Summary: Faith is a great force, a power to be reckoned with.
MUSTARD SEED FAITH
“Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).
In Luke’s Gospel, this request arises out of one of the hard sayings of Jesus. For flesh and blood to ‘keep on forgiving seven times a day’ (Luke 17:4) seemed quite impossible to the disciples!
Jesus’ answer is not to be confused with the parable of the mustard seed, which speaks of the phenomenal growth of the church from small beginnings (Matthew 13:31-32).
Luke 17:6 has more in common with Jesus’ response to the disciples when they found themselves unable to cast a demon out of a child (Matthew 17:19-21). Jesus is not speaking here in Luke 17:6 so much of the ‘size’ of the mustard seed, but of the type of faith which we need to nurture in our lives.
Like the mustard seed, true faith does not pause to doubt whether it can reach its potential to become all it is meant to be. True faith is sure of its goal, finding its beginning, continuance, and end - not in its ability to believe in itself - but in the Lord Jesus Christ. So why all this doubt?
The tree spoken of here, the sycamine, is not the same as a sycamore, but might be more readily rendered ‘mulberry-fig’ as it partakes of the leaves of the one, and the fruit of the other. The figs are bitter-sweet to taste, reminding us of the bitterness to our own souls caused by our continued unforgiving attitude towards others. Often planted near a crossroads, this tree has a large trunk, low branches (cf. Luke 19:4) - and sends out its roots in every direction, making it difficult to uproot.
In the context, uprooting the tree and casting it into the sea (Luke 17:6) speaks of the ability of faith people to accomplish seemingly impossible things – like exercising the level of forgiveness suggested by Jesus (Luke 17:4). Faith is a great force, a power to be reckoned with.
Jesus goes on from here to demonstrate that we cannot put God in our debt (Luke 17:7-10). Justification is by faith, not by works - yet because we are bound to God by faith, works will follow.
First, Jesus looks at the master/servant relationship by putting us into the shoes of the master (Luke 17:7-9).
Then He looks at the master/servant relationship by putting us into the sandals of the slave. In the context, “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10) is what we are - and that calls for humility.
Yet it is just here, in the path of obedience, that we discover “increase” of “our faith” (Luke 17:5).