Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the entire world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her (Mark 14:9).
What made Jesus so appreciative of Mary’s act? Let me summarize the story for those who haven’t read it in a while. I’m looking at it in John 12.
Only One Believed
It’s six days before the big day when Christ would lay down His life for the sin of the world. For more than three years Jesus had been telling the people that His mission was not to rule an earthly empire but to become the ransom for our sin. He was heading for the cross - not for the throne. Yet, even while they were walking to Jerusalem, the disciples were still arguing about who would be the greatest in that kingdom. After three years of teaching these guys, not a single one of them heard the message. Let’s correct that. Of the thousands who heard the words of Christ concerning His death, only one single person believed Him, and that was Mary.
Mary not only heard, she believed, and action always accompanies belief. While everyone else was expecting Jesus to take the throne, she was preparing for His burial. She began saving up - possibly for an entire year - to buy this special perfume to use for Christ’s burial.
Christ saw in Mary something that He desired to see in the disciples, and in each one of us - a faith that works by love. Mary believed Christ’s word; then moved by love to act on that belief.
But as great as Mary’s faith was, it still came short. In the end, the people of God are called to seek after a more perfect faith, the faith of Jesus.
Faith of Jesus
One person we met while ministering in East Baltimore was very adamant that Jesus didn’t have faith while on earth; after all, He was God with us. While this might seem plausible reasoning, it highlights the very thing that we want to emphasize here. We are going to believe something, but will that be the word of God?
The Bible says that those living in the end time will have the “faith OF Jesus” (Rev 14:12). Galatians 2:16, 20 also says
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Some newer translations render this “faith in Jesus”, which is a completely different meaning. Faith of Jesus, means that we receive Jesus’ perfect faith for our justification. Faith in Jesus highlights justification based on our belief in Him. I thank God that He didn’t depend on my faith in order to justify me. Only Jesus believed God’s word perfectly. He is the only one that lived by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. That’s faith! And He’s the only one who had perfect faith.
This is important to note because while we are justified by faith, we are to be mindful of whose faith we are justified by. There is nothing that we do that is acceptable to God - not even our belief. But God accepts everything that Christ does. Like the man who brought his demon-possessed son to Christ, we also should recognize how inadequate our faith is. Yet, Christ wants to impart such a faith to us. He wants us to also learn to believe every word in the Bible, and to live by it.
How to cultivate faith.
Notice that faith is a gift that God gives to every man. “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). In other words, God starts us off on the right path. If we end up faithless it’s not because God has shorted us, it’s because we either rejected what He has given, or we failed to cultivate it.
We get some insight into how faith is cultivated through Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Notice how Christ meets each of the devil’s suggestions:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:4,7,11).
Christ did not depend on His own wisdom, in answering the devil’s temptations; rather, He depended on the Word of God. He demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the Word of God. God was able to strengthen Him with the very words that were needed for that moment. The same is true for us. When we spend quality time with God’s Word, He will bring back to our mind the very thing we need, when we need it. (Matthew 4:4,7,10)
It is often implied that faith is passive; even in conflict with works? Faith is not passive. The faith that Jesus cultivates in His people is a “faith expressed through love” (Galatians 5:6 ISV). This is no passive faith. As we read through the “Hall of Faith” chapter (Hebrews 11), we find that every time it speaks about the faith of God’s people it does so in accompaniment with what that faith led them to do.
In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham obeyed. But notice what he told his servants: “we [Abraham and Isaac] will return”. How could Abraham say that to the servants when he was heading to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac?
Abraham trusted God to keep His promise. God told him to sacrifice Isaac. But God had also promised Abraham that He would make of Isaac a great nation. Abraham’s conclusion: “God would raise Isaac from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham had no doubt that God would keep His word. Cultivating Faith Why is it that some people have saving faith while others don’t? Everyone is given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 18-23), Jesus points out that some people never mature in that faith because of various elements including not being grounded in the Word of God, cares of this life, worldly pleasures.
The Bible gives us a couple of things that we can do today to cultivate, increase, and exercise the faith of Christ.
Pray for Faith
Increase our faith… Luke 17:4-6
Spend time with the Word.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) The Word is central in developing faith. We cannot expect to have strong faith while spending more time with the TV, or browsing social media, than we spend in the Word, or when we are consumed with work and even religious activities. To develop faith, we must spend time in the Word. We must believe God’s word. We must live God’s word.
Justification by Faith in the Old Testament How were Old Testament believers made righteous?
It is commonly taught that God's people in the Old Testament were accepted based on their obedience to the law while New Testament believers are saved by faith. Could this be true?
If any person could be justified by the law then righteousness would be by the law. Christ wasn’t thoroughly excited about going to the cross. If there was any way that human beings could be saved outside of the sacrifice of Christ then Christ needn’t have died. The Bible is very clear, however, that God's people in both the Old and New Testaments were justified by the faith of Jesus (Habakkuk 2:4).
What kept Jesus on the cross?
I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption (Psalms 16: 8-10).
Jesus believed God’s word that He wouldn’t allow Him to rot in the grave. He had faith also that through His sacrifice, He would bring many sons to glory; that people, even today, would be saved through His amazing sacrifice. He was willing to submit to the will of God.
Do you have the faith of Christ today? Read again Revelation 14:12. Do you see yourself among that number?
Finally. We are not only justified by faith but in the word of the author of our lesson, “The same faith we are justified by is the same faith we are to live by” (Pastor Jenks Brutus).
The storms of this life often threatens to overflow and overwhelm us; but in God's Word we find reasons to keep swimming; keep striving; keep pressing and holding on. In this series we explore 21 reasons why we can have hope, even in a world, or personal experience, that feels hopeless.