What did Jesus mean when he said these words to those he healed–“Your faith has made you well”?
There is a tendency in some circles to interpret such a statement by Jesus as a recognition of some kind of faith worthy of salvation. Somehow the reader of Jesus’ words gets it in his head that the faith that earns you a healed body is the same as the faith that earns you a healed soul. Not so.
It is astonishing to me at times to weigh the layers of interpretation that we have added to the words of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus call this faith saving faith. Repeatedly Jesus says “Ask and you shall receive”. You ask for bodily healing from him and he complies. But ask for soul healing and he would also be willing to comply. Rarely if ever in the gospels does anyone ask.
Here is how I interpret Jesus in the healing moments. He is willing to respond to the most meager faith for bodily healing, to recognize it as faith, to highlight the power of faith, and occasionally to recognize the greatness of the faith. But nowhere does that mean that the faith shown by those who wanted their bodies healed was saving faith.
Jesus (righteousness) is willing to give righteousness. All you have to do is ask and you will receive. Virtue is willing to give virtue. All you have to do is ask and you will receive. The key is faith. Faith is indeed asking for the impossible, accepting that it is given, and acting in light of what one has received. But don’t ask regarding the body/material. Jesus is no longer in the body to do that work. He is righteousness though. And that can still be present in he who asks.
Which should we ask for, healed bodies or healed souls? Which would make the world better, healed bodies or healed souls?
One of these days when I am among those who call themselves Christians and the request for prayer requests go out I am going to ask for virtue. What I find is that normally the requests go like the following: some relative, friend or loved one is having bodily trouble (poverty, disease). Someone has just had surgery or gotten a job and we want God to make sure it takes.
The presupposition is that God is up there picking or choosing based on the quality of the requests, numbers of times asked, or something like desperation shown in front of others. The presupposition is that while God is letting the suffering mount up everywhere else he is willing to intervene in these few cases because, well, we asked.
Read the Lord’s Prayer offered by Jesus. The only even remotely possible request involving material things is the request for daily bread. And given how much time Jesus spent trying to persuade others that he was the bread of life I think it is safe to say he is what he is encouraging us to ask for. The rest of the prayer is about honoring God, avoiding temptation, and living righteously.
You want to be well? You want the world to be better? Stop sinning. Make one part of the world pure. Instantiate the purity of the Christ in one part of it and let it spread from there. Pray that righteousness will spread. Everything else (disease, poverty) is a foregone conclusion. Righteousness? Ask and you shall receive.
Do you have faith?