of faith that his daughter will live, he gets some shocking news. His daughter has died, it was all for nothing, Jesus had come too late. However Jesus steps in straightaway: “Do not fear, only believe”, and as soon as Jairus’ faith left him because of the bad news, it is back, stronger than before, because Jesus has made an unspoken promise. His faith is proven true, he gets his daughter back, alive and healthy.
Now the scene changes. Jesus goes back to his home town. A place where people have seen him grow up and think they know him. Though they are initially astonished by Jesus, his teaching and the miracles they have heard about, it soon turns to offence. They knew this guy, they had seen him grow up. Who did he think he was? Instead of faith they practice unbelief, and then comes the scariest concept of the whole of the New Testament: because of their unbelief Jesus could do no mighty works there. Here is the Son of God, the man from heaven, the one who was a conductor for the whole of the power of God, and their unbelief simply pulls the plug on it. Yes, you read that right, unbelief stopped the power that created the universe dead in its tracks. I don’t know about you, but that scares me.
Our faith, or our unbelief, holds the key to a demonstration of power, or nothing; to getting what we need, or to a life of lack. Let’s pray for violent, heaven plundering faith. Jesus commends that in people. Don’t leave this until Sunday, today is the day to put that into practice.