Exploring the Scripture
Today’s text is part of the journey accounts of Jesus and his disciples as they travel to Jerusalem. They are in conversation on this journey and there are at least four independent sayings on discipleship in the opening verses. We will consider the last two sayings today.
Jesus had been talking with his disciples about forgiveness (vv. 1–4). The disciples then ask Jesus to give them an increase of faith. This question can be seen as asking for help, because the demands of life as a disciple are high. The disciples felt inadequate to meet the demands. Jesus responded by saying, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed… (v. 6).
The emphasis is on the word if. In Greek there are two meanings for the word if. Here Jesus is not condemning them for their lack of faith, but affirming and entrusting them by saying “You already have the faith. Use it! Nothing is impossible!” It was an invitation from Jesus to live their lives as disciples knowing they can do it. The faith they already had was enough and they had capacity beyond what they could now understand. He said, “You could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you” (v. 6). The faith the disciples already had would make the impossible possible (uprooting a tree), and improbable ideas could become reality (planting a tree in the sea). The second saying is about how a slave is obedient to the master (vv. 7–10). This text can be troublesome for many as it could be misinterpreted to say slavery is acceptable and slaves must obey and do whatever the owner wants of them. Clearly slavery is not acceptable and it is not the issue in the story. It is that all a servant’s time belongs to the master. As this relates to being disciples, all our time belongs to God and we are always working to show our love to God and one another. Discipleship is all day, every day. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We belong to God.
Today’s text has deep meaning. It encourages us to exercise the faith we already have been given. The impossible is possible. Life as a disciple is not easy but with faith, we have the power to be obedient to the invitation to live in a new relationship with one another. We can live the full possibilities of discipleship when we understand that we are already empowered by faith.
As we respond to the invitation through baptismal covenant, to see each person from a “changed perspective” where “Former ways of defining people” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:5) are no longer important, it is possible for the reign of God to become a reality. Our faith is enough and gives us the ability to become such a community. With faith it is possible to live into a new way of being in relationship with one another. Nothing is impossible with God!
- The demands of discipleship can be difficult.
- As disciples, we already have faith. Let’s use it!
- With faith it is possible to live into a new way of being in relationship with one another in the peaceable kingdom of God.
- As disciples we belong to God—all of our time, energy, and possessions.
Questions to Consider
- What are some discipleship expectations that are hard to live up to?
- In what ways can you exercise the faith you already have?
- What ideas seem impossible and improbable that would further Christ’s mission?
- What “prophetic imagination” is God creating in you?
- How can the reign of God become a reality in your community?
- If we belong to God, what does it mean to live a life of generosity?