22 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
After cleaning house at the temple, Jesus heads out of Jerusalem and comes across a fig tree with leaves but no fruit. He has words with the fig tree due to its lack of production and the disciples witness its miraculous death. This miracle gives Jesus the opportunity to reiterate a lesson he had taught before when he had first uttered the verse quoted above. However, this time Jesus says to move the mountain, you need to have faith without doubt (Matthew 21:21).
The implication of what Jesus says is that the least amount of doubt defeats the greatest amount of faith. Doubt keeps mountains where they are. If that’s the case, then no wonder we live in a world with few miracle for most people have some inkling of a question around the edges of their faith. We may not doubt God can do the miraculous; more often our doubt relates to whether or not He wants to in the situation at hand. If that’s the case, there is no hope of us seeing a mountain move in our lifetime for who of us have faith without doubt? Could there be another understanding of this passage?
Jesus understood people had doubts. In his introduction to faith moving mountains in the verse above, Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. That’s not very much faith. Consider it from a mathematical perspective. If we could give faith and doubt numerical value and then subtract our doubt from our faith, would the remainder be a positive or a negative? Admittedly, it may be a small amount, but I expect for many of you reading these reflections it would be positive amount. The point of the mustard seed metaphor is you don’t have to have a lot of faith to see God do something spectacular, but you have to have more faith than doubt. Unfortunately, some of us get the metaphor mixed up and read it as: if you have a mountain of faith, you may be able to move a mustard seed. When we think that way our doubt is greater than our faith.
We will have doubts; but will the doubts exceed and defeat our faith? In Mark 9, Jesus honors a man’s faith despite the man’s admission that he had doubts. The man says to Jesus, ‘I believe, help me in my unbelief’. Let that be our honest approach when we stand at the metaphorical mountain and hope it moves to the left or to the right. Tell God you believe he is able to do it (he created the big pile of rock) and then ask him to help with the unbelief that doubts God’s will. As you sincerely and transparently cry out to God, taking the first step in a journey from doubt to belief, watch carefully the mountain doesn’t land on your toes.