Why did Jesus say that the woman's faith healed her rather than Jesus healing her?
And what does Jesus mean by "faith"?
The word "faith" in this verse is translated from the Greek word πίστις or pistis. πίστις means, "the character of one who can be relied on" according to the lexicon. Thus, being faithful within this context is referring to trust. Being faithful means having complete confidence. Being faithful means relying not upon the temporary trappings of the physical world, but relying solely upon God.
This situation and statement by Jesus indicates that the key requirement of Jesus’ healings was reliance upon God. Jesus simply wanted to teach those around him to trust and rely on God. The message of Jesus was not about his power to heal. Jesus wasn't trying to prove he was great.
Rather, Jesus' healings were meant to demonstrate our need to rely upon God.
Jesus drew his power from the Supreme Being. This is confirmed by many statements, including:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
"By myself I can do nothing" reveals the source of Jesus' ability to heal others. It also reveals why Jesus stated that the woman's "faith" - or trust in the Supreme Being - healed her.
Not only was Jesus' power to heal coming from the Supreme Being. His entire life was focused upon doing what the Supreme Being wanted. Jesus was focused upon pleasing God:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matt. 26:39)
Jesus' intention to do God's will and not his own will illustrates - what?
Jesus had a relationship with the Supreme Being. A relationship of love.
This indicates clearly that the Supreme Being is not a vague force or burning bush. He is a Person - albeit the most powerful, beautiful, gracious, intelligent and loving Person.
And this is why Jesus was also promoting the notion of coming to rely upon - trust - the Supreme Being: Because He is trust-worthy.
Typically when we put our love upon the forms of this physical world those forms at some point abandon us. We might put our love upon an institution but the institution breaks up. Or we might put our love upon our family, but the family members die. Or we put our love upon our children but the children grow old enough to leave. Or we might put our love upon a spouse only to have our spouse die at some point or divorce us.
So we cannot really trust - rely upon - the temporary forms of this physical world. While most might be good-intentioned, every form of this world - every body - will die. Or that person might leave us before that time.
But we can rely upon the Supreme Being. He is eternal and always with us. He never abandons us - even if we abandon Him.
And that is precisely why we are in the physical world, seemingly away from Him. Because we rejected the Supreme Being and our relationship with Him.
So the Supreme Being set up this physical world - for those who do not want to love Him or serve Him. This is confirmed in Genesis:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
These bodies, and the identities associated with them, are "garments of skin." They are temporary coverings of our spirit-persons. This coincided with the Supreme Being tossing us out of the spiritual realm (Garden of Eden).
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground (Genesis 3:23)).
Furthermore, God set up the physical world to be a place where we cannot see Him with these physical eyes - unless God specifically arranges it. This allows us the ability not to have to face God.
Within this physical world we can pretend to hide from God. We can pretend He does not exist. Although it is not possible to really hide from God, we are given the opportunity to ignore Him. This gives us the ultimate freedom to choose to be with Him or not.
After all, if the Supreme Being was visible to our physical eyes, how could we choose to ignore Him?
In other words, the world is set up so that we have the freedom to choose whether we want to love God or not - because love by definition requires freedom. We can instead focus our love upon ourselves, and those temporary material assets like money, family, wealth, prestige, power, and so on.
Or we can decide that we want to have a relationship with the Supreme Being.
Not only does this temporary world give us the freedom to choose God or not, but this world is set up to test our faith should we take some initial steps towards Him. Why?
The Supreme Being does not want us to choose Him whimsically. He wants us to be serious about Him. Therefore, for those who make some effort to know Him, He has created various barriers (illusions of potential material happiness) in order to test us. This is because He wants us to be sincere.
Any relationship requires sincerity. If a boy whimsically asks a girlfriend to marry her without being serious, would the girl immediately say yes? Only a stupid girl would marry a boy who was not serious.
And what would the girl do if she wanted to marry the boy but also knew he wasn't serious? She would probably begin to test his sincerity in the hopes that he would realize his lack of seriousness and become more serious.
This is precisely what the Supreme Being does. His physical world tests our faith by throwing all kinds of doubts and temptations at us. He also continues to hide from us, revealing Himself only when we become serious, and sincere.
This testing of the seriousness of our trust in God is precisely why modern scientists come up with the theories about how the universe was created by accident. It is the Supreme Being who gives those who don't want to be with Him the means to deny His existence.
Certainly, if the Supreme Being wanted to force us to acknowledge Him and serve Him He could.
But He doesn't, because He enjoys loving relationships - not slavery.
This is why Jesus stated:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)