Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 17:5-6 as small as a mustard seed

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Increase our faith!” Make our faith grow. This could be an excellent prayer in almost all circumstances. The reason the apostles asked it here was certainly because of what Jesus said about forgiveness. It’s hard to forgive when you feel wronged or sinned against. Being a Christian isn’t about always getting justice for ourselves. It’s about winning souls. The smallest faith can share that faith and accomplish amazing things. Our human reason doesn’t understand about faith, and too often we make our reason the mistress and faith the serving girl, when it must always be the other way around. Faith has all the authority in the human heart, and reason merely does the chores. “Increase our faith” asked another way is, “Destroy the arrogance of my human reason! Do away with my devotion to knowledge and let faith in Christ reign supreme!”

Jesus also said that a small faith—the size of a mustard seed—could tell a mountain to hurl itself into the sea (Matthew 17:20). Is this mulberry tree command the same idea? Some think so, but they are the ones that think that only a very special kind of faith, the faith that also speaks in tongues and has other special and spectacular marks of the presence of the Holy Spirit, can do such things as this. The problem is that they will wait a whole lifetime and never see it happen, because they are as blind to what Jesus is talking about as the Pharisees were. The difference between tossing a whole mountain into the sea with a tiny faith and this claim—that you can plant a tree there—is that enough dynamite can also toss a whole mountain into the sea. But nothing any human being can do, can do what Jesus claims here, which is to say to a mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and have it do so. He does not say, “hurl the tree into the sea,” but “be planted.” The image is of a tree carefully pulling up its roots like a tent pulling up its own stakes, walking out onto the water the way Jesus once did (Matthew 14:25) and then sending down its roots into the waves. The image is of the tree’s trunk, branches and leaves remaining above the surf, and then thriving there with the waves lapping against the bark.

Lenski: “Exactly this very things the apostles would soon do over and over again, for at their word the kingdom would be transplanted, root and branch, from Israel into the Gentile world in congregation after congregations—into territory in which no man would have thought the kingdom could grow and flourish; the Jews were sure that it could not” (Luke p. 868-869).

The mulberry tree is figurative, but the power of your faith isn’t. Share it and see the roots go down, down deep, rooted in the living water of the word of Christ. The smallest faith can do that—but don’t imagine yours to be the smallest.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.



Browse Devotion Archive