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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

After studying “To The Hebrews” with the late Dr. Robert E. Briggs, I knew that the traditional definition of Faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” —could not be it!  Since that time I find Paul Tillich has given my current definition of Faith: “as Ultimate Concern”.

For the next two years I am engaged in how Mark’s Gospel is a Testament to how Jesus uses Faith.

What does Mark say concerning Faith?

First the ‘Healing Of The Paralytic’— when four men carrying a paralytic see their ‘impossible mission’ of getting through this crowd to Jesus.  The measure, the measure of faith— removing the roof!  Not even for self!  “And when he returned to Caper’na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  “Why does this man speak thus?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the paralytic–  “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”  Jesus saw their faith.  The paralytic rose and ‘immediately’ took up his pallet.  The response of those gathered— “we never saw anything like this!”

Second, ‘The Stilling of The Storm‘—  where the disciples woke Jesus saying, “do you not care if we perish?”  In a ‘fresh awakening’, Jesus speaks first to nature saying “Peace.  Be still!”  Then he speaks to the Disciples saying, “Have you no faith?”

Third, ‘A Woman’s Faith’— when Jesus perceiving that power had gone forth from him; says “daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease”.

Fourth, ‘The Healing of Bartimaeus’— when, still again, faith and healing are one.  Jesus sending followers to call Bartimaeus “and throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus.”  Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “go your way…”

The 5th and final, ‘The Meaning Of The Withered Fig Tree’— when Peter questions Jesus, “…the tree which you cursed…” as it invokes a response of command— “Have faith in God!”.  Prayer, believing, receiving and forgiveness are all used here by Jesus to give meaning to the withered fig tree.

Mark, then, on Faith.  All uses of ‘pistis/faith’ are by Jesus.  He sees faith in persons— by what is said and what is done.  A ‘selfless’ magnanimous act: to take the roof off!  I recall times when I have been ‘so bold’ to get to something that ‘I wanted’, but such brazen boldness for ‘someone else’s life’?  Jesus saw this as faith.  For Mark, faith is peace and stillness in the mist  of storms.  Trusting that Jesus is present and ‘He cares’, even while sleeping.  For Mark, faith is healing; and it’s in God!  It’s praying, believing, receiving and forgiveness.

One of the “Threads” that I am currently holding in my hands in writing for Ultimate Concern in 2024 is “The Church’s Losses.”  Can’t help but close this space with MLKingJr’s ‘Guidelines for A Constructive Church’:

“…Secondly, when the church is true to its guidelines, it sets out to preach deliverance to them that are captive.  This is the role of the church: to free people.  …Some churches aren’t concerned about freeing people.   …Some white churches face the fact Sunday after Sunday that their members are slaves to prejudice, slaves to fear.  …And the preacher never says anything to lift their souls and free them from the fear.  And so they end up captive.  You know this often happens in the Negro church.  You know there are some Negro preachers that have never opened their mouths about the freedom movement.  …God has called me to deliver those that are in captivity.”

“O, for a faith that will not… shrink.  Tho pressed by every foe.  That will not tremble on the brink, of any earthly woe.”  (William Bragge Bathurst)

All inquiries By email: talk2therev@icloud.com “Words of Life Study” Wednesdays on Zoom.  12:00 Noon & 6:30 pm CST Join the Dialogue at my “Swellcast”.  At all times: https://SWELLCAST.com/therev

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