About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Mustard Seed Size Faith


In Luke 17:6 Jesus said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'be uprooted and planted into the sea', and it will obey you".  Because of this statement, some people believe that if you have real faith you can speak to the bush in your yard and tell it to jump out of the ground and throw itself into your neighbour's pickup truck.  I grant you, that would be convenient if you didn't want the bush any more.  


Let's put this verse in context.  Beginning at verse 1 Jesus said that there will always be things that cause people to sin, but woe to the one who causes someone to sin.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck.  Jesus continued by saying that if your brother sins, rebuke him.  If he repents, forgive him.  Note that you forgive only when repentance is exhibited.


Now notice the disciples' response to Jesus.  In verse 5 they said, "Increase our faith".  Why did they inject the idea that they needed more faith into the conversation?  Jesus was talking about forgiving the repentant sinner, not faith?  If you stop to think about it, the answer is obvious.  Being human, the disciples probably thought that forgiving such an offender was difficult, even if he did repent.  The disciples concluded that they needed more faith to forgive.   


Now notice Jesus' response to the disciples.  He didn't think they needed more faith.  In fact He told them that they needed less faith.  He compared faith to a seed.  Faith as small as a seed was sufficient to have a bush obey them, or in context, faith as small as a seed was sufficient to give them the ability to forgive a repentant sinner. 


This passage tells me that faith cannot
be increased.  Faith isn't a commodity that 
you can get more of.  The Bible defines faith as trust.  You can't get more trust, but you can trust more.  These disciples needed to stop thinking in terms of getting more faith.  Instead, they needed to relax and simply trust Jesus.  He would give them the ability to forgive when repentance was evident.  It's like anything we do in life.  If we just settle down, take our time, and stop striving and sweating over the task at hand, we'll do a better job and have better results.


Jesus wasn't suggesting that the disciples go around casting bushes into the sea as if the bushes were demons.  There's no Biblical evidence that the disciples ever did such a thing.  There is Biblical evidence that they forgave when genuine repentance was exhibited.


The phrase "if you have faith" is an imperfect active indicative Greek verb phrase.  This means your faith, your trust in Jesus, should be continuous and certain.  You should continually and confidently rest in the hammock of Jesus' ability to do as He wishes in your life.  


The insertion of the word "if" in the phrase "if you have faith" tells me that the disciples didn't fully trust Jesus to give them the ability to forgive when repentance is evident.  It's clear to me that 100% trust in Jesus won't be realized in our lives until we are perfected in the next life.  We will battle with trust until our dying day.  That may sound like a lack of faith to some, but it's not.  I trust Jesus that when He comes for us, we will be like Him, as stated in 1 John 3:2.  Until then, we don't ask Jesus for more faith or more trust.  We ask Him to help us trust Him more than we presently do. 


I conclude that Luke 17:6 concerns forgiveness based on genuine repentance.  It's not about casting bushes into the sea by faith.  Besides, according to verse 2 Jesus would rather have the unrepentant sinner thrown into the sea.  Faith is trust.  It's relaxing comfortably and confidently in Jesus' ability to give us that which we need to serve Him.  That's what Jesus meant in John 16:23 when He told us that when we ask the Father for anything in His name we will receive it.  The words "in His name" tell us what we are to ask for.  We ask for things that will help us represent the name of Jesus on earth.  This doesn't guarantee us a new car, a big paycheck, or even healing of every illness that comes our way.  It does however; guarantee the tools we need to do His will.  


This passage isn't telling us to cast bushes into the sea by faith.  Such thinking is an unbiblical New Age and ultra positive thinking philosophy that has been inflicting Christians for some time now.  Let's be confident and secure in the fact that we can trust all of who we are with Jesus.  That's trust.  That's faith.  That's what Luke 17:6 really means.



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