A lot of teaching about Christianity misses Jesus. This article aims to focus on him and look at some of Jesus’ words on ‘faith’. Just what does it mean — is it screwing up your mind, throwing away your reason and believing the impossible, or something else? We must find out.
JESUS — GOD AND PERFECT MAN
Here, from Mark’s Gospel is an account about faith so that we will see it more clearly, and begin to grasp that based on Jesus’ words that will never pass away, this ‘faith’ is something we need so much, and that without it we shall not see life.
This story unfolds with Jesus becoming so well-known that crowds had come to listen to him. Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, who had unique authority to perform miraculous signs. The signs confirmed that Jesus was really who he claimed to be. The signs gave strong evidence that confirmed many Old Testament Scriptures about Jesus as Saviour. Many signs were miracles of healing, like cleansing lepers or giving sight to the blind, or even raising the dead. No one else had such divine powers. Only Jesus was God and perfect Man.
TRUE FAITH PERSEVERES
Setting the scene, we see a large room packed to over-flowing and four men carrying their paralysed friend on a simple stretcher-bed, in the hope that Jesus would heal him. But with the place already packed out, there was no way they could get their friend to meet Jesus. So, was their hope just a sort of ‘hope so’? No, it was more.
These men were determined not to be put off, so they quickly put a plan into action. They carried their friend up the steps outside the large house, onto the flat roof, where they then quickly removed the simple roofing materials to make an opening to let down their friend on ropes, right to where Jesus was standing. So, that is what they did, much to the surprise of the crowd, when the man appeared through a hole in the roof.
The account then says ‘when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, «Son, your sins are forgiven» (Mark 2:5). What a shock! But as soon as the religious professionals heard what they believed was shocking blasphemy, that a man was pronouncing the forgiveness of sins, they sat there with critical thoughts that only God is able to forgive sins.
Then, two very different miracles follow. The first is that Jesus knows their thoughts and directly challenges the learned religious men, when he asks, which is easier, to say to the paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’ (Mark 2:9).
Then Jesus issued a direct challenge to all their proud complaining, ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’, he went on to show that he could equally say with divine authority to the bed-ridden man ‘rise, pick up your bed and go home’ (Mark 2:11). And that is exactly what the man did.
Faith in this account is a calm, confident trust in Jesus, in his person and in his word. Faith is what Jesus saw in the men taking so much trouble so their friend would be healed by Jesus. What is ‘faith’? Faith is a simple, confident trust in Jesus, who had full divine authority to forgive sins. There was no protest after Jesus pronounced the man’s sins forgiven that he hadn’t come for that reason. No, he was glad to hear those words. The miraculous signs at that time in Jesus’ ministry were to reassure people that Jesus was the Messiah, God’s own eternal Son. Don’t expect such signs today. They fully served their purpose, and now we have the record of them in God’s word.
Jesus also was ‘The Son of Man’, a special title from the Old Testament book of Daniel (chapter 7:13-13), where it describes a heavenly Person who is given supreme power and authority, which was fulfilled after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when he ascended to the right hand of God.
TRUST IN HIM
Did the religious professionals have faith in Jesus? No, they were the self-righteous complainers, who although they needed God’s forgiveness, probably believed that they were already keeping God’s law. And, they were blind! Completely blind to the awesome reality that they were in the presence of the second Person of the Godhead; the one who had made all things, and who had come into his own creation in order to go to his death on a cross to die in the place of sinners.
If you want to know what faith is, the religious experts who criticised Jesus were full of the opposite of faith — unbelief.
So, will you ask God for that simple faith, the trust that looks to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the one without sin, who has died to carry the punishment we sinners deserved, we moral rebels against God? This ‘faith’ is a trust, a humble undeserving confidence that looks to Jesus as the one able to save you, and forgive you, and give you peace with God.
So, it’s time to act, time to seek the Lord and his great salvation, time to put all your trust in him — a living faith in him alone for time and for eternity!
Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.