I pondered the relationship between faith and healing in the gospel in a previous blog. In this blog I look deeper into how faith is used in Luke’s gospel. I will be looking at an incident recorded at the end of chapter 8 where Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus whilst also healing a woman with chronic bleeding. I will also look at the feeding of 5,000 which immediately follows.
Jesus tells the woman that her faith has healed her, which occurred by her touching his garment and then presenting herself to him. Immediately afterwards he encourages Jairus to have faith, to believe.
48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
The women showed faith in daring to touch Jesus, trusting that doing so would result in healing.
Clearly Jairus’s faith was helped by seeing that Jesus declared power had gone out from him before he even knew that the woman was healed. If someone touching him could have that effect, what would happen if Jesus himself came to touch a dead little girl?
Seeing Jesus at work helps us to have faith. When we see the impact of faith our faith strengthens.
It is also worth noting the role touching plays in both episodes. In a world before modern hygiene, before soap, before running water and drains there were numbers of different things in place to maintain public health. The Jewish law contained many such rules designed to keep people from disease. Two of them prohibited Jews from touching corpses or women with internal bleeding. Both these taboos, these laws, were being broken by Jesus.
By doing so Jesus was incurring double pollution. This helps us understand what we really have faith in, what Jesus has come to do. Jesus shares the pollution of sickness and death, but the power of his own love turns that pollution into wholeness and hope.
This is followed by the feeding of 5,000 from five loaves and a couple of fish, the lunch of a small boy. Over the years this has been explained away as one boy’s generosity leads others to also donate their lunches so that everyone gets fed, an ancient bring and share meal. Explaining things in this way means our faith is focused on the generosity of people when encouraged by the example of others. That is not how Jesus or Luke intends us to understand this incident. That is not the faith found here.
If the disciples knew that many in the crowd had food, there wouldn’t have been a crisis in the first place. We are meant to not look for simple explanations, to have faith in the inherent goodness of mankind is easy! The disciples were called to move into the unknown and once there, trust God completely, when they were sent out in pairs into the community faith as well as when faced with a hungry crowd. Faith means the same for us, moving into the unknown and looking to God not man, however scary it maybe.
We are not to exercise “blind faith”, to believe that Jesus is a showman or magician willing to do tricks to order. Jesus dismissed this temptation of the Devil out of hand. However, we are called to believe that Jesus could on occasion allow God’s creative power to flow through him to perform miracles, as we have seen in healing and now in this feeding miracle. We are to live lives of faith, trusting in the creative power of God flowing through us.