How much evidence would one need to believe Jesus is who he says (e.g., the great I Am)? Would you need to see a miracle or experience one yourself? Does the written record (the Bible) not suffice – despite it’s incredible reliability, historical accuracy, and eyewitness testimony? Getting someone to believe anything is not just a logical endeavor. It’s a spiritual one. People will believe what they believe – despite the evidence.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus encounters a leper. The man cries out to Jesus to be made clean. Jesus says, sure and touches him (literally, he says “clean.”). The man is instantly healed of his skin disease and told to go and show himself to the priests. Jesus also told him not tell anyone. The man went as Jesus instructed, but, because of his excitement, he couldn’t contain himself and word of the healing got out.
Did this man believe in Jesus – as the Christ – the savior of the world? Or did he just see him as an amazing healer? This man experienced Jesus up close and personal – did it help him believe? How about the friends and family of the leper? They clearly knew something miraculous had taken place. Did it make a difference to them? We know Jesus’ miracles, actions, and teachings peaked everyone’s interest because people swarmed to him like bees wherever he went.
If you’re thinking that a healing from a skin disease is no big deal – or that Jesus rubbed some kind of ointment on the man, it is, and he didn’t. In fact, Jesus didn’t even have to touch the leper. Jesus can heal with a word or thought. Jesus touched him out of compassion. Leprosy was more than a debilitating skin disease. In Jesus day, it was the end of your social life, your connections to your family, your friends, synagogue. Imagine being cutoff from Facebook, Twitter, IM, the Internet. You had to keep your distance from people and call out “Unclean!” Lepers were cast outside their community. Jesus not only restored the man’s skin. He restored his entire life.
Was this total restoration enough for the leper to believe? Maybe.
Now, what about if we multiplied this one healing miracle 10X. Later, Luke tells us exactly that. On his way to Jerusalem ten lepers cried out to Jesus. They yelled, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus said, “Sure, go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
Okay, now this is enough evidence, right? Jesus didn’t even lay his hands on them. He didn’t call out to God to come down and heal them. He didn’t step back and roll up his sleeves. He likely didn’t even break stride. Did this miracle “times ten” help folks believe in Jesus? We’re told one guy, a Samaritan, got it. Luke tells us this:
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
It would seem that even multiplying the miracle 10X only produced a 10% conversion ratio. There is obviously more to “believing” than the evidence that one sees with their eyes or hears with their ears.
To get at this a bit more, Luke tells us that when Jesus sent out his disciples to heal the sick and tell them about God’s Kingdom, upon their return they were ecstatic with the results – as even demons submitted to them. Jesus told them not to be excited about that, but rather that their names are written in heaven. Then Luke tells us this…
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
What were Jesus’ disciples able to see that the others couldn’t see? What they saw, felt, and experienced was the power of God. But it wasn’t so much the hard evidence that made the difference. It wasn’t the logical facts that fade so quickly. There was something spiritual going on with these men. They were being given a gift – an understanding that they didn’t quite grasp at the time. They were slowly beginning to understand, as the story, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus began to reveal a much, much larger picture of who he is.
Too often, many don’t take the time to explore Jesus. They skim the surface. Their presuppositions about life, science, nature preclude the miraculous. Jesus is seen as just another great sage. Oh, what a tragedy! God, open their hearts! God, open their eyes! God, open their ears!
I’ll close with this also from Luke’s Gospel…
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
If you’re looking for “evidence,” look around you – talk to a follower of Jesus. Put your agenda and your ideas aside and cry out to God to show you – see what God does.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson