When we read the bibles of today, almost every translation has section headings that break up the chapters into smaller sections. Now these subtitles did not exist in the original text and sometimes it can cause us to focus on the wrong part of a message.
Matthew 17:14-21 is one of those passages. The subtitle in the ESV says “Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon” and then it starts with a story about a boy with a demon that the disciples were unable to heal. There is even a thick and sarcastic response from Jesus that could again draw our attention away from the message of this text. Jesus responds in verse 17 with “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?” He almost sounds mad at the fact that His disciples just aren’t getting it yet. But this sharp rebuke is drawing our attention to the real lesson of the text and it’s not about the healing of the boy.
Jesus ends this section with a statement of faith that I am 100% convinced nobody that has ever lived has had this much faith. He says, “For truly, I say to you,if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (v. 21)
Now a mustard see is extremely tiny, smaller than most pin heads. And Jesus is telling us that if we had even that tiny amount of faith, we could literally move mountains. That sounds outrageous because it is. To think that you could actually physically move millions of tons of rock from one place to another, simply by faith… that would have to be some serious faith. Yet Jesus says it would only take faith the size of a mustard seed.
What’s great is that He didn’t expect us to have that faith on our own. He is not saying that we could ever possess that kind of power without Him. In fact, Paul says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) We are not expected to have that kind of faith to do ‘all things’ on our own. This faith comes through Him.
You see, as Jesus was nearing the end of His time on Earth, He let his disciples know that what was to follow Him was even better. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7) He continues with “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (v.13)
So it’s true, we CAN do all things through HIM who gives us strength. The Spirit empowers us to have the kind of faith that is truly limitless. On our own, we are physically incapable of the faith even the size of a mustard seed. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can truly do all things.