St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
Do You Believe?

Matt 9:27-35

“Do you believe that I can do this?” This is the question that our Lord asked of the blind men who came to Him to be healed. They had already followed Him from one place to another crying out “Son of David have mercy on us!” By using the words “Son of David” they were calling Jesus the Messiah, for it was prophesied that the Messiah would be the descendent of the prophet and king David.  When Jesus entered the house where He would stay, they followed Him in continuing to ask for healing.  Seeing their persistence, Jesus then turned to them with this question, “Do you believe that I can do this?”  When they answered “Yes, Lord”, then Jesus touched their eyes saying, “Be it unto you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened.

Just prior to this, the event that we heard about last week had occurred where Jesus had healed a paralytic.  In that case, Jesus said to the man “take up your bed and walk”, requiring an act of faith and obedience – and of courage.  Here He required something different – a statement of faith not just that He was the Messiah, for they had already repeatedly named Him in this way, but faith in His ability and the power to heal.  Because healing was a divine act, Jesus was asking them not only to confess Him as Messiah, the Son of David, but also as the Son of God.  Jesus never simply healed someone, but nearly always required some kind of action by the person as well, that they participated in and cooperated with His action.  This is how He still works in us requiring us to work with Him and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He works in us.

The second act of healing that we heard in the Gospel today, however, breaks this pattern.  A man who was demon possessed and was as a result unable to speak was brought before Him.  Here there were no questions of faith, no actions required, but He simply cast out the demon and the man began to speak.  What was different about this situation? Because the mute man was demon possessed, he was completely under the control of the demon and unable to make any statement or act of his own will.  Remember a few weeks ago, the deliverance of the demon possessed men in the tombs.  The men themselves never spoke but the demons that controlled them addressed Jesus.  Only after the demons had been expelled did the men themselves speak to the Lord.  By these healings we see the great compassion of the Lord towards those who are suffering and helpless.  When we are so controlled by our sins such that we do not see them, our Lord will reveal to us our enslavement giving us the chance to be free of it.  Once that initial act of compassion is accomplished, then He says to us as He did to the demon possessed men in the tombs, return to your home (that is depart from the iniquity in which you have been immersed all this time) and show the great works of God in yourself (that is, to work out your salvation, demonstrating the power of God in your own life).  Here we see the same necessity of participating in the work of God and cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our own lives – this time after the fact, once we have been freed from our enslavement to sin.

This then is also the question that our Lord puts to us whenever we approach Him seeking His salvation: “Do you believe that I can do this?”  The first part of this question, “Do you believe?” is one that we must always attend to within ourselves.  Every day in our morning prayers we are instructed to say again the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed.  We remind ourselves each morning with these words: “I believe…”  It is important to do this every day lest through inattention or negligence we forget Who it is that we believe.  “I believe in one God…” “the Father Almighty … (and) the only begotten Son … (and) in the Holy Spirit.   This confession of our Trinitarian faith is the radical core of our faith.  There are many who say that they believe in a god – but only those of us who have been enlightened by the grace of God can believe in one God in three persons – the perfect unity in diversity.  And then lest we forget Who this Triune God is we confess that He is “maker of heaven and earth … who for us men and for our salvation was incarnate and became man… (who) is the Lord, the giver of life…”  In this confession we also reiterate the many benevolent actions and gifts of our Lord, especially that he “suffered and was buried and the third day rose again…” and that He has provided for us “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, one baptism for the remission of sins,” and that He promises us “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”  Every day we repeat this confession of faith so that we never forget Who it is that we worship, Who we follow and to Whom we belong.  Never should we say these words carelessly, but each day with the words of the Creed we should reaffirm our faith, promise ourselves again to the service of God and place our selves firmly in His hands.  In this way when He asks us “Do you believe?” we can answer firmly and with full confidence “Yes, Lord I believe.”

But He does not stop with a general belief – but asks us, “Do you believe that I can do this?” that is, do you believe that He can accomplish His will in you?  Do you believe that He is indeed all-powerful, that He is stronger than the sin which formerly held you captive?  Do you believe that He can overcome any weakness that you might have in yourself?  And if you believe in His power, do you also believe that He will do these things in you – that is, do you believe that He loves you and that He will provide everything for you?  All of this is contained in the question, “Do you believe that I can do this?”  Again, just as with the question of general belief, you must be confident in your belief that the great and all-powerful Creator of the universe loves you and desires to draw you to Himself and to share Himself with you.  Do you believe this?  Do you believe that God loves you?  Do you believe that He can and will heal you, both in body and in soul?  You must be able to answer this question as well, firmly and with full confidence, “Yes, Lord.  I believe.”

Finally, remember that He does not do these things to us without our participation.  He breaks the power of sin over us, He bestows His grace upon us and gives us every help and assistance that we need to be restored to our created glory and to be united to Him in eternity.  But He expects you to act on your belief, to take what He gives and to use it.  It is not enough just to assent or acquiesce to Him, but we must also work with Him – to act on our belief.  We must participate in our own salvation and become His coworker in our own transformation.  He has cleared the path, shown us the way and draws us to Himself – but it is up to us to follow.

“Do you believe that I can do this?”  These are the words of our Lord to each one of us.  Will you answer along with the blind men, “Yes Lord, I believe.”?  Will you then act on that belief?  Will you follow Christ into His eternal Kingdom?  We are called to believe, and to act on that belief.  Let us then respond firmly and with confidence, “Yes Lord. I believe.”

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