“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20 (NLT)
What an astonishing statement! Did Jesus really mean we could move mountains? That nothing would be impossible? What is mustard seed faith and how do we get it? To understand what Jesus was saying to His disciples, we have to look at the context. He had just been on the mountain top where He was transfigured before three of His disciples! The glory of God was revealed in Him and the voice of God spoke audibly affirming the Son of God. It was such a powerful experience that Peter suggested they just build some shelters and remain on the mountain top! Mountain top experiences with God are awesome! As much as we wish we could remain there basking in His glory, we are brought back down as the disciples were to the valley of need. It was in the valley where another miracle need awaited.
When they came down the mountain, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him begging for mercy for his son. The man had brought his son to the other nine disciples, but they could not heal him. The boy was demonized and completely out of control. The Bible says that Jesus rebuked the demon and delivered the boy, setting him free! He was healed that very moment!
When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal the boy, Jesus replied,
“Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will be move. Nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20 (NLT)
Three chapters before this story, Jesus had given the disciples authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. They experienced that power as they went out in His name on their first ministry tour. So, what happened? Why couldn’t they perform this miracle? Had they lost their power? Jesus used this experience to prepare them for life and ministry when He would no longer be among them as He was then. They had to learn to live by faith in His absence. He told them their faith was too little and, apparently, they failed to persist in prayer. Mark’s account of the story adds that Jesus told them that this kind of miracle would require prayer and some manuscripts add “fasting.”
The point was that mustard seed faith was not just about the size but the fact that, as small as a mustard seed is, it is living. Living faith, faith that is alive, is also growing faith when it is nurtured. And it is persistent faith. Though a mustard seed begins as the smallest of seeds it grows into the largest of plants because it never gives up! Had the nine disciples been praying and cultivating their faith in Jesus absence by meditating on His Word, they would have no doubt been able to rescue this boy.
Like those nine disciples, sometimes we can feel left out and alone. We can begin to neglect prayer and worship. When we do, our faith weakens. Then, when the crisis comes, we are unprepared and ill-equipped to respond. Even worse, we can try to fake it till we make it and wind up embarrassed and disillusioned. From their example, we can see the importance of staying spiritually healthy. Maybe this is a good time to do a spiritual check-up. Are you growing daily in your faith? How’s your prayer life? Worship? Bible study? If the distractions of life have weakened your faith, it’s time to make a change. Begin today acknowledging your need for Christ to fill you with His Spirit and reprioritize your schedule. Be intentional in your relationship with Jesus to cultivate a growing, vibrant and living faith that nothing can shake.