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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

The 5th and final occurrence of ‘faith in the mouth of Jesus’ in Mark’s Gospel is the pericope known as ‘The Meaning Of The Withered Fig Tree’ (Mark 11:20-25).  It is the first and only Double Tradition of the five and is shared by Matthew where Luke is silent.

Variations include Mark’s account identifying Peter as the disciple who raised the question about the fig tree.  The mood of Peter is reflected by his saying to Jesus, “…the tree which you cursed…” as it invokes a response of command— “Have faith in God!”; where in Matthew, Jesus’ response is subjunctive— ...”if you have faith in God…” (Matt 21:20-22; 6:14).  In addition, Mark’s account relates prayer, believing, receiving and forgiveness to faith in giving meaning to the withered fig tree.

‘Jesus’ Idea Of God’ has become a sub section of Rudolf Bultmann’s chapter titled ‘The Message of Jesus’ in his hallmark work ‘Theology Of The New Testament’.  Here he draws attention to Jesus standing in the tradition of ‘prophetic consciousness’ where the sovereignty of God, the absoluteness of His will, determines man’s relativity, relationship and decisions about his world.  For Jesus, God is ‘Creator/Governor’ of the World— ‘consider the lilies of the fields…He clothes them all!’.  “All anxious care, all haste to get goods to insure life, is therefore senseless— yes, wicked.”  Bultmann further recognizes that in the common piety of Jesus’ Judaism, ‘faith in God the Creator’ had weakened and “His sway over the(ir) present could barely still be made out”.

Peter has, in a mood (attitude?) that is difficult to describe, called Jesus’ attention to ‘the tree which he cursed’.  What is clear is that he is distracted.  With no hesitation, without identifiable correlation, Jesus’ response is one of ‘prophetic consciousness’— “Have faith in God”.  A very sobering redirection of Peter’s mind, heart and soul.  It is significant to note C. F. Mann’s commentary that the phrase ‘have faith in God’ is found nowhere else.

‘Prophetic consciousness’ in our times leads me to recognize that, still again, ‘faith in God’ has so weakened that His sway over our present can barely be made out.  The ‘Dynamics of Faith’ have been removed from the depths of this society; to be replaced by a very somewhat ‘sub-standard directive’.  This giving rise to a very pseudo state of life… as though a people walk in blindness.  I keep hearing the term “wake up” as if we are asleep which assumes that we not only ‘do not see’… but the ‘the mind’ remains in an altered state.

The distractions hold us sway.  Drowning out the sobering, redirecting voice speaking the word— HAVE FAITH IN GOD!  It occurs to me that Christian theology has served to further weaken this word in that we have made Jesus God; and in our times of ‘constant distraction’ the need is never more greater to ‘know Jesus’, but to ‘KNOW GOD!’  As a single biblical recording, Jesus says to Peter, in his distraction, not have faith in me (Jesus)— HAVE FAITH IN GOD!

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