Summary: Jesus is teaching the followers an important attitude of effective discipleship. Let’s look at the key actions steps of this attitude that Jesus expects us to apply in our journey to fruitfulness.
Please read first: Luke 17:5-10
I feel extremely hot in this rope this morning. Isn’t it strange that we are already passing a week in October and still having 85 degree weather? What do you think this winter will be like? There’s a story of a tribe of Indians on the remote reservation, who asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared.
Also, being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?" "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.
A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it going to be a very cold winter?" "Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it’s definitely going to be a very cold winter." The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.
Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?" "Absolutely," the man replied. "It’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever."
"How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked. The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting wood like crazy." (Andrew Chan)
The Chief put his faith in the NWS as much as NWS put their faith on the Indians. How great it is?
The scripture lesson for this week covers Jesus’ answer to the disciple’s request to increase their faith. Maybe they were requesting this because of what Jesus just taught them in the previous passage, that they are required to forgive those who offend them seven times a day, and they felt it would need quite a lot of faith to keep forgiving others. So they asked the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
Maybe to their surprise, the Jesus answered, “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.” Jesus is saying that you don’t need to increase it; all you need is a tiny bit of it, the size of a mustard seed. A mustard seed is proverbially small, and the Lord says that’s as much faith as you need to do the impossible. A mulberry tree is a large tree and can be as tall as 35 feet, and it has roots widely spread out, so it would need some incredible effort to plug it out and move it elsewhere, and it wouldn’t be possible to be planted in the sea because it floats on the water. It’s a metaphor for an impossible task.
Jesus is teaching the followers an important attitude of effective discipleship. Let’s look at the key actions steps of this attitude that Jesus expects us to apply in our journey to fruitfulness.
1 - Apply What You Already Have
It doesn’t really need much to make a difference in life. If you look at the people that have made significant difference in human history, you will find that not many of them are the smartest and the most privileged people. Jesus’ human background was just carpenter’s son and he changed the world through a bunch of fishermen.
The most educated one among the apostles was probably the Apostle Paul, but he became highly effective after he declared intellectual and meritorious bankruptcy; he said, “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” The word rubbish was politely translated in NRSV from the Greek word which actually means the four letter word that starts with “s.” The King James Version translated it into “dung.” The point is Paul didn’t depend on his power and privilege to make the difference in history.
Jesus says you don’t need much to do what I command you to do—my burden is light and my yoke is easy. However, you must acknowledge what you already have. In the same times, there is a sense that the disciples are saying, “Lord, unless you give us more faith, we can’t forgive people the way you ask us to forgive, we can’t love others the way you ask us to love, and we can’t do the things that you command us to do.” It is somewhat like saying, “let me win a lottery so I can feed the poor.” Jesus doesn’t want us to get trapped in thinking that we always need more to make a difference in the world.