September 5, 2011
Four Little Words
What would you think if I told you that on your tombstone would be inscribed a four-word epitaph? Based on your life, what would those words be? Jesus once had an encounter with a person whom he described with just four immortal words: “Great is your faith.”
Interestingly, she was a Canaanite woman, from the country north of Palestine, a country hostile to the Jews. Presumably, the woman was married; she had at least one child; but that's all we know about her. We don't know whether she was a good woman or a bad woman. We don't know her name. All we know is that in this single encounter with Jesus he spoke to her this four-word epitaph: “Great is your faith.”
Only four words, but they are enough to make her immortal. We can trust these words as being true because the expert on faith spoke them. Jesus continually searched for faith, as a gem collector would search for fine jewels. He didn’t always find it in his disciples. He never said of Peter, James, or John: “Great is your faith.” More often His words were, “Oh, you of little faith.” On only one other occasion did Jesus praise a person for their faith, and that person was a Roman soldier – not a disciple, not one of the “chosen” people.
The Canaanite woman awakens in us a feeling of admiration, perhaps even envy, because she stands where most of us would like to stand. What faithful Christian would not like it said of him or her, “Great is your faith”?
But what great thing did this woman do to prompt Jesus’ affirmation? She simply believed. She took Him at His word. She acted on His words.
If we are to have the same epitaph, we, too, will need to simply take Jesus at His word. We will need to act, simply because Jesus made a promise. Then it can be said of us, “Great is your faith.”
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