One day a traveler came across three stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone,” came the reply.
That wasn’t a real answer, so the traveler turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.”
That was a better answer, but it still didn’t satisfy him. So the traveler turned to the third stonecutter, who also seemed to be the happiest of the three. “What are you doing?” he asked. The man answered, “I am building a cathedral.”
This little story illustrates how we can focus on what is right before us rather than step back and get the bigger picture. We can see this when parents get stuck in the details of day-to-day chores and lose sight of their high calling to form their children’s character. It can happen at work when we focus only on our tasks and lose sight of how our work contributes to the common good. And it can happen when it comes to our life of faith.
Think, for example, of the word “salvation.” We tend to think it means the way Jesus has saved us from sin. Of course that’s true, but salvation means much more than this. Yes, Jesus came to save us from our sins, but he also came to save us for a new life. He came to save us so that we could live in freedom and joy and peace—so that each of us could be changed over time into another “living stone” that makes up the great cathedral of God’s Church (1 Peter 2:4).
This is the kind of salvation that Jesus meant when he said to the hemorrhaging woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34). He also said those same words—“Your faith has saved you”—to a blind beggar named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), a leper who returned to him after having been healed (Luke 17:11-19), and a sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed them with perfume (7:36-50). The Greek word the Gospel writers used in each of these stories is sozeo, which means “to heal,” but which also means “to save” and even “to restore.” So let’s look at the people in these stories with a big-picture lens to see not only what they were set free from but also what they were set free for.
Freedom for Discipleship. Jesus and his disciples were heading out of the city of Jericho, surrounded by a crowd of people. The crowd was just as noisy and tightly packed as ever, but one voice rose above the din: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” (Mark 10:47). It came from a blind beggar named Bartimaeus who was sitting by the road. Some people in the crowd tried to silence him, but Bartimaeus only cried out louder.
Finally, his voice caught Jesus’ attention. Jesus asked him what he wanted, and Bartimaeus replied, “Master, I want to see” (Mark 10:51). Then came these familiar words: “Go your way; your faith has saved you” (10:52). At once, Bartimaeus was healed. But the story doesn’t end there. Bartimaeus didn’t go his own way. He followed Jesus “on the way” instead (10:52). He chose the way of discipleship.
Bartimaeus could have gone home, found a job, and lived his own life. But instead, he threw in his lot with a poor, wandering rabbi. It was a riskier path, but Bartimaeus had been changed. His spiritual blindness was healed, and he came to see Jesus in a new way.
Bartimaeus’ story shows us that part of being “saved” involves being moved from our way to God’s way. It involves being set free from a self-centered view of life and being set free for a life of discipleship. It involves receiving the grace to open our hearts to Jesus so that he can teach us how to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord and how to reach out to the poor and needy around us.
Freedom for a Relationship with Jesus. On another occasion, Jesus was met by ten people suffering from leprosy. Instead of healing them directly, he sent them to the local priest for purification. On their way, they were all healed. It must have been astounding: rotting flesh was made new. Nerve cells were regenerated. All the ravages of their disease disappeared, and they were whole!
However, only one of these lepers—a Samaritan, no less—went back to Jesus and fell at his feet, thanking him and praising God. Deeply moved by the man’s response, Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).
Surely there is more here than an assurance that the man has been healed! All ten had already been cured. The “salvation” that this man received must have included something even more wonderful.
As with the hemorrhaging woman and Bartimaeus, faith is the key to understanding this man’s story. For him, faith had to do with a relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t just a matter of believing the unbelievable or of agreeing to a set of doctrines. Rather, his faith moved him to surrender his life to Jesus. He didn’t just shake Jesus’ hand and say, “Thank you for the healing.” He fell at Jesus’ feet in worship and adoration, grateful to have experienced the love of a God who came to save as well as to heal.
Freedom for a Break with the Past. Finally, let’s look at the story of a woman with a sinful reputation who burst into a quiet dinner party where Jesus was. Weeping tears of repentance mixed with love, she anointed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. Jesus’ host was scandalized by her actions, but Jesus reacted quite differently. He saw in her gesture an act of love, and he welcomed it warmly. “Your sins are forgiven,” he told her (Luke 7:48). Somehow, she already knew that—it was what compelled her to anoint Jesus in the first place. But Jesus didn’t want her just to know she had been pardoned. He went on to say, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:50).
Of all the stories we have looked at, this one seems to resonate with people the most deeply—those who are healthy as well as those needing healing. This woman was not in any physical need. Her faith had nothing to do with Jesus’ power to cast out sickness or blindness or deafness. It was about her need for inner healing from the wounds of the past. She had been scarred deeply by her own sins and by the sins of those who had abused her, and those scars continued to bear down on her. But her extravagant actions toward Jesus revealed how willing and grateful, even how happy, she was to break with that past and embrace Jesus and his words of mercy.
This woman’s story shows us that while physical healing is marvelous, spiritual healing is even more amazing—and ultimately more important. She shows us that the salvation Jesus most deeply wants to give us is a salvation from our past sins, a salvation that frees us from every form of bondage and brings us into his presence. Even if we are physically healthy, we all have spiritual needs—and Jesus loves to meet them!
Jesus Saves. Your faith has healed you. Your faith has saved you. Two different translations of the same Greek sentence. Yet as different as they may appear at first, these translations communicate one marvelous truth: Jesus came to save us from sin and to save us for a new life. He came to set us free, to save us, from anything that keeps us from living that new life.
So keep your eyes on Jesus. Be bold like the men and women in the Gospels. Push through any obstacles you might encounter, whether that’s doubt, fear, or resignation. Keep crying out to Jesus and expect him to act in your life. That’s the kind of faith that heals us where we most need healing. That’s the kind of faith that saves us—both now and for eternity.