Luke 17:5 – 10
5 The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ 6The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a* mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.
7 ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? 8Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’
Jesus continues with these sayings, teachings, to the disciples. Hearing what he has said about forgiving, even though it is seven times in a day, they feel their human limitations. If we do not look at Christ and feel our human limitations, we are missing something! The disciples say to Jesus, essentially, this is more than we can do! Increase our faith! And Jesus says it doesn’t take a lot of faith, the faith of a mustard seed will work. In fact, with the faith of a mustard seed they could say to the tree he points out, likely a very large tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you. This is very similar to the saying in Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
Jesus is not telling the disciples to go around commanding mountains and trees to go jump in the sea. He is using a figure of speech, an exaggerated idiom, to point out that with only a little faith, wonders are done, through God, not in our own power.
And, speaking of power, status, and position, Jesus reminds his disciples, reminds us, that as disciples, we are servants. Unlike the Pharisees, who expect their position to command status and that others will serve them, disciples should be serving their master. Nor, as disciples, do we finish our day saying, “look at all I have done; I am a great servant!” But rather, we finish in humility saying, “I did only what the Master asked.” The point is in the contrast – if we were standing there with the disciples, looking across a courtyard toward a group of Pharisees preening and expecting people to move out of their way, it would be easier to understand. We are servants of the Lord; it is not about rewards, not about status – it is about serving the one we love, the one who loves us, and the ones he loves.