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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Matthew, and Luke record Jesus’ comments about the power of faith even as small as a mustard seed
can move a mountain or uproot a big tree.

Matthew 17:20 (HCSB)  “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

This was Jesus’ response to his disciples when they asked him why they had been unable to drive the demon out of a boy after Jesus, Peter, James, and John and come down from the mountain where Jesus had been transfigured.

Luke 17:6 (HCSB)  “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
This was Jesus’ response to the apostles, this time, when they asked Him to increase their faith.

This is where we get the expression “faith as small as a mustard seed” to indicate that it doesn't take a whole lot of faith in God to do extraordinary things or to see extraordinary things happen. Let’s examine each of these cases where Jesus uses faith the size of a mustard seed to make His point about faith.

Why a mustard seed?

Let’s first look at why Jesus may have used the example of a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black.  These are very small seeds. The mustard seed was the smallest of all the seeds known to the farmers of Palestine. That is why Jesus used the mustard seed to explain that it doesn't take a whole lot of faith.

Matthew 17:20

Let’s look at the Matthew scripture first. Jesus starts by saying that they actually did have little faith already.   In this case however, Jesus is talking about the disciples having doubts about the authorization He had given them earlier;

Matthew 10:8 (HCSB) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.
Jesus’ point was that a basic belief and trust in God can accomplish much. I doesn’t take a whole lot. Just believe and act in the authority that He had already given them. If we take the statement figuratively, that this small amount of faith, or this basic belief in the word of God,  is symbolic of
any major difficulty rather than it being a real mountain,   then we see how powerful it was to say that faith the size of a mustard seed can move this mountain. Jesus may have even pointed to the Mount of Transfiguration when He made the statement which makes it even more powerful. Now we do know that God can move a real mountain.  After all He created them but let’s keep in mind that faith is trust in God and in His revealed word and will. So faith to move an actual mountain will happen only when God reveals it to be His will, but you get my point. 

Luke 17:6

In Luke Jesus’ reference to faith the size of a mustard seed came at a time when He was giving instructions to His disciples in how they should respond to offenses against them. 

Luke 17:1-4 (HCSB) 1  He said to His disciples, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! 2  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3  Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
After  telling them that they have to forgive and forgive and forgive, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith so that they can forgive someone that continues to offend.  He tells them that it’s not how much faith it’s the spirit and exuberance in which it’s exercised. 

Just as the example of the mustard seed in Jesus parable in Matthew 13:31-32 becomes a tree large enough for the birds to build nests the amount of faith, in God, that we need is very small. 

Matthew 13:31-32 (HCSB) 31  He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32  It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but
when grown, it’s taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

 Just as the few disciples of Jesus, after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, exercised that “mustard seed faith” to start a movement that has spread the gospel of salvation throughout the world. Jesus was illustrating the power of God when unleashed in the lives of those with true faith.

Who are some of the people with mustard seed faith?

I was going to include the names of great people of faith who over the centuries have exercised “mustard seed faith” but the list is inexhaustible. You can find some of them in these following books:

The people in these books are just as much heroes of the faith as those in Hebrews Chapter 11. They all started with faith the size of a mustard seed just like you and me. In our own ways we can become heroes of the faith to somebody who needs to know how Jesus can change and bless their lives through using the measure of faith  that God gives everybody, that mustard seed faith. Maybe just maybe our mustard seed faith can move the on to “saving faith“. 

Romans 12:3 (HCSB) For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.

Who are your heroes of faith?  Not those listed in Hebrews 11 but the people that you know personally, or have heard about that have become your heroes of faith.

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