Jesus Christ introduced an interesting dimension to the concept of faith in the Gospels.He addressed three different sets of people:The Centurion,the Canaanite woman and His Disciples in terms of their degrees of faith.
To begin,Jesus described the Centurion faith as great faith.
1)GREAT FAITH/tosoutos pistis/: This means so much or so vast as this faith.
“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed,suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” Matt 8:5-6
What a privilege for the Centurion to host Jesus in his house but the former reacted differently:
“The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”-Matt 8:8-9
The response of Christ to the above quotation is noteworthy to the extent that no other person’s faith(pistis) was described as tosoutos in the Bible:
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith(tosoutos pistis)”-Matt 8:10.
What was so special about the Centurion’s words? What are the characteristics of great(tosoutos) faith? Watch out for a post on all that this coming Saturday.
Meanwhile let’s proceed to another description of faith by Christ:
There was a Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed that came to ask Jesus to heal her daughter.Jesus described her faith as ‘great’ too.
This is one of the times you will appreciate studying the Bible in its original language.Though the English translation says her faith is ‘great’,the Greek language for ‘great’ in this context is different from the one Jesus used to describe the Centurion’s faith as explained above.The Canaanite woman’s great faith is written as megas pistis in Greek language.
2)GREAT FAITH(megas pistis): This means big,large,exceedingly great faith.
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”Jesus did not answer a word.”- Matt 15:22-23
Can you imagine how embarrassed the woman must have felt when Christ snubbed her? But she didn’t give up…real pistis doesn’t give up easily.
“The woman came and knelt before him.“Lord, help me!” she said.He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” vs 25-27
Now wait for the response of Christ to the words of this woman:
“Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith(megas faith)! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment?vs 28
What was so special about the Canaanite woman’s words? What are the characteristics of great faith (megas pistis)? Watch out for a post on all that next Saturday.
While the Centurion and the Canaanite woman’s faith were referred to as great,Christ’s disciples’ faith was chastised by Him.He called their faith:’Little faith’.
3)LITTLE FAITH(oligopistos): It means unbelieving,unconvinced, doubtful,dubious,lacking confidence.(Note that unlike the other descriptions above,oligopistos is one word and pistis is altered to pistos).
Let’s see one of the instances where Christ gave the disciples’ faith such description:
“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”He replied, “You of little faith/oligopistos/ why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm”- Matt 8:24-26
Oligo is actually a medical terminology.It means something is ‘inadequate’ or ‘deficient’.For instance,there is a condition in Obstetrics called oligo-hydramnios in which there is inadequate/deficient volume of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the foetus.This has been associated with both maternal and fetal complications.
Oligopistos therefore can also be defined from that perspective:It is a faith that is inadequate/deficient in substance and like oligohydramnios,Oligopistos can be dangerous too.Yes,it can put someone at risk of losing out on God’s promises.
What are the characteristics of oligopistos?
What made Jesus to chastise the faith of the disciples yet commended the Centurion’s/Canaanite woman’s faith?
If faith is in degrees and oligopistos is bad why did Jesus say,”if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”?
All these will be discussed this coming weekend.This Saturday promises to be exciting!
Till then…Step up your faith in Christ.