In my past posts I wrote about how many of the miracles Jesus performed demonstrated that he had power over and ruled over different realms. In several of those miracles, faith was mentioned one way or another. In fact, faith was mentioned in just under 1/3 of all of the miracles Jesus performed in the Synoptic Gospels. Other matters such as food also stimulated conversation about faith among Jesus and his followers. His teaching about faith or the lack thereof was not always about healing.
In the past century, people have produced doctrines from Jesus’ instructions and from the miracles he performed. The most commonly known of such doctrines today is called Faith Healing. Faith Healing says that enough faith will produce healing in every and any situation because nothing is impossible with God, and Jesus told his disciples that we would do greater works than he.
In the world of Faith Healing, the responsibility of faith is placed on the shoulders of the person who is looking for healing, so if healing doesn’t happen, it is because the person who needs healing lacks faith. This part of the Faith Healing doctrine supposedly derives from Jesus’ teachings and often mention of faith and the lack thereof.
As a young Christian I believed in Faith Healing, but as I read the Bible more and more, as I noticed that my faith did not always work as promised, and as I noticed how destructive this teaching was to so many Christians who were not healed from various issues, I decided that something was wrong with the teaching and I abandoned it. I justified my abandonment on the basis that love was more important than faith. Comforting the afflicted was more scriptural than further afflicting the afflicted. Besides its obvious cruelty to those who do not get healed, I didn’t know what was wrong with Faith Healing because on the surface, it seemed to be what Jesus taught; and because I love and teach the Bible, for years Faith Healing haunted me. Despite my disdain for the teaching, Jesus did teach his disciples that faith could move mountains and Jesus did question some people about their lack of faith.
This doctrine haunted me, so one day I decided to face what it was that was haunting me and I dug into the Gospels to find out what Jesus taught and how he practiced. I was willing to accept whatever I discovered – even if that meant Faith Healing in all of its seemingly cruel side was what Jesus taught.
HOW I STUDIED
Using Microsoft Excel I recorded every time Jesus mentioned faith/belief or the lack thereof, placing each instance into categories and context that seemed most important to Jesus and his followers and what is important to different groups today. My goal was to discover what and how Jesus really taught and practiced. I wanted to know how many times and when Jesus referred to faith. I wanted to know if faith was a part of every miracle. I wanted to know when Jesus rebuked people for a lack of faith and why he told them what he did. Most of all, I wanted to find whatever the Gospels told me about which I didn’t already have questions. In other words, I wanted to be open for any surprises that may come – whether or not those surprises aligned with my biases, opinions, and world views.
WHAT JESUS TAUGHT
-Jesus taught us that faith could do anything.
-Jesus taught us that the quality of faith can be more important than the quantity of faith. The smallest amount of faith can move mountains.
-Jesus taught us that faith can be hindered by fear, the lack of forgiveness and doubt.
-Jesus taught us that faith can be tied to prayer and fasting that won’t quit and takes time (Luke 18:1-8).
WHAT JESUS DID
For this section I created metaphors for 6 distinct individuals or groups which were involved in healing.
In this metaphor, I call Jesus the Doctor.
People in need of healing are patients. Jesus oftentimes recognized and commended patients for their faith. When a woman who was bleeding for years came and touched Jesus (she hoped no one would notice) Jesus recognized something happened and turned, asking the crowd who touched him. Even though so many were touching him, she knew what he meant and confessed that she had touched him and was healed as a result. Jesus commended her for her faith and told her that her faith indeed had healed her.
Jesus recognized and commended faith found in patients. In almost every case, he recognized peoples’ faith in the many ways that they approached him asking for healing.
Jesus never rebuked patients for their lack of faith.
I call the helpers those people who brought patients to Jesus were friends and family. Jesus saw and commended friends and families (the Helpers) for their faith. When a Canaanite woman came to Jesus and argued with him on behalf of her daughter who was oppressed by a demon, Jesus commended her for her faith. When friends wanted to get a patient to see Jesus (in order to be healed), they couldn’t find a way to get through the crowd, so they tore apart a ceiling and dropped the man in front of Jesus as he talked. Jesus “saw their faith” and healed the patient.
Again, the way helpers requested healing from Jesus was always a sign that faith was present, and that faith was acknowledged and praised.
Jesus never rebuked a helper for a lack of faith.
Doctors in Training
The disciples were doctors in training. Jesus was teaching them how to heal.
Jesus never commended his disciples for their faith. In fact, the only individuals Jesus rebuked for a lack of faith were his disciples – the doctors in training. Furthermore, when he did rebuke them for their lack of faith, he always demonstrated how faith worked – he finished the job the disciples could not.
When a father came to Jesus and told him that the disciples were unable to heal his son, Jesus groaned that he lived in a faithless generation. The onus of responsibility for this lack of healing was with the disciples.
Scoffers, Haters and Doubters
Jesus had his share of enemies. His home town rejected him as did many of the religious leaders. These people limited Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and stirred up some of Jesus’ strongest condemnation. They did lack faith and Jesus did point out that lack of faith.
Piggy-backing on scoffers, doubters, and haters, the hospitals were the cities and the culture in which Jesus ministered. He called his generation faithless when struggling with the disciples’ lack of faith. He was rejected by his own home town. The faith or lack of faith from those surrounding Jesus mattered by adding to or taking away from his own ability to perform miracles. Even though a lack of faith from the cities or generation in which he ministered limited Jesus’ ability, it did not stop him from healing people.
The crowds were also a part of what I would call the hospitals. Among these people were the curious, the amazed, followers, scoffers, haters, or anyone else watching or partaking in each miracle. The crowds provided much of the the context in which every miracle was performed.
NO EXCEPTION TO THE RULES
There are cases that seem to be exceptions to these rules, that appear to show seekers – the helpers or the patients – lacking faith; but looking closely to all the Gospels that record the events, the examples do not break the rules at all.
“I believe, help my unbelief!” was cried out by a man who was looking to Jesus for healing for his son who was tormented by demons.
On the surface it looks like Jesus held the father responsible for a lack of healing when the man previously went to the disciples, but Jesus did not rebuke the father at all. Instead, he encouraged him to believe, before he healed his son. The father himself admitted that he was struggling with faith (after all he had asked the disciples to heal his son and they couldn’t). But all the man needed to do was to come to Jesus and ask him for his daughter’s healing. After encouraging the father to believe, Jesus did the rest.
The disciples themselves, accepted the responsibility for seeing no miracle when asked to perform and asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal the father’s son (Mark 9:28). When Jesus told them that they did not have enough faith, they accepted that it was not the father’s or the son’s fault, but their own, for they were the healers in training.
At one time a ruler of a synagogue asked Jesus to come to his home to heal his sick daughter; but as they were on their way, he received news that the daughter had died. Jesus told the ruler not to fear, but believe; and then raised her from the dead. Jesus said the same thing to Mary before he raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus encouraged people to believe; he did not rebuke them for a lack of faith. Rebukes were reserved for his doctors in training, unbelievers, haters, and scoffers.
-Jesus believed faith could do anything
-Jesus saw faith in others and commended it by pointing it out to the patients and in the ones who brought the patients to him
-The only individuals (not groups) Jesus rebuked for lacking faith were his disciples who were the ones who would become the healers – no one else
-Simply coming to Jesus for healing was the sign of faith that Jesus saw and often commended.
-Whenever Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith, the faith of Jesus was enough to make up the difference
The biggest problem with Faith Healing today is that when patients are not healed, as most are not, they are falsely accused to have little or no faith. Prayer warriors and healers who believe in Faith Healing rid themselves of any responsibility, and throw blame on people who need encouragement the most.