3 October 2010

Luke 17:5-10

"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.'" (v.5-6)


The middle ten chapters of Luke's Gospel tell of Jesus' journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, and are an account of his teaching. There are lots of parables (stories with meanings) and short proverbs (wise sayings). Jesus chose everyday examples which were commonplace and familiar to those who were listening, and that makes the teaching easy to remember. Some of those brief illustrations continue to be well-known today.

When the apostles, the followers of Jesus, asked him about faith, Jesus over-exaggerated his answer. He chose to mention a mustard seed as one of the very smallest seeds, and then he spoke of a mulberry tree. The mulberry tree, or possibly a type of sycamore tree, was regarded as having very deep roots and therefore was hard to uproot. Uprooting a mulberry tree and planting it in the sea was impossible to imagine. So Jesus was saying that even a minute amount of faith could do impossible things.

Slavery was a common aspect of the culture of Jesus' time, even though it is something which is appalling to accept today. But Jesus used that everyday example to say that a slave has to do his duty. No matter how hard that slave has been working he doesn't claim a reward just because he has done his day's work.

So it is with following God's way. Discipleship is about continuing to follow, not to earn something, but to do what disciples ought to do.

Jesus told his disciples that even a little bit of faith was enough, and that being a disciple is not about thinking they could earn a special place with God.

To Ponder

How much faith do you think you have? Can you trust that God might think it is enough?

Can you think of times when you felt that you'd done enough for God, even though there might have been more required of you? What else could/should you have done?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.