Summary: The power of faith is in the promise. That truth helps us understand Jesus' words so that we learn to rebuke sin and forgive the repentant.
Text: Luke 17:1-10
Theme: What's the Power of a Mustard-Seed Faith?
A. The power to spiritual help others
B. The power that does not look inward
Season: Pentecost 20c
Date: October 10, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/What_s-the-Power-of-a-Mustard-Seed-Faith_-Luke17_1-10.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit comforts us in Jesus is Luke 17.
"He said to his disciples, "It's impossible for deathtraps not to come. But woe to him through whom it comes. It would be better for him if a millstone had been laid around his neck and he had been thrown into the sea than that he would set a deathtrap for one of the little ones. Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven time in a day and seven times returns to you saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."
"The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
"The Lord said, "If you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would have obeyed you.
""Who of you, if you had a slave plowing or shepherding, would say to him when he comes in from the field, 'Come here and sit back at once'? Rather wouldn't you say to him, 'Prepare my supper and dress to serve me until I eat and drink. After that you may eat and drink'? He wouldn't thank the servant for doing what was commanded, would he? So also you, when you have done everything commanded of you, say, 'We are unworthy servants. We have only done what we ought to do."" (Luke 17:1-10)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
A mustard seed is quiet small, but it comes in many varieties. There's yellow mustard, white mustard, black mustard, and more. People debate which plant Jesus had in mind as he talks about faith as small as a mustard seed. The leading candidate is the black mustard, /Brassica nigra/. It can grow to fifteen feet from such a tiny seed. But we're not here today for a horticultural lesson.
Think about this question instead: What makes a seed powerful? It's size doesn't matter, does it? It's what's inside. That's where the power and life is. That's where the embryonic plant grows. So also the power of faith isn't in its size but in the promise that faith holds on to. The promise is the heart and core of faith like the germ inside a seed. The promise. That's what brings strength and life to faith. The word of promise. Faith is only as good as the promise it's holding on to. Keep that in mind as we take to heart Jesus' words in Luke 17.
A. The power to spiritual help others
1. What can snap down on faith to destroy it?
Jesus lays before us some difficult things. First, he talks about not causing others to fatally sin. "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come" (Luke 17:1 NIV), Jesus says. Jesus uses the Greek word σκάνδαλα (/skandala/), which the King James translates as /offenses/. But the thought goes far beyond offending someone or causing them to sin. We talked about this a year ago in a sermon on Mark 9. At that time we used a mouse trap to illustrate the meaning. The thought here is a deathtrap. It's tempting someone, like placing cheese on the trigger, so that their faith is destroyed.
How serious that is! For without faith, there is no heaven, no eternal life. Only death, hell, and unending torment. No wonder Jesus says that dying the horrible death of drowning in the sea with a huge millstone around the neck is better than actually causing someone to lose their faith.
Now what snaps down on faith to destroy it? Two categories come to mind: False teaching and false living. Since the power of faith is the promise and since false teaching distorts or destroys God's promise, false teaching kills faith. Likewise, since faith believes God's promise and so wants to obey God, faith cannot coexist with willful sinning. So watch yourselves.
2. What makes rebuking sin difficult?
Jesus continues. Rather than causing a death-trap to destroy someones faith, we want to put our faith into practice to spiritual help others. How do we do that? Jesus tells us, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3 NIV).
Remember we just said that willful sinning destroys faith? Not only do we not want to lead others into the deathtrap of willful sinning by being a bad example, but we also want to keep them from wandering into sin. We warn and rebuke them with the heartfelt goal of forgiving them. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3 NIV).