A Faith Beyond Beliefs

Recently, the following words in the gospel of Luke grabbed my attention: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  These words are repeated in a number of Luke’s stories.

There are the 10 lepers who call out to Jesus, “Jesus, have pity on us.”  Jesus healed all of them.  One came back to thank him.  Jesus told him, “Go your faith has made you well.”

The bleeding woman touched Jesus’ robe as he passed by.  She was healed.  Jesus told her:  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

A “sinful” woman anointed Jesus with perfume and washed his feet with her tears.  Jesus told her:  “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

A blind beggar calls out to Jesus: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus asked him what he wanted.  The beggar replied: “Lord, I want to see.”  Jesus answers: “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

What is this faith?  Faith is a big word.  And it can mean a lot of things because people are wired for faith in different ways.  Sometimes it is easy to confuse faith with a set of beliefs.  Sometimes people put their faith in their beliefs.  Sometimes those beliefs are intertwined with faith to an extent that it is hard to separate the two.

I don’t think faith as a set of beliefs is the faith Jesus was talking about in Luke’s stories.  I doubt that any of these people needed to know that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he was the one and only son of God, that he was fully human but also fully divine.  Jesus hadn’t died yet.  He hadn’t risen from the dead.  Faith wasn’t a confession of articles of belief.  Faith was not saying a certain prayer.  Faith was not even accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins. I’m not sure that any of these folks even loved Jesus when he commended their faith.  I’m not making any statement about the rightness or wrongness of any of these things.  They just don’t seem to describe the faith that Jesus was talking about.

What was their faith?

Was it recognizing the healing and mercy of God in Jesus?  Seeking? Calling for Jesus?  Reaching out to touch him?

Maybe the prayer: “Have mercy on me, Lord Jesus” is a cry of faith.

Maybe faith is expressed in Seeking: seeking God, seeking Jesus. Maybe laying myself before God in my weakness and desperation is faith.  Asking for God’s help is faith.  Coming to him for the life that he holds in his hands, even today, is faith.

 Beyond all we can find to say about [Jesus] and believe about him, he remains always beyond our grasp, except maybe once in a while the hem of his garment.  We should never forget that.  We can love him, we can learn from him, but we can come to know him only by following him–by searching for him in his church, in his Gospels, in each other.

–Frederick Buechner


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