Luke records for Theophilus and for us his historical account of Jesus life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection so that we can know the certainty of what we have believed in.
Luke crafts his narrative not on chronological accuracy, but thematic accuracy in order to boost our confidence in Jesus as the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Therefore, Luke’s narrative is loaded with connected accounts of Jesus’ ministry to help us grow and walk with the risen Lord.
Once such example that has recently wrecked me in such a good way is Luke 17:5-37.
The apostles tell Jesus to increase their faith. They don’t ask. They tell Jesus. And they tell him with an exclamation point. They are in great need of increased faith, and Jesus does not respond like with think he ought to. Jesus does not pull a “Bewitched” (old television show in which Samantha the witch would wiggle her nose and make stuff happen) and cause faith to fill the faith tank in the souls of the apostles. Jesus does not indicate at all that increased faith is the result of anything further on his part.
Let me be clear here. There is no doubt that God sustains and upholds our faith (Luke 22:31-32; Mark 9:24 – a personal favorite because of the recognition that the reason he cried out for help with his faith is because Jesus is the only one who can help sustain his faith, and I’m here a lot with that).
Let me be clear also that “saving faith” is a free gift of God and not something we can make up or create on our own (Ephesians 2:1-9).
But here, in response to the apostles asking for “increased” faith, Jesus does not tell them to go their way and wait for him to simply make it happen. Jesus tells them that if they have the tiniest faith they can make a mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea. Now, Jesus uses hyperbole to make a point. That point is that tiny faith is sufficient faith. No doubt Jesus gave them that faith and no doubt he will sustain it. But to increase it requires something of us.
We must exercise the faith he has graciously given to us. How are we to do that?
- The indication from the hyperbole of telling the plant to be uprooted and planted in the seas is that faith is something we have to exercise and believe that it’s effective. So, first, you have to trust that taking Jesus at his word is the place you start. And if Jesus says that tiny faith is enough, then, dad gum, it is.
- Next, Luke recounts 3 events that tell us how we are to continue exercising our faith that it may increase. The first one is the story of the unworthy servant. Here, the point is that if the servant does his duty he has done nothing above and beyond. He has simply done his job. The point? Do your duty to obey Jesus. It may not be spectacular. It may not come with notoriety. But we are to do what we know is right and do it immediately.
- Verse 11-19 then recounts the time 10 lepers came to Jesus to be healed. Upon healing only 1 came back to give thanks and praise to God. Jesus said, that this faith of thanks and praise had made him well. Point? Faith increases as we give thanks to and praise to God. Be thankful in all things. The Psalms make clear that thanksgiving is how we honor and worship.
- Finally, verse 20-37 recount Jesus’ teaching on recognizing the kingdom of God versus kingdoms of man. Jesus teaches them how to know the difference. Point? Increased faith comes as we learn to tell the evident kingdom of God from the evident kingdoms of man. Jesus’ kingdom is in our midst and evident to those who have even tiny faith. We simply know Jesus from anti-Jesus. We are to be a discerning people who are not fooled by men’s kingdoms. We are to be Jesus followers who are delighted in his rule in our midst.
That’s how Jesus taught the apostles to increase their faith. Exercise the faith he had given them and will sustain in them. When they did that, they would see that the kingdom had come and his will was being done and they were members of that kingdom. Therefore, their trust in him would increase.
Obey what you know today. I guarantee that your faith in Jesus will rise when you do that.