ESV - 20 He said to them, "Because of your little faith. 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.
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In order to correctly interpret a passage such as Matthew 17:20, we first look at the overall context of the passage. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John, had just come down from the "mount of ...
On the way to Jerusalem (from Bethany) with his 12 disciples, Jesus saw a fig tree and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. It was discovered the next day the fig tree withered away(Mk. 11:20). Christ had power to do whatever He said and promised the same power to all believers (Mt. 21:21-22 Mk. 11:22-24 Jn. 14:1-15; 15:7,16). “If ye have faith, and doubt not” is a Biblical guidance as this is repeated three times(Mt. 17:20; 21:21; Mk. 11:23; Lk. 17:6). Naturally, we do not see any need of moving mountains and cursing trees, but such is literally possible "If ye have faith, and doubt not" (1Cor. 13:2; Mt. 17:20; Mk. 9:23). When one has power with God, a word of command is all that is necessary as even mountain be removed or cast into the sea; it shall be done. Mount Olive will be literally removed by halves at His second coming (Zech. 14:4). Literally, "Have the faith of God." Such is possible or it would not be a command. Man was created with God's faith but doubt entered in at the fall (Gen. 3:1-7). Faith is restored in the new birth and if normally exercised and maintained it will grow to fullness and power (Rom. 1:5,17; 10:17; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:23; 2:6-7 2Th. 1:3; 2Pet. 1:1-5). Bible encourages to have a faith as a grain of mustard seed. Stating again the limitlessness of faith. Mountains and trees can be moved (Mt. 17:20; Lk. 17:6), "all things" can be done (Mt. 21:22), and "all things are possible" if one has faith (Mt. 17:20; Mk. 9:23; 11:22-24 Jn. 14:12-15; 15:7,16).
I thoroughly enjoyed Michael's comments and the various responses to the power of faith to move mountains. I might add that some years ago I read the story of a missionary lady down in Mexico who had started up a Bible club with some of the kids in the neighborhood. In reading about the mountain-moving power of faith, the children got excited. There was a tall hill in their back yard that blocked out the morning sun and kept it chilly on winter days. They agreed among themselves to pray that the Lord would move that pesky hill out of the way. The teacher was alarmed; she didn't want these new Christian children to be disappointed when their child-like prayers failed to be answered. She tried to throw a monkey wrench into their petition. But they would have none of it. They said Jesus promised that if we ask, we would receive. A few days later, a highway engineer came to the mission compound and asked the lady missionary if she would be willing to sell them the portion of the property on which the hill was located. They needed the earth to fill in a deep ravine on a stretch of new highway. Not only did they remove every bit of the hill, and leave the empty space level and tidy, but they also paid the missionary for the hill that was no longer there. God had answered the children's prayers - just as supernaturally as though it had been cast into the depths of the sea. Then again, I head of a long-time believer who sat through a sermon on mountain-moving faith with growing skepticism. After church was over, and most of the congregation had departed, she went to a window facing a tall mountain and said a prayer that it be removed and cast into the Pacific Ocean. She waited several minutes, then shrugged her shoulders and said under her breath, "See, I knew it wouldn't budge." Jesus said, "According to your faith be it unto you." He also asked, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" I am a long ways from possessing mountain-moving faith. In fact, I had trouble getting rid of a long-lasting skin cancer on the back of my hand. I was just about to have it surgically removed, or frozen off, when I learned about "black salve." (That's what it's called.) I didn't realize what powerful stuff it is, and I put on more than recommended. The area flared up with angry red blotches. I knew I had to see a dermatologist, but before I could get an appointment, it formed a scab, which in a few days fell of, leaving brand new skin - and no cancer! By the way, that "black salve" is a formula of herbs concocted by the native American Indians. It's an answer to prayer for me and for others in our congregation who have gotten rid of skin irritations on their faces and hands. Natural healing methods were used in the Bible on numerous occasions, from fig poultices, to spices, to a little wine, to fasting. But Jesus used His divine power to heal the sick during His sojourn in the Land of Promise. And because He promises to be with us, and never fails, He's still in the business of making sick bodies well - and He does it better than black salve can. So yes, if you believe, all things are possible, for with God nothing is impossible. And if He has to move a mountain, it's no big deal. After all, He made all the mountains and valleys and the entire universe - By FAITH.
I believe that yes, faith can move mountains. The Bible says that if you have faith even the size of a mustard seed then you can move mountains.
I don't know, of course, the exact point that Jesus was teaching to his disciples, but I believe here that the point he was teaching was the purity of Faith, not the size. A mustard seed does not "think" it can grow into a large plant, it simply does. He did not say if you had "great" Faith; rather Faith like a mustard seed, small. We must remember that Faith is not something we believe in our ability, rather we believe in the ability of God. So yes, faith is able to move mountains. Not because we can command it to be so but because our God can do ANYTHING.
While I agree with the first answer, in that our faith can overcome any obstacles we face in life, I do believe this can be taken literally too because, Moses' faith in God lead him through parted seas, and through a dessert that had no lush fruit or water, but still, they were given water and food and survived 40 years, and the woman who bled for years, spent all her life savings on physicians, by simply touching Jesus' garment was healed and even He said "Your faith has healed you." So yes, if you truly believe that God can move mountains with your faith, because God can do ANYTHING, then yes, your faith CAN move mountains! It is only doubt that creeps in that keeps us from this level of God given action, and that is from the evil one who is ever so busy these days. Blessings, in HIM, Lynn
I believe the point To be remembered is that though the mustard seed is the smallest of those grown in that area, once it has been nurtured it grows to be the biggest of the trees in Israel. So it is with our faith!
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