I don't think that anyone
was ever fascinated about an offer of moving mountains nor lost heart
because some mountains were on their way. No one would like to try to
move mountains and plant them in the sea just because there is no
point in doing that. People are contend with the mountains wherever
they are and would rather think of climbing over the mountain or go
around it instead of trying to move the mountain. Jesus was not
unaware of this when he said '... you will say to this mountain
"Move from here to there and it will move" and nothing will
be impossible for you".' (Mathew 17:20 and also see, 21:21).
However, he puts a challenge before his disciples and before us and
illustrate an essential aspect of our faith in God. The lesson is
this: if you have the possibilities are unlimited.
Now comes the crucial question. How much faith does I
need to attempt something of this sort. Do I need a mountain size
faith to move mountain or do I need a mulberry tree size faith to move
a mulberry tree. (Luke 17:5-6). In other words does my faith in
proportion to the size of my challenge? Jesus' answer is no. The
disciples once asked Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus instead
of increasing their faith told them to have faith just the size of
mustard seed. What Jesus meant is it is not the size of your faith
Luke 17:5-6: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say
to this mulberry tree, ‘Be
uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
The reference to mustard seed one of the smallest
seeds is to show how insignificant is the amount of faith needed.
Though Jesus denied that size of faith does not
matter, he emphasised that the quality of faith does count. This is
what we hear from Jesus own mouth in Matt. 21:21 where he again speaks
of faith moving mountains.
Jesus answered them,
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not
only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you
say to this mountain, ‘Be
lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.
In this passage Jesus expands the earlier statement
to clarify that what is needed faith of a particular quality. That
quality is faith without doubt. What Jesus says here is that what does
miracles is not a truck load of faith, but just faith the size of
mustard seed which is pure. What all of us then need is faith without
the bubbles of doubt.
As I empty a can of coke into a glass it bubbles and
fills the cup and runs over. I stop then in a minute or two lift the
glass to find to my disappointment that the glass is not even half
full1 It was all bubbles! Many times we have such faith, fizzy faith,
looks full but it is all bubbles of doubt. Million units of fizzy
faith can not move even a ant hill forget mountains.
Two incidents in Jesus' ministry illustrate this
The first is an illustration of feeble faith. Matt.
14:22-33 describes an incident that happened during the ministry of
Jesus. Jesus leaves the disciples and stays back and they venture to
cross the sea of Galilee. There was a storm at night and they
struggled in the rough weather to save their lives. Towards the
morning probably between 3 to 6 am Jesus walks on the water towards
them. Peter walks towards him finally Jesus calms the storm. Jesus
asks Peter who tried to walk on the waves but began to sink, “You of
little faith, why did you doubt?” verse 31. In fact this applied to
all of them; they were men of doubt but not of faith.
In this incident, the disciples of Jesus when they
were left alone in the boat and struggled the whole night in troubled
weather, might have looked for help. They might have longed that
someone would come and help. After the whole night of struggle, in the
morning they found someone walking towards the boat. Their reaction
was to cry "A Ghost!." According to popular belief ghosts
are active only at dark night. It is less likely for a ghost to be
there in the sea in the dawn. It makes me wonder why they could not
think of the possibility of it being Jesus, the passenger whom they
left behind? This is characteristic
of "people of little faith." They would imagine the
impossible as happening but still would avoid the possibility of God
being able to intervene in their situation.
Faith is to believe in divine possibilities. That is
to say faith is allowing the possibility that God could intervene in
our situation. Doubt is denying this possibility. Faith adulterated
with doubt is full but impotent because it always have other
alternative than God. They could only think of a ghost that would walk
towards them but not Jesus, a passenger who is supposed to join them!
There is another remarkable incident in the life of
Jesus. This time the hero is a Roman centurion. The response of the
centurion made Jesus exclaim, "In no one in Israel have I found
such faith!" What is the type of faith that the centurion had?
He had faith without doubt. It was
a clean faith no fizzy bubbly faith. He had known from experience that
if an officer commands that is done. He believed that Jesus is a
greater than himself and Jesus' words does have power to heal his
servant. He had absolutely no doubt that Jesus could heal his servant.
He had faith is Jesus that by his word alone he can heal. That is why
he did not bother to carry his servant to the presence of Jesus.
When we pray to God we always make sure we know where
the fire exit is. When we entrust our matters to Jesus we often make
sure the life-boat serviced and ready or the parachute works properly.
In case God fails we have some alternative to escape! This sort of
faith with bubbles of doubt can not achieve anything. We disappoint
God when we offer our cup of faith to God because God looks at the
faith and not the bubbles, so he knows that it is only half full.
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Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil
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