Today I am going to digress from my usual format to share some thoughts which have been raised after my last post. What I want to say should not be regarded as a theological treatise but just some notes to help us to understand better how to read he bible, because after all, that is where we are looking to hear Jesus speak to us. Something which Ludwig said on Saturday synergised with thoughts I have been having for some time, which are relevant to what we are talking about.
Ludwig said “words on paper are one-dimensional, however we must realize that life and our relationship with God through Jesus is three-dimensional”. So what is he saying? Let us take “faith” as a word and as a concept as an example, because that is what I was asking you to chew over last week.
So if we look at the story about the ten lepers and what it says about faith, Luke 17:11-19 we can see immediately it doesn’t give a broad picture or definition of faith, does it? Rather one-dimensional. So what do we do if we want to learn what Jesus’ (Luke’s) point that is being made about faith in it? I think most of us would go into our storehouse of knowledge on faith and try and fit that over this story to understand it, instead of perhaps trying to see precisely what Luke does say about faith in it and what we can learn from that. You see this story was never intended to give us a complete picture or a comfortable definition of faith.
Lets take a step back. Luke is writing a biography of the most important figure in our faith, which he calls a “gospel” about Jesus. His whole book thus focuses on this figure Jesus. Building a picture of who He really is and what His mission was to earth. One important aspect of that story is the question; how should the reader relate to this figure Jesus? So Luke doesn’t sit down and neatly say this is Jesus and this is His character and mission and this is how the reader should relate to Him. He starts at the beginning, instead and tells us the story, well edited, of His life as it unfolded in order that we can meet the real flesh and blood three dimensional God/Person Jesus. He does this by telling a number of stories which each add to this picture of who this Man is and what He has come to do. No one story tells everything, nicely wrapped up, of what we need to know about Him. That would be impossible.
Its rather like looking at a beautiful diamond, describing the various facets and ways of reflecting and refracting the light into a myriad of dancing colours. It is three dimensional and changes in colour and appearance depending on which side you look at it from, the light and even your ability to perceive it. Trying to describe everything about Him in one story, even of several pages, would be like looking at a diamond and studying one facet in one source of light and expecting the picture to be complete.
So where does faith come into this discussion? Luke wants us to understand how we must relate to this central figure Jesus and he is showing that the correct way of responding to Jesus is by faith. But faith is also like a beautiful diamond so the whole picture cannot be fitted into one story, rather every now and then Luke shows us people reacting to Jesus “by faith”. The circumstances, sometimes similar, sometimes different put a different colour or facet onto the total three dimensional picture of what we should know and understand about faith. At least 12 times in his gospel he refers directly to someone’s faith in different stories and circumstances and in addition there are other nuances which contribute to our understanding of the concept.
So when we look at the story of the 10 lepers what can we learn from that about faith? Firstly, as I mentioned last time there was the recognition of their need. Now in this case the need is clear, but in today’s world the reason many people don’t come to Jesus is because they don’t perceive they have a need. Without realizing one has a need you won’t seek relief. Secondly Jesus responded by “cleansing” them. They had made contact with Him and received a touch from Him So we see not everyone who comes in contact with Jesus will respond in faith. There is only who one perceived something more in Jesus than a means to be healed. That one comes to Jesus the person and casts himself at His feet. He has recognized something special in the Person of Jesus. Now in the bigger context of Luke this is His Messiahship. But here the focus is on the importance of recognizing Jesus, however much you may understand about Him and coming to Him the “Person”. The focus is Jesus. Not the decision that the leper made, nor even the healing. The focus is on Jesus the Healer who also saves. That doesn’t mean the leper didn’t make a decision to go to Jesus, of course he made a decision, but the “salvation healing” was because his decision led him to Jesus that Luke wants us to see in this beautiful facet on faith. Alternatively the others did not respond correctly, despite Jesus touching them.
His decision is the response of faith that led him to Jesus and his healing depended on Jesus, not his decision. You see ultimately if our salvation depended on our ability to decide correctly then to-morrow we may find we are slipping and doubting again. So the lesson on faith here is a lesson showing us the correct response is to the Person Jesus.
Can you see he point I’m trying to make? Each story, each facet of a subject like this goes to making the whole, a three-dimensional picture rather than a one-dimensional definition.
There is obviously much more that one needs to understand about faith than this, but one step at a time builds a strong edifice, a three-dimensional picture, one that stands the tests of the storm. And when I ask myself what Jesus is saying to me after reading this story it should focus and draw from what has been said in it. Like Do I really see and understand how deep my need is for Jesus’ work in my life. Or, am I really responding in faith when I see my difficult situation and going to Jesus to get to know Him better so that my faith can grow?
Maybe next time I will say one or two things more. Happy reading and especially happy meeting the Author of these wonderful scriptures.