Updated: Jan 31, 2021
In Matthew, chapter 8, we are all familiar with the fear the disciples had when a storm came upon them while fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked upon the turbulent waters, causing Peter to attempt to try and do the same feat. He began to sink, until Jesus saved him and all were in the boat. At that time, we read in verse 26, Jesus asking, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then the verse goes on to say, “Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”
In the Greek text to that verse, the word “ogliopistos” is translated as, “of little faith. That is a combined word, with “oglios” [meaning of uncertain affinity; puny (in extent, degree, number, duration or value), as well as briefly, almost, a little, short, small, a while] combined with “pistis” [meaning persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; by extension, the system of religious truth itself: – assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity]. The yield of the one combine word is: “incredulous, i.e. lacking confidence (in Christ), or: – of little faith.”
In today’s reading from Luke, we find the apostles saying “prostithemi pistis,” which means, “place additionally, add again, give more, proceed further, or increase” “assurance, belief, faith.” As we read, “Increase our faith.”
When you compare the Matthew passage with this one in Luke, it becomes clearer that the mustard seed analogy means, “What faith!?!?”
After you tag-alongs have been with me for a couple of years, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed ….” Or, “oh ye of such little faith, if only you had one iota of faith, you could actually say, “Hit me again with some of that faith, brother Jesus.”
When you see this, it is easier to see how Jeremiah lamented (I believe Jeremiah wrote the Lamentations) the fall of Jerusalem, the forced exile, the last respect, much more than the lost land, all because of a lack of faith. Jeremiah gift wrapped faith for the kings of Judah – “Just take one warning from God and believe each day, and all your troubles will be washed away.”
“Oh ye of little faith.”
Paul wrote to Timothy (I believe Paul actually wrote the letters to Timothy), telling him to keep the faith. He said, “Do not be embarrassed by your faith. We have been emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, which has been granted to us by Christ Jesus. Please do not lose that faith, even if it means some pain and suffering.”
Jesus told his disciples, “If you had just an itty bitty bit of faith, you could work miracles. See that huge mulberry tree over there? With just a smidgen of faith you could tell it to take a hike, and it would say, “How far would you like me to hike, sir?”
Of course, a grain of faith does not a god make. God works miracles through tiny openings of faith in us. Give God an inch, and He can take a world. God works miracles when just a sliver of faith welcomes Him in.
In the “response” to Lamentations 1, we read from Lamentations 3. In that response to Judah and Jerusalem having been lost to Babylon, we find Jeremiah reminding us that is no reason to lose faith. We can find faith through loss.
Jeremiah wrote, “My soul is bowed down within me,” which means our brains reject what our souls know. Repentance is not something best thought about. It is something best felt emotionally.
From the heart we can scream out to the brain, saying, “Remember there is hope!”
“Steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is the LORD’s faithfulness.”
Our portions of faithfulness come from the LORD … even if it only a small amount, similar in size to a mustard seed. The main point of the Gospel reading from Luke is not how to increase faith … no, it is why do you want faith?
Certainly, the people of Jerusalem thought they had faith in God. The thought they were safe, or they would have changed. With their enemies all around them … with Jerusalem under siege by the Babylonian forces, they must have thought they still had God on their side.
They had faith … faith in themselves being the master of God, with God their slave.
<horn or buzzer sound> Wrong answer!
Jesus told the disciples another parable about the master and the slave, where he put them in the position of master, asking, “Who among you would welcome a hard-working slave to the table?” Then, before they could answer, Jesus said, “Would you not rather order the slave to do more work; and then, after everything was done for the master, the slave would be allowed to eat and rest too?”
That was the way the people of Jerusalem thought when Jeremiah was warning them to stop doing wrong and listen.
That was the way the people of Jerusalem thought when Jesus was speaking: So Pharisees and Sadducees could overhear his instructions to some disciples, who (at least) wanted to know more.
Imagine, if you will, that IS the way of the people in Jerusalem today (as well as in Washington, D.C., and London, Paris, Rome, all presumably Christian nations.) when we re-tell the scripture passages about faith.
Everyone thinks he or she has faith. Raise your hand if you do not think you have faith.
Who here is afraid because of what is going on in Syria? In Kenya? Across North Africa over the past two years? In Iran? In North Korea? In Russia? In China?
Who here can order the leaders of all those land to go jump in the ocean … and it will be done?
Oh ye of little faith.
We are not immune.
We are the slaves to God. Our works of faith will have God tell us, “Come here at once and sit at the table.” However, if there is more work still to be done … should God tell us, “Go to Washington D.C. and feed the minds of the leaders, so they will be warned of an end (should they not change), before you rest and get a bite to eat,” … who would not also do this work?
One of faith does works of faith, as Paul did. He suffered, but he kept the faith. One of faith does works and does not expect to be glad-handed and placed on a hero’s pedestal and thanked like being greeted by Sean Hannity … “You’re a great American.”
Being a slave to God is a thankless position, as far as the way others without faith see slaves of any kind. Only God gives recognition, but God’s recognition is usually in Heaven … not here.
So, to demand, “Increase our faith!” One has to first receive the spirit. Then learn from a master … learn from the teachings of Christ … and Paul … whose words come from the Holy Spirit, from God.
Once you do have faith, willingly offer yourself as a slave who seeks no thanks for the work that must be done. Enter into slavery … to the right master.