The egg or the chicken: which comes first? I’m not really sure. But when it comes to a belief in God and the Jesus story, I think a willingness to believe comes first. Let’s call that state of willingness- “faith.” It takes faith first. I often joke that my own journey is less like a Christian revival meeting, complete with a thunderbolt moment of “being saved,” and more like an avocado tree, which is mostly just twigs and a dangling leaf or two for a good long time. The slow maturing tree can take three to four years to produce its first fruit, and that is much closer to my story, truth be told.
Jesus compares the kind of faith necessary to follow Him to that of a little child’s; the predisposition to trust that each of us is born with. One of the stories in Scripture that resonates most for me is The Bleeding Woman. It appears in three of the four Gospels, so we know it’s important: Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8. It’s the story of a woman who is healed in an instant simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, as He passes her in a crowd. Most striking is that many in the crowd touch Jesus that day, and most we can be sure, need healing of one kind or another. Yet, the one who is healed is the one who believes in the power of Jesus to heal her. She is healed by her faith, Jesus tells us. This is Mark 5: “A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The story of The Man with the Withered Hand also comes to mind. This Scripture concerns the new priorities Jesus is teaching, namely, that caring for each other supersedes religious rules and requirements. In the story, a man with a crippled hand pleads to Jesus for healing. It’s the Sabbath day when religious rules strictly prohibit all forms of “labor.” Jesus ignores the rules and goes to work. While those eager to condemn him look on, He asks the crippled man for the impossible- to stretch out his hand. The man knows he can’t but does so anyway because he trusts Jesus. And he is healed. This is in Mark 3: “Then Jesus said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So, he stretched it out, and it was restored to full use, just like the other.”
Just like the Bleeding Woman, the crippled man is restored through faith. Faith first. That was true for them, and it is true for us. The song pairing is one written in the “twig stage” of my faith journey: “We Live by Faith.”
We Live by Faith
By faith the walls of Jericho fell
it was faith that kept Noah dry as well
faith raised one man from the dead
and it could have been you or me instead
Now Sara was way past 63
with a little baby rocking on her knee
Who is this man wind and seas obey?
Follow Me, He said, follow Me and see.
We live by faith and not by sight
we are walking steady toward the light
you will see later with your eyes so bright
what you know down in your in heart
what you know is right
Now it’s Easter time, the world is fresh and new
the flowers are pink and the sky is blue
God waits for us, it’s true
open your eyes He said,
your faith has healed you
We live by faith…….
Faith will move mountains He said
then He fed 5,000 with some loaves of bread
He tells everyone who’s living
go in peace, you are forgiven
Why He asks are you afraid?
With some faith, sister you are saved.
Why then are you still afraid?
With some faith you are saved.