Faith For What? – Part 5
“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.” Matthew 21:21
There are four occasions recorded in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus criticizes the disciples for their lack of faith.
“Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30
“But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26
“And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ “ Matthew 14:31
“But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?” Matthew 16:8
The first was worry about clothing and more generally about daily provisions. [Matthew 6:30]
The second came when they were in the boat and a fierce storm came up and they were afraid of dying in the sea. [Matthew 8:26]
The third was when Peter was walking on the water and started to sink and cried out to Jesus to save him. Matthew 14:31
And the fourth was when Jesus used bread as a metaphor to warn them to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and they were reasoning among themselves about bread forgetting to bring bread for their trip.
Now some of these instances are just plainly humorous, especially this last instance. Can you imagine? Here is Jesus with the twelve. They’ve just come from off the mountain where Jesus fed over 4000 people with seven loaves of bread "and a few little fish.” Not even big fish, just a few little fish. And coming off the mountain they have an encounter with the Pharisees attempting to test Jesus to show some miraculous sign. Remember the seven loaves and a few little fish from which He had just fed over 4000 people? So Jesus rebukes them for their hypocrisy in not discerning the signs He had already demonstrated time and again in their presence but still they would not believe Him.
So, now a little later He goes with the disciples to the other side of the Galilee and as He had done many times before He uses the two events that they had just experienced to teach a spiritual principle. He said, “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” From that statement they in their amazing brilliance and quick wit figure out, all on their own, that He is worried that they forgot to bring bread with them.
DID YOU NOT JUST SEE HIM PRODUCE MORE BREAD THAN 4000 PEOLE COULD EAT?
For what possible reason would He be concerned about food?
Their lack of faith was the matter of them not believing that the miracle they had just witnessed was indeed just that, a miracle that could be repeated anywhere at anytime if the need called for it. Jesus didn’t need to buy bread for them or Himself. There was a greater and more important message in the miracle of the 4000 and their lack of faith caused them to miss it.
Their Faith should have caused them to respond to the statement, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees” [Luke 12:1] with something like, “Leaven? He can’t be talking about bread? What could He mean? He did rebuke the Pharisees for asking for a sign when they had just seen Him perform a miracle of multiplying the loaves and the little fish to feed the 4000. Their leaven must mean something else. It’s their doctrine not bread.” That kind of thinking would have been based on faith in Him.
They did eventually figure it out after Jesus reminded them of what they had just seen with their own eyes.
It takes faith to draw out truth from parables and discern meaning from even the most obvious things around us, because we so naturally take them for granted until someone comes along and arrests our attention to take notice of what we are seeing.
Faith doesn’t take everything at face value. It looks to discern the heart of the matter to know the truth not just the facts. That a storm is raging may be the fact, but the truth is we are not in danger because the One who rebukes winds and waves is on board ship with us so we can speak to the wind and the waves just as He would and with our faith say, “Peace be still!” And they will obey us just as they would obey Him.
Though Matthew’s account says of this incident that Jesus said, “O you of little faith” [Matthew 16:8], Mark’s records it as Jesus saying, “How is it you have no faith,” a much stronger admonishment.
In this one instance He rebukes them for having no faith. They were totally consumed with fear, even questioning whether He cared if they lived or died.
“…But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:38 - 41
There is something to be said for both admonitions. The disciple must have had some level of faith or why else would they be following Jesus at all? The Pharisees on the other hand had no faith in Him at all so they rejected all that He did and said.
The disciples had only little faith because though they believed at some dimension that Jesus was who He said He was they didn’t understand the full significance of His claim that HE is the Son of God. Maybe they respected Him as a good teacher and faithful Rabbi, He was a strong and passionate leader. They called Him master, but what did that mean to them? For the most part they just saw Him as a man, with no more power or authority then they had. So, in a crisis their first instinct was to panic!
They let fear, not the knowledge of all the things He had revealed to them and all the miracles He had performed, grip them and paralyze their faith until they saw and heard Him calm the wind and waves.
Little faith is not like a strong perfume, where a little goes a long way. A little faith can just get you into deep trouble. A little faith is like having no faith at all where very real results are needed.
The mustard seed faith is a reference to the smallness of the words that are spoken. Words are so small that they cannot be measured in time or weight or dimensions. Words are spirit, spoken softly or shouted aloud. But once spoken they do not remain audible to the senses.
The faith that accompanies those tiny seeds (words spoken, Mark 4:14-20) is the soil they are planted in, good, thorny, dry or by the wayside. Little faith is by the wayside faith. Faith without works is dry ground faith, faith mixed with fear is thorny ground faith.
We can increase our faith by learning more of God’s Word and applying it to our everyday lives, by praying in the Holy Spirit [Jude 20], by stepping out and trusting God in little things then in things, situations and circumstances of every increasing magnitude; by seeing and accepting things to be as they are from God’s perspective not our own.
When our faith truly rests in God then we will be able to move mountains, not leaven, not bread, not mountains, but mountains.
“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:22-24
When we pray, mountains move, and there is no little faith in that.