Christ's statement—saying that we will receive according to faith—is both an inspiration and a challenge to faith. In many cases, we misunderstand what He says. He does not mean that we will receive in proportion to our faith but that we will receive because we believe.
Why did He ask if they believed? This took place immediately after restoring a young girl to life, and a lot of people were milling around, undoubtedly abuzz at what they heard had occurred. Matthew tells us in verse 25: "But when the crowd was put outside . . .," and in verse 26, there was a report. Then Jesus left the area. Undoubtedly, a crowd followed Him because, even if it were just out of curiosity, they wanted to see what He would do next.
It is interesting that Jesus took these men inside the house and away from the crowd before He did what He did. Why? The context does not say exactly, but there is enough here to speculate about why He did so. It has to do with the question, "Do you believe?" Jesus likely wanted to see what their response would be. What kind of conviction did they really have? Were they asking merely out of curiosity?
Matthew calls them "men," so undoubtedly, these were adults, not children. Were they going to be able to bear the responsibility of having sight? Whenever God does something for us, even though it is a freely given gift, He is not obligated to do it except as a result of His own promise. Yet, when He does something for us, it does put us under obligation.
Jesus probably wanted to see whether the conviction of these men was of a high enough quality that they would make good use of what He was about to bestow on them. When He asked the question about their faith, it was a test, not just to see if they believed He could heal them right in this moment, but if they could carry their conviction into the new, more responsible life that would result from their healing.
How many people do we know to whom God has given a great gift—maybe of healing—and then, later on, they leave the church or completely dissipate the gift that they received? I doubt God begrudges it to them at all, but that is not the point. The recipients of such gifts fail to take advantage of them in God's service, which is part of the reason why Christ asked the question.
If we get anything out of these three verses, it is that God does not heal in proportion to our faith. He heals because we believe Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer