By Brooke Holt
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’” – Luke 17:5-6
How do you respond to challenging teachings? Christians love to talk about grace, love, and the forgiveness of the Lord. What they often forget is the challenge not just to receive these things but to receive and then extend that grace, love, and forgiveness to others. Jesus has instructed the disciples that they are to forgive their brother (or sister) even if they sin against them seven times in a day. Why seven times? The rabbis of that day taught that God’s people were to forgive up to three times; Jesus doubled that three and added one.
Let’s get honest with ourselves for a moment. This is no easy calling. If someone betrays you then asks for forgiveness then does it six more times in one day, Jesus is saying that you are to continually forgive that person instead of preaching to them, teaching them a lesson on how to behave, or writing them off as a betrayer and beyond help. You know that would be incredibly difficult to do.
The disciples hear these words of Jesus, and they also understand this kind of forgiveness is hard and requires a supernatural kind of faith. Then these disciples seem to assess themselves with the question – do I have that kind of faith? Notice how this assessment leads to humility and then to their honest plea, “Increase our faith!” These men had lived with Jesus, walked many roads with Jesus, and listened to his every sermon, even they recognized their need for help in fulfilling the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus responds with the simile of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds. While very tiny, the mustard seed contains life within it. Jesus was assuring his disciples that though their faith felt small there was great life and power within them. They had and would continue to receive all that they needed to forgive those who had sinned against them. Where Jesus goes on to say that faith would allow them to verbally uproot a mulberry tree, he does not intend for them to truly move around objects in nature. Instead, I believe that Jesus is saying that they can do the miraculous work of forgiveness and that forgiveness can lead to even greater miracles – the restoration of relationships.
Jesus was not afraid to challenge his disciples or those who listened to his teachings. He knew who he was and that he would continue to fulfill God’s every command and that those who would put their faith in him could do the same. Jesus was the God of miracles – he raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out demons, and then forgave those who nailed him to the cross.
Jesus would now have you fulfill his commands. As the disciples of Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven of every sin and had our slate wiped clean. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would now have us to forgive those who sin against us, even if it means seven times today!
What is most challenging to you about this command to forgive? How do you need to receive the grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus and then to extend that grace, love, and forgiveness to others? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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