Last Sunday I had the pleasure of going back to my old church community for a dedication of a friend's bambino. Whilst it was great seeing old friends again I confess that the teaching took me outside of my comfort zone, presenting faith in a way that made feel incomfortable...
The talk was on Matthew's story of Jesus healing the boy with the demon in him who was trying to kill him. You may recall that the story takes place at the foot of a mountain, Jesus has just been transfigured and he comes down to a man asking him to help heal his son because the remaining disciples had been unable too. Jesus of course does it easily.
The more the talk went on the more i struggled with the end of the tale:
"Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, Why couldn't we drive it out?
He replied, Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
By the end of the talk i was convinced even if i had faith the size of a mountain i would not be able to move a mustard seed - so maybe you can help me out please?
I am recognising that being taken out of my comfort zone is actually a good thing. It stops me getting all complacent. The angle of the preacher seemed to be that we need to trust in God more and the closer we get to God the more faith we have and the more we will be able to perform miracles like kicking demon butt (the idea of moving mountains was laughed off as not being a commanded activity of the kingdom). I could express this as:
Believe in God more + pray/ask harder = kick demon butt
Which was fine as far as it went but then it through up some Qs in me:
1) Jesus doesn't seem to be saying that believing more is the problem, faith the size of a mustard seed seems to be quite small or
tiny faith + pray/ask/tell = nothing impossible?
2) Does that mean the disciples in the story didn't have even that amount of faith - was that why the Dad of the boy came up to Jesus rather than the disciples? Were the disciples trusting in their own abilities, using the right formula to look good rather than trusting in Jesus. Having failed and their pride bruised were they too embarrassed to ask for help?
3) I don't see many christians throwing around mountains or even small rocks so my conclusiong is that Jesus was not literally talking about moving the mountain he was at the foot of (or any other). Unless you are part of some geographic shifting faith community - we're landscaping for the Lord? :)
4) But if Jesus was talking figuratively what did he mean? Was Matthew just riffing on Exodus 32 story of the golden calf, and having Jesus come down the mountain to a situation of unbelief amongst the crowd? Or is this too subtle, only a peripheral point?
5) Is this one of those stories where the actual answer is if Jesus tells you to move a mountain and therefore you tell mountain to move then mountain will move? Two things with that: a) is that actually about faith if it is such a sure thing? b) Jesus had already sent the 12 out in Matthew 10 and given them authority to heal and drive out demons which they had done - so this should have been routine.
So I'm left thinking this is one of those hard statements of Jesus that are meant to take us out of our comfort zone and wrestle with the meaning - want to be on my tag team?
Help please... So can I ask you please what the story means to you? How do you interpret it/understand it/live it/apply it?
" I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Thank you... Paul