What is the essence of faith?

(Notes from Matthew 8:1-17.)

Sounds like a question for a philosophy class, doesn’t it? But faith is a very practical issue.

The Bible tells us faith makes a difference for ever – and here Jesus links faith with eternal happiness … or misery (see verses 10-12).

But it also makes a difference for today. Jesus changed lives when he was here on earth. The leper, the paralysed servant and the sick woman all experienced this. Christians today claim that, through faith, Jesus is still changing lives in various different ways.

So, is Jesus someone we can believe in?

Matthew has already presented his evidence that Jesus is the great Teacher in his account of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7). Now he shows us that Jesus is also the great Healer. The leper is cleansed immediately; the servant is healed when Jesus speaks the word; and the fever leaves Peter’s mother-in-law at Jesus’s touch. Many other people discover that Jesus is able to deal with their sickness too (see verse 16).

Ultimately, Matthew is demonstrating that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah, who can be trusted completely. He often points out how Jesus fulfils the Jewish scriptures. Here he quotes the prophet Isaiah (see verse 17). Jesus is able to heal physical sickness, but Matthew will later record how Jesus dealt with the spiritual sickness of human sin against God. In connection with that, Isaiah 53 is a remarkable pointer to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If Jesus is the person we can trust, then the leper and the centurion, in particular, show us the essence of faith

  1. They come to Jesus – each has an urgent need, so despite their outsider status (an ‘unclean’ leper, an ‘unclean’ Gentile) they take action.
  2. They come to Jesus humbly – the leper kneels and submits himself to the will of Jesus; the centurion recognises that Jesus has authority way beyond his own, and acknowledges his unworthiness.
  3. They come to Jesus with confidence in him – ‘you can make me clean’; ‘just say the word and my servant will be healed’.

What is keeping you from ‘such great faith’? Are you waiting for Jesus to come to you? Do you expect Jesus to submit to your will? Do you doubt that Jesus is able to help?

Maybe your question is, ‘But will Jesus help me?’ ‘I am willing,’ Jesus said to the leper. Matthew shows us that Jesus crosses all sorts of boundaries to help people – touching a leper and a woman, dealing with a Gentile were against the norm in Jewish culture then. And, despite the crowds later, he turns no-one away.

So, the evidence from Matthew’s gospel is that you can trust Jesus absolutely – first of all, to forgive your sin; then again and again, with every sort of human need; and not just for yourself, but for those you care about too. And the testimony of Christians today is that Jesus is alive and he still hears and answers our prayers.

Come to Jesus … humbly … with confidence in him!