A man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’
Today’s reading is well known. We may not remember the context in which Jesus says these words, but most of us will recall them: if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move. But, do we believe it?
Many people try to explain this saying of Jesus away from a position of worldly wisdom. They say that we know that we cannot move mountains with our will, so Jesus must be speaking figuratively. Such an argument must then also lead us into denying the reality of the resurrection … surely we all know that no one can be brought back from the dead!
In this well known saying Jesus is giving us a glimpse of the power of faith. That which holds us back as we journey along the pilgrim route that has been laid for us, is our doubt. When the going gets tough for us, or when we presume the going ‘might’ get tough for us, we are overcome with doubt and fear. Our faith crumbles and we are rendered impotent in God’s service. Just as the disciples found themselves unable to heal the son who suffered terribly, so we find ourselves incapable of bringing the light and joy of Christ into the lives of others.
Whether or not we accept Jesus’ words about the power of faith lies at the very heart of our lives as Christians. The moment we allow uncertainty and doubt to creep into our relationship with God, then our ability to move mountains vanishes. Faith is that great gift which allows us to bring about change in God’s name. That change may be small, almost to the point of imperceptibility. However, that which seems small to us may bring about seismic changes in the lives of others. Our faith may be the catalyst which causes the whole landscape to change in the lives of those amongst whom we live … whether we find that easy to believe or not.
On my desk there is a tiny mustard seed in a plastic phial. That seed was given to me as I embarked upon my ordained ministry. It was given to me as a constant reminder of the power of faith in my life. Every day I see that mustard seed and I pray for the strength to remain faithful and true in my calling. I pray that you may all remember the wonders that can be achieved in Christ’s name, if only we remain strong in our faith.