Over the past week I had to prepare for a Bible quiz in Church focused on the book of Matthew, where I was responsible for studying chapters 7-9. After the 50-minute competition which saw my team answer 35 questions, we came second after a run-off quiz with another group which came third – we missed only two questions! Anyways the essence of this post is less about our wonderful performance but more about what I learnt while studying Matthew 8-9 in particular.
For context, these chapters cover developments immediately after Jesus’ sermon on the mount and focus on three dimensions of faith:
The faith of your friends, and
When you’re unable to exercise faith
I’ll leave you to study the chapters for yourself but the main thing that stuck with me was how Jesus responded to anyone who was capable of exercising faith. How he responded to them was based on the extent of faith they had. Let me compare and contrast two similar examples:
In Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion came pleading to Jesus that he had a servant lying paralyzed and dreadfully tormented at home. Jesus offered to go with him to go heal him but the centurion’s faith saw him believe that if Jesus only spoke a word, his servant would be healed. And for that, Jesus said he had not found such great faith, not even in Israel! So Jesus told him to go his way that “as you have believed, so let it be done for you”, and his servant was healed that hour.
In Matthew 9:18-26, this time it was the leader of a synagogue who came and worshipped Jesus saying that his daughter had just died and he wanted Jesus to come lay His hands on her and she will live. Jesus arose and followed him to his house. When He got there, He was laughed at and riduculed by the mourners at the house. Despite this, He went in, took her by the hand and she arose.
You see, faith has levels – reflected in Jesus saying He hadn’t seen such great faith as the centurion’s. Now, Jesus didn’t wonder why the synagogue leader on the other hand didn’t believe that He could speak and the girl would arise. Instead, Jesus responded according to the man’s faith and followed him. Maybe in the first scenario the servant was still alive but in this one she was dead, or maybe in the second scenario Jesus wanted to use that experience to spread the word into that region as the text says “the report of this went into all that land” – whichever way, what we know is that Jesus responded to the level of faith that either man had.
Jesus is more than willing to answer our prayers and give us good gifts, even more than we think He wants to. In Matthew 8:2-3, the leper said “if you are willing to make me clean…”, to which Christ responded “I am willing…”. In Matthew 7:7-12, Christ teaches us that if we sinful humans know how to give good gifts to our children when they ask us i.e. we won’t give them stone when they ask for bread, or a serpent when they ask for fish; then how much more will He our father give good things to those who ask him! Just think about that for a second…
So God’s willingness to give us good things is never in doubt. In the following verses He tells us some secrets to unlocking answers to our prayers in this life: