While he was still speaking, some people who had visited the house of the synagogue elder told him, “Your daughter is dead – why are you still bothering the Teacher?” Yet when Jesus heard what was being spoken, he said to the chief priest, “Don’t be afraid, just have faith.” (Mark 5:35-36)Sectarian translations of Jesus' statement say "just believe" instead of "just have faith." What was the synagogue leader supposed to "believe"? Was he supposed to just believe in anything? Was Jesus asking him to believe the sky is blue? Or that water was wet?
Or - as sectarian teachers have taught - was Jesus wanting him to believe in Jesus? Since Jesus was standing right there in front of him and he was asking for Jesus' help, certainly he already believed in Jesus' existence.
Or was Jesus telling him to believe in God? Again, Jesus is speaking to a synagogue leader - a person who worked in a Jewish temple. Certainly, the man already believed in God's existence.
Or perhaps - as other sectarian teachers have put forth - Jesus was playing a mind-game with the man, implying that only if the man truly believed that Jesus would his daughter would his daughter truly be healed? If so, this would require a different statement, such as "believe that I will heal her."
But Jesus didn't say "just believe." What Jesus said was, according to the original Greek:
μὴ φοβοῦ μόνον πίστευε.What does this mean?
The Greek word μή (mē) means "no" or "do not."
The word φοβέω (phobeō) means "to fear, be afraid" and "to be struck with fear" according to the lexicon.
The word μόνον (monon) means "only" or "alone" or "but."
The word πιστεύω (pisteuō) means not simply "to think to be true" or "believe" - but specifically to trust - "to have confidence in" and "to entrust a thing to one, i.e. his fidelity" and "to be intrusted."
Jesus was speaking of trust - not simply belief.
This corresponds with the opposite component in Jesus' statement - fear.
Yes, being afraid is not resolved by believing in something. There is no solution to the fear within a belief.
Difference between trust or faith - and belief
But trust - having faith - is a specific solution to fear. Fear is resolved by trust. More specifically, Jesus is speaking of having trust - or faith - in the Supreme Being.
For example, a person might believe that a particular person is the President of the United States - because they read the paper and saw the person got elected. Yes, even a person that doesn't trust the President can still believe they are President. The person might think that the President is dishonest and untrustworthy, but they will still believe the person is the President.
In the same way, a person can easily believe that Jesus existed; or that God exists; or even that Jesus could do miracles. But this has nothing to do with trust.
Trust or faith means to be able to rely upon someone. Trust means to be able to depend upon that person. To not only trust that they would not lie, but to accept them as reliable and dependable.
Furthermore, the type of trust that Jesus is speaking of is taking shelter in the Supreme Being. Jesus is speaking of being able to depend upon God - and not be afraid.
Who can we rely upon?
Who else can we rely upon? We might say we rely upon our family - say our spouse or our parents. And they will often tell us that we can rely upon them. They will also often tell us they will always be there for us.
Yet over and over, we find this promise unreliable. We find that parents will often die before their children, leaving those children alone.
Could the children really rely upon their parents after the parents left their bodies at the time of death? Were the parents really always there for them? No. While they were certainly well-intentioned when they said they would be, they in fact were not being reliable, from a practical sense. They could not always be there as they promised. Doesn't mean they wanted to be reliable. They just didn't have control over when their bodies would die.
The same with spouses. Often couples will break up after many years of marriage - long after they took vows and told each other that they'd always be there for them. Were they being reliable?
And even if the couple stays together, one spouse will inevitably die before the other - leaving the other alone. Were they there for the other person after they died? Were they reliable? No. They may have wanted to be there for them, but by the laws of nature their body died and they had to leave the other person behind.
In other words, none of us can really rely upon another person here in the material world - even our family members or spouse. Why? Because they are not God. They have no real control over things and therefore cannot be completely relied upon, no matter how honest or forthright they might be.
In fact we cannot rely upon anything within this physical world - because everything here is temporary. All the forms and things of this world are made of dissolving molecules which break down and form other things.
Yet each of us needs to rely upon someone, right? Can any of us truly consider ourselves independent? No. None of us are independent. We cannot control the weather, or time or sickness or death or even others.
We are all dependents
We might be able to make choices in life, and we might have a limited amount of options to choose from, but that hardly makes us independent. If we were independent, for example, we would not have to work for food. We would not have to struggle to keep the body healthy. We would not have to do what the boss says at work. We could do what we wanted to if we were independent.
Yes, we are all dependents, because this is part of our identity. Each of us is a spiritual entity (not this physical body) created by the Supreme Being as one of His dependents. We are His children - yet because He wants to exchange love, He gives each of us the freedom to love Him or not. This is our basic freedom, but it still does not make us independent.
And it is our quest for independence that has put us into this physical world, full of temporary forms and things. This world is designed by the Supreme Being to give us the illusion of independence - and the illusion of permanence. This is designed to allow us to escape from our relationship with Him. It is an extension of the freedom He gives us to love Him or not.
As such, our being dependents of the Supreme Being gives us the option to choose to take shelter in Him. We can either choose to rely upon the Supreme Being or not.
And if we choose not to take shelter in Him - we will still be dependent. We will only be forced to rely upon the unreliable forms and things of this temporary physical world.
Why doesn't Jesus mention the Supreme Being in terms of whom to trust or rely upon? Because it is assumed. Jesus is speaking to a synagogue leader. Certainly, the synagogue leader knew who Jesus was referring to as whom to trust or rely upon.
The reality is that Jesus is suggesting the man have no fear, but simply trust in the Supreme Being's ability to not only take care of him, but also take care of his daughter.
Take shelter in the Supreme Being. He is the only person we can truly rely upon. He is the only person we can give our hearts to, trusting that He will always be there for us. This is Jesus' message.
(The New Testament verses in this article are quoted from the Gospels of Jesus)