Faith is not in getting what we desire, but believing someone who can provide what we need.
For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Mat. 17: 21). This is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted sayings of Jesus. Most of the people interpret this from the point of view of self confidence or having the firm belief that the thing prayed for by us will happen. Many use this verse in personality development classes and say that Jesus was a great psychologist. Some interpret it as the confidence that Jesus will do the thing prayed for by that person.
Jesus intention behind this verse is clearly explained by Jesus himself when He raises Lazarus from death. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one coming into the world” (Jn 11:25-27). Jesus does not ask the question, “Do you believe that I can raise Lazarus from death?” He also does not ask, “Do you believe that Lazarus will get back his life?” What Jesus asked her was whether she believed Jesus as the Messiah. And her answer too was that she believed Jesus to be the Messiah.
When Martha expressed her concern that Lazarus had been dead four days, it is clear that Martha did not have the confidence that Lazarus could be restored to life. And Jesus does not ask about her confidence in getting a miracle performed there. Jesus asks, “Did I not say that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Though we do not see here what Jesus wanted Martha to believe, it is very evident from the conversation that took place earlier that what Jesus wanted to know was whether she believed that Jesus is the Messiah. Throughout the conversation Martha expresses her doubt that nothing good is going to come out of Jesus’ presence or her prayer. But throughout the conversation she acknowledges that she has complete faith that Jesus is the Messiah.
When Jesus casts out the demon from the Canaanite woman’s daughter, he praises her, “Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mat 15:28). Here Jesus uses two words: faith, wish. What the Canaanite woman wished was that her daughter should be freed of the demon. But her faith was not that Jesus would do it for her. Her faith was that Jesus is the Messiah. Let us go to the conversation that took place between Jesus and her. Jesus tells her I am the Saviour of only the Israelites. But in reply she accepts Jesus’ Lordship over her too. She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She is acknowledging Jesus to be her Master, the Messiah. She is acknowledging Jesus to be the Messiah to the whole world. When Jesus said to her, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”, Jesus was not taunting her or abusing her. Jesus indirectly asked her,” have you come here to get a miracle from me without accepting me as your Lord? Do you think that I am like a social worker who helps anybody who comes to him without having any relationship with that person? Do you feel that I am the Messiah for only Israelites? Do you have a relationship with me as the Lord? Are you going to get a miracle from me and keep somebody else as your God?”
It was hard for a Canaanite woman to acknowledge that a Jew is the Messiah to the whole world. But she acknowledged, “You are the Messiah. I humble myself before you. I haven’t come just for a miracle. I am acknowledging you to be the Messiah. This moment onwards I have a relationship with you.” She acknowledged that even though the Jews had the most important relationship with him, she too was a subject of his. Jesus praised this great faith. Her faith was that Jesus is the Messiah. Her wish was that her daughter should be freed of the demon.
This truth can also be seen when Peter walks on the water. The disciples had doubt that the person appearing before them was a ghost. But Jesus declares to them, “Take heart; it is I; do not be afraid.” To confirm this, Peter asks, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Then Peter walks on the water. Then after walking a few steps, Peter begins to sink. Jesus asks him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” A person who walks on the water can have either of two thoughts in his mind. One is that he cannot walk on the water. The second is that he can walk on the water. This thought does not change. But suddenly Peter was frightened. What frightened him was not the sea. What frightened him was the person. He thought, “Is this person my Jesus. Or is he a ghost who has come to drown me in this sea?” His doubt was that the person who told him to walk on the water was not really Jesus but a ghost, as all the disciples had thought first. This doubt made Peter sink.
When he started his walk, he did not have complete faith that the person in front of him was Jesus. He just had faith only the size of a mustard seed. But that faith was good enough to make him walk on the water. But the moment he lost that faith, he began to sink. The fact that the faith discussed here is about the faith that the person before them is the Messiah can be seen from the last sentence of the paragraph. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying,” Truly, you are the son of God.” If this is the sentence written there, we can conclude that all the people there had only one doubt: Is the person with us the son of God? And Peter’s doubt too could not be different.
Jesus performed many miracles in Israel. Nobody had any doubt that Jesus could perform such miracles. Even Pharisees and Sadducees acknowledged this. But Jesus did not perform anything for them, just because they did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. In his own town, when people ask for miracles, people acknowledge that Jesus is capable of performing miracles, but they do not acknowledge him as the Messiah. So he did not perform any miracle there. The blind men call him son of David and acknowledge him as the Messiah and they receive a miracle. Blind Bartimaeus call him the son of David and receives a miracle. The thief on the cross acknowledges him as the Messiah, and he gets his wish fulfilled. The other thief knew that Jesus could perform miracles, but he did not accept Jesus to be the Messiah, and so he did not get anything.
Jesus makes Peter the rock on which he builds his church when he acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah. And when Peter denied Jesus, Peter was not denying his friendship with Jesus as a human friend, he was denying that Jesus is his Messiah, for to declare that he knows Jesus, he should have the faith that Jesus is the Messiah. And this makes his act a sin. Satan knows that Jesus is the Messiah, but he does not acknowledge him to be his Messiah. So he is doomed.
We have heard that the Creed is one of the best deliverance prayers. It is because it is fully in accordance with Mathew 17:21. Whenever we recite the Creed, we acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. This acknowledging of all the things or the faith in all the things Jesus taught through the Creed gets the miracle done. And this is the reason why praising also brings about miracles. Whenever we praise, we acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah. So praising Jesus brings about the miracle.
And this is the reason many of our prayers were not heard. We trusted fully that we would get the thing prayed for. But we did not get it, and we said that perhaps we may not get everything we pray for. But when we prayed, if we had the faith the size of a mustard seed that Jesus is the Lord over everything, that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is the only Saviour, our prayers would have been fulfilled long back. But our faith was in our confidence. Our faith was in our self confidence. But our faith must be that Jesus is the Messiah. Today if we pray with this faith the size of a mustard seed, whatever we pray will be done for us.
Sing with us – – – Messiah song by Twila Paris
In the hour of need, even when many options are available before us, or when no option is available except Jesus, if we decide to choose only Jesus as our option, and if we decide not to choose any other option in future even if one arises, and if we decide to choose only Jesus when he is not visibly available to us, and if we decide not to regret over the past instance of trusting only Jesus, and not to regret over the past instances of not trusting or not doing something unholy, and if we decide to forego that sinful act of profit or pleasure without making any excuses for continuing it, and if we decide never to crave for that unholy thing to happen in our life, this is faith.
– – – written by Adv. Shibu Varghese