The Lord Jesus Christ performed many miracles during His ministry on earth. What we sometimes don’t realize is that often it was often the faith of the recipient of the miracle that was the catalyst that made the miracle possible. Everyone knows that Jesus Christ had faith and could do anything. He was God, and all things were possible with Him. The disciples, after witnessing a great work by Jesus asked astonished: “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26). And: “Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27). “And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You;” (Mark 14:36).
Knowing that God can do anything, why then were some healed while others were not? Christ noted this peculiar fact as He began His ministry. Speaking in the Jewish temple He said: “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:25-27). What Jesus was saying is that there were many people in need but Elijah was sent only to a certain few who had faith for the healing or blessing.
So it was with Jesus ministry. He was sent only to those who recognized Him as the Son of God and had faith for the miracle performed. This was borne out poignantly when He returned to his hometown Nazareth and attempted to perform miracles there. “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:54-58). Jesus could not do any good for the needy in Nazareth, or even His family because of their unbelief. They were actually offended by Jesus. Familiarity breeds contempt.
It was to those who had faith that Jesus was able to perform miraculous deeds. A perfect example, one of many, was the Roman Centurion with the ill servant. “And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a [Roman] centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:5-13).
In another case “And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are crowding and pressing in on You.”But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; [saved you] go in peace” (Luke 8:43-48; Matthew 9:20-22).
In this case the crowds were pressing in to Jesus to get Him to lay hands on them and heal them. This woman was desperate enough, and sufficiently believed that Jesus could heal her, that she did not wait her turn in line but burst through the crowd and got her healing. Despite her fear, and even after she was discovered, it was her faith that made her well. This is the type of desperate faith the Lord sometimes requires of us. This kind of faith will stop at nothing until the answer is obtained.
In another amazing case: “Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once” (Matthew 15:21-28).
This woman was hated (by the Jews) because she was a Canaanite, whom the Jews had conquered long ago as they took possession of the land of Israel. She was probably a pagan, not worshipping the Jewish God. Yet she was crying and screaming after the Lord so annoying that the disciples told the Lord to shut her up. At first even the Lord denied her petition on behalf of her daughter. However the woman would not be put, off humbling herself greatly by likening herself to a dog eating crumbs from her master’s table. Even though she was not a Jew Jesus healed her daughter because her faith could not be denied.
It should be made clear that: “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who [diligently] seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Whatever we do for God in the hope of pleasing Him is utterly ineffective unless we have faith. The world exists because of faith and every man of God has distinguished himself by his/her faith (see Hebrews 11). “Now faith is the assurance [substance] of things hoped for, [expected] the conviction [evidence] of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained [obtained] approval. By faith we understand that the worlds [ages] were prepared [framed] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
Faith is not passive as we have seen from the miracles described above. Each recipient of something from God demonstrated an active faith. They showed they had faith by their actions, inciting the Lord to move on their behalf. If they had had faith, but stood back in the crowd, not acting on their faith, then their faith would have been of no benefit. “Faith, if it has no corresponding works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:17-20). James goes on to explain that faith, without corresponding works, is utterly useless.
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? ….Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-16, 21-26).
Works without faith are just as useless as faith without works. Called “dead works” these are works which are generated from the old human nature with the intention to please God. These are the kinds of works that Christ will reject. Christ said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me you who practice lawlessness”. Lawlessness, in this context, means works not ordained by God but done with the old human nature. That is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and “faith without works is dead” also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing.” Dead works are those works that our human consciences consider good but they are not pleasing to God.
That is why the writer of Hebrews stresses the cleansing of our human consciousnesses. “…since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:21-22). Man’s conscience is the part of His old nature that determines, through his own thinking pattern, what is right and what is wrong. What is right or wrong or good or bad is not to be determined by man but God. An evil conscious will result in legalistic rules and regulations, regulating morality according to those rules. The result in those who violate these rules invariably results in condemnation, the opposite of the grace that Jesus taught (Romans 8:1). Works that further this perverted sense of what is right or wrong are dead works since they are not done in the newness of life of Christ’s spirit.
To illustrate: “And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good;”. Jesus was telling him that as a man he couldn’t be good no matter what he did. Jesus went on: “but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But the self righteousness young man responded to Jesus: “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete [perfect], go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:16-22).
The young man’s conscience told him he was ready for the Kingdom because he had kept all the rules. But when Jesus told him the real price he would have to pay he could not do it because he lacked the commitment. Because he didn’t have the necessary faith to go all the way he was rejected because his conscience was shocked that such a sacrifice would be required. Many governments, institutions and churches attempt to legislate morality by the enacting of laws and regulations but all they accomplish is a stifling their subjects and converts. Jesus came to free us from laws and regulations. The Law of God would be fulfilled but it would be accomplished by god, not dead works. By walking with Him the laws would be fulfilled in us, written on our hearts (Hebrew 8:7-13. It becomes our nature to do the right thing in the eyes of God.
Jesus went on to perform many miracles that are recorded in the Bible, most initiated by the faith of the recipient. “And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:40-43). And: “Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”...…Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road Mark 10:46-52).
Jesus was amazed at the littleness of the faith of those around Him. When an epileptic boy was brought to Jesus, “Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:18–20).
As we can see it is both the faith of the Lord and our faith working in tandem that activates the faith that works. It is significant that Jesus rebuked the disciples for their littleness of faith. This shows us that that mountains moving faith is present in each of us even if it is the size of a mustard seed, the smallest seed. Even the Lord cannot move in His power and authority, unless we have faith to see Him do so. We cannot please Him without faith. Although we cannot feel it or touch it, faith is the force that can change the universe.
How do we obtain this kind of mountain moving faith? We pray for it. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you” (Luke 17:3-6).