Luke 17:1 “Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.”
In these verses of Luke 17:1-19 an important lesson I believe is coming out about faith and obedience that we need to see and grasp. In the first four verses Jesus is telling His disciples and us that no matter how many times a brother offends, if he comes to us repent and get right – we are to forgive.
Evidently that was too much for the disciples to take in so they asked Jesus to increase their faith. The disciples – like most of us today – see what Jesus said from the aspect of feeling, but this has nothing to do with our feelings, but with our will. We are to obey first and then our feelings follow.
So, they said: “Increase our faith.” Jesus responded saying that a faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things. I wonder if we have ever thought what a remarkable statement Jesus made here about the mustard seed.
Jesus said faith like a mustard seed can move mountains. Think about it. Someone estimated that by taking Mount Hermon that the disciples would be acquainted with is 1,804 meters higher than the land around it and 2, 814 meters above sea level. A mustard seed being 1.5 mm in size, it would take 1,202,666.67 mustard seeds to reach the height of Mount Hermon. Or if laid side by side it would be 1972.9 yards, which is equivalent to 6.5 football fields. A mustard seed is miniscule compared to a mountain, but faith that small could move mountains. Jesus said several times to His disciples: “You of little faith.” Is this true with us as well? We struggle to have faith that God will provide us the money to live each day, that He will protect our loved ones, ultimately, we struggle to believe that He is in control.
Isn’t this the problem with the children in the wilderness; their ‘little faith’ even after seeing all that God did to bring them out of Egypt? Ten times they tempted God in the wilderness. How did they do this? By their unbelief. God did not want to respond to their unbelief, but to show Himself strong on their behalf. But they would not believe and so that generation perished in the wilderness and never entered into the Promised Land.
Jesus used the parable of a servant working hard all day for his master, plowing the field or taking care of the sheep, and when he comes home he wants to rest, but the master says that he must first prepare his master’s supper, and then he can eat and rest. The servant is to obey.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and we are to pray to the Father in the Name of Jesus, praying always on all occasions, but for this we need faith as well, an increasing of our faith in God’s Word as we continue in prayer. Faith and obedience are the two sides of the same coin.
In this chapter we see the same thing with the ten lepers. They cried out to the Lord: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13) What did Jesus do? “He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’” (Luke 17:14) I wonder what the lepers thought when Jesus said that? Did they expect Him to do something out of the ordinary? Perhaps what went through their minds is what went through Naaman’s mind (the commander of the army of the king of Aram) when he came to the prophet Elisha who did not even bother to come out and greet him, but told him to go and wash himself 7 times in the Jordan River. Naaman was furious, but later obeyed and was cleansed and so it was with the ten lepers. They obeyed and in the process they were healed.
One of the lepers when he realized that he was healed came back to thank the Lord and Jesus said to him: “Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)
How is our faith? How is our obedience? Perhaps we need to be like C.D. Studd. F.B Meyers wondered what C.D. Studd was doing pouring over his Bible by candle light one early morning in a conference that they were both in. Studd said: “I am going through the Gospels seeing what the Lord told me to do and bringing my obedience up-to-date.” C.D. Studd opened the Belgium Congo to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe what we need to do as the Church of Jesus Christ is to bring our obedience up-to-date, to the maturity of righteousness.