Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

“As he entered Caper’na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.”  And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matthew 8:5-10)

The term ‘pericope’ is used by New Testament scholars to reference the separate individual stories recorded in the Gospel writings.  But they cannot be defined by our traditional term ‘story’ which has an aspersion of fiction.  The pericope must be understood as historical which makes them ‘living’ encounters in the life and ministry of Jesus.  One of the most vital chapters in New Testament, for me, is the 3rd chapter of Mark’s Gospel, which I have used for sermonic discourse on various occassions..  Several pericope are combined in this chapter that clearly span an undesignated time period.  It is the task of the New Testament Literary Scholar to define the scope of each pericope and make each one available for it’s own historical interpretation.

The pericope known as ‘The Centurion’s Servant’ is a double tradition.  To introduce Lachmann’s and Wellhausen’s work in Synoptic Source theories; I say here that in order to understand them while studying New Testament Literature,  I wrote by hand the entire Gospel of Mark with a red ink pen.  I then wrote by hand Matthew’s Gospel skipping spaces and filling in only the verses that duplicated/mirrored Mark in red pen also.  I did the same for Luke.  This is THE TRIPLE TRADITION.  I returned to my hand written copy of Matthew and Luke filling in with black ink the verses that duplicated/mirrored just these two Gospel writers.  This is THE DOUBLE TRADITION.  I completed this masterpiece using a blue pen for the SINGLE TRADITION in Matthew and a green pen for the SINGLE TRADITION in Luke.  The finished product is ‘a work of art!’; a ‘masterpiece’— a piece of The Master!

Matthew’s account of the ‘Centurion’s Servant’ places us at the New Testament’s first use of both ‘logos/word’ and ‘pistis/faith’.  Word AS Faith.  Word IS Faith.  This revelation is not abstract.  It is not common, neither is it ordinary.

First, Jesus saw the humility of the Centurion.  While Luke records that the Centurion sent elders to Jesus, (who took liberty to tell Jesus of the Centurion’s worthiness— of his love for the national life, of his building of synogogue) Matthew begins with the Centurion’s personal encounter with Jesus and both record the Centurion’s self-evaluation, “I am not worthy!”

A man of position and resolve; defender of nation; owner of property to include one (or more) slaves; builder of the house of worship— one can only imagine the substance of his own home.  Yet, as a DOUBLE TRADITION, the Centurion goes out to meet Jesus and says, “I am not worthy for you to come under my roof.”  “Speak a Word…”  Right here!  Right now!

Jesus saw the Centurion’s FAITH and Jesus spoke a WORD!

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