“Faith” is a key word in the New Testament. It does not occur in the Old, although some modern versions use it a little, but not in the New Testament sense. Matthew’s Gospel reports the most miracles of Jesus, but the religious leaders tried to discount them alleging he was using some kind of magic. In chapter 9 they allege, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (verse 34).

Of all his miracles the most challenging to them was when he raised someone who had died. Verse 18 says that “a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, my daughter has just died”, but such was his conviction of the powers of Jesus that he said, “but come and lay your hand on her and she will live”. When Jesus comes to the house he sees “flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he says, ‘Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping’” (verse 24). They laughed at this!

In many places the death of believers is described as a sleep; remember what Paul wrote, “For since that we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). This is a wondrous lesson – those who die have fallen asleep – they move into God’s time, and have no awareness of time passing at all!

On his way to the ruler’s house Jesus heals a woman “suffering from a discharge of blood” – he does this because of her approach, saying, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well” (verse 22). “Blind men” follow him seeking a healing, they are asked, “Do you believe I am able to do this?”. They say, “Yes, Lord”, and he heals them, “saying, ‘According to your faith, be it done to you’” (verse 29).

By far the greatest miracle of all will take place when Jesus comes again bringing to life “those who have fallen asleep”. Do you have faith that this will happen? What is the quality of your faith, my faith? How much is it reflected in the way we live? Faith must be an active ingredient in every aspect of our lives, it will be “according to your faith” that the Lord will act – and we will be part of the glory that God has in store for this earth and, says the prophet, “you meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your way” (Isaiah 64:5). Joy and faith go together.