Luke in his gospel tells us he “investigated everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence so that we may realize the certainty of the teaching you have received.” Luke is not only teaching us something about our fundamental beliefs as Christians but he is putting the events in sequence so that our faith can grow after each encounter with Christ in his gospel. I believe the disciples witnessing the same events in the sequence Luke painstakingly recorded caused them to ask Jesus to “increase their faith.”
Think of the things they witnessed and the things they heard him say since the day he called them to follow him. They by now have already witnessed miracle after miracle and are coming to the conclusion they need more faith. Not only have they witnessed physical healings but they themselves have laid hands on the sick and saw them healed (Lk. 9). They have seen Jesus feed thousands with a few fish and a few loaves. They have heard him forgive sins and not condemning a woman caught in adultery. They have seen him transfigured and waking on water. They have seen him heal the son of a Roman Centurion without even being in the same town as the boy. They have seen 72 followers of Jesus go before him to every town and village “cuing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom is at hand” (Lk. 10). How much more things have to happen before their faith is strong enough to withstand any challenge.
Obviously something was lacking or they would never have asked him to do something to increase it in them. I believe what they found lacking is exactly the same reason we need to examine our faith. If they who were intimate with him needed more faith so do we.
Oh we have faith in many things just not the kind of faith that would uproot a mulberry tree and cast it into the sea. If you read this gospel passage in context you will find it comes after the series of teachings we have heard in church over the past three weeks. Jesus in those gospels was chastising the Pharisees because they were critical of him welcoming sinners and dining with them. His stories were parables that give us a glimpse of God actions towards us. Jesus began with the parable of the lost sheep and the extent the shepherd goes to restore him to the flock. He goes on with the parable of the prodigal son which most likely blew the minds of the Pharisees because the law demanded that son to be stoned. Jesus continued with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man which again would have confused them because he did nothing wrong.
With the telling of each of these parables the Pharisees would have been getting more and more worked up because the parables go against everything they believed. I think the disciples are beginning to understand that the demands of our faith go against what we think is fair and just. They are beginning to understand how far God will go to not condemn them but embrace them and love them into wholeness.
Here is the kicker for them and for us, do we believe that God forgives as easily as he did the prodigal son. Do we believe by turning back to God our sins have no penalty except the penalty of our own self punishment? Do we believe that we can be more than a slave in our father’s house? The disciples witnessed Jesus doing exactly what the parables portrayed and there was a standard God applied that was very different from the law. They also understood they needed to look at how the law condemns and Jesus was forgiving.
They understood there was something greater than going out and healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God is at hand. That something was the very reason Jesus came and was journeying to Jerusalem. Jesus was going to pay the penalty for our sins and he was going to remove the partition that separated us from God’s embrace. Jesus’ death not only accomplished that he was going to make it possible for us to break the power sin has over our lives by sending us the Spirit.
We need to have a faith in what his death accomplished for us and our relationship with God. That relationship changed from being on the outside to being in the presence of the King because of Jesus. We have given the greatest gift; one we could never earn – salvation and eternal life by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We must acknowledge before him in prayer that his death was for the forgiveness of my sins. We must open ourselves to feel the embrace of the father just as the prodigal son did or the woman caught in adultery did. Then we must invite him to pour the Spirit upon us so that we can not only feel the love of God poured into our hearts but we can begin to truly live as sons and daughters.
That is the kind of increase in faith we need in order to begin living in the freedom of God. That was I believe what the disciples were beginning to grasp about how their faith must grow.
Do we really believe Jesus was the Son of God and do we believe in what his death accomplished? If we do believe, then why are we still trying to earn what was given to us so freely. If we can make that step in accepting salvation we will grow in faith.
If the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith should we do the same? I believe we need the same thing the disciples needed and that was to feel and know the “power flowing from the resurrection of Christ” (Phl. 3:10). I believe we need to know the transforming power of the Spirit “transforming us from glory to glory into the very image of Christ” (2 Cor. 3:18).
I believe we need an increase of faith in order to know that we are “created in Christ Jesus for the good works prepared in advance for us” (Eph. 2:10).
I believe we need to have an increase in faith to know how to forgive ourselves for the many times we have failed to live up to God’s plan and the many times we have failed to forgive those who offended us.
If we can have our faith increased in those areas we will be able to do the things disciples did and that is to make the gift of salvation known to those who have yet to embrace salvation.
Lord increase our faith.