Do you need faith to be healed? It seems to be a common theme here. A couple of readings ago it was the faith of friends that healed the man with a mat. Today, the synagogue leader displayed great faith. He knew Jesus could bring his dear daughter back to life. Jesus has done many miraculous things, but we don’t hear of him raising people from the dead all that regularly. This leader’s faith was there despite not having seen an eyewitness account.
And what did you think about the woman who merely touched his clothes? That was crazy faith to think she could be healed without a touch from Jesus. But she was healed, and Jesus knew that his power had been called upon. He recognized her great faith and she was healed on the spot.
Friends like that are a treasure. The life of the paralyzed man changed that day in a big way because of his friends. You might wonder what happened before the men carried their friend to Jesus. Perhaps the paralyzed man had never seen Jesus healing other people because he wasn’t able to get around. Would he have doubted his friends who obviously had seen Jesus’ miraculous work? They were sure that Jesus could help their friend. Jesus could see their faith.
Then it got a little dicey. Jesus simply said to the man, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” Well, that would have been quite a statement. God is the only one who can forgive sins. Who did Jesus think he was? The teachers of the law in the crowd were mumbling among themselves. Jesus knew their hearts, too. He called it out almost as quickly as their opposition began to grow.
What surprised you about today’s reading? Was it that a Roman officer approached Jesus for help? Was it that a Roman soldier surprised Jesus with his faith? Was it that a child was healed without Jesus even being present? This story is full of amazing details like that.
It is a story of faith. Bold, unquestioning faith. The officer knew that Jesus had power. Because of the power he had in his line of work, he knew what it was to give an order and have it be accomplished. This Roman officer transferred this knowledge and knew that Jesus’ power could heal his child. Jesus was so powerful that his word from afar would do the trick. That is a great example of faithfulness!
The narrow gate is an image that would have made a lot more sense to the people hearing Jesus’ words that day on the mountain. I remember teaching my Sunday School students about the life of a shepherd and the gate he prepared for his flock around a sheepfold. That’s the image I see here. A sheepfold is an enclosure for sheep, like a large corral. There is only one entrance, a narrow gate. The shepherd would oftentimes lay down as the gate himself to keep his sheep enclosed and safe.
Jesus says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.” We know that the only way to eternal life in God’s Kingdom is through our belief and trust in Jesus. So, Jesus is referring to himself as the narrow gate. He is the one keeping us safe. That’s a very reassuring picture. But it’s still a “narrow” gate. It may not be easy to find or navigate through.
We read about Abraham’s faith in Genesis (chapters 15-22) several months ago. You can look back to those reflections for reference. Abraham was a true hero of faith. He set a great example for all of us to follow. We have so many stories of how he trusted God no matter what.
Abraham overcame so many obstacles because of his faith. Unwavering faith. He didn’t wait for the situation to match God’s promise to be faithful. He trusted in God’s promise from the moment it was uttered. Are we as trusting? Do we cling to God’s promises with as much intensity and devotion?