Mountains and Mustard Seeds

As I begin writing this devotional, I find myself staring at a small jar of mustard seeds that I bought in the Holy Land. I could have probably bought mustard seeds a lot cheaper off of Amazon, but when I saw that little bottle, I felt like I just had to buy it.

As I sit here reflecting on these mustard seeds, I am reminded of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples. After healing a boy that struggled with epilepsy, Jesus is asked by his disciples why they were unable to heal him themselves. Jesus looks at them and says: you couldn’t heal him “because of your little faith. 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.” (Matthew 17:14-21)

It’s a beautiful story, but to be honest, I have always had two hesitations towards this story. For starters, I feel an immense sense of guilt every time I read this story. There have been times that I have prayed that the cop who pulled me over wouldn’t give me a ticket and I still got one. There have been times when I opened my check account, praying that there would be more money in it, and there wasn’t. There have been times when I have prayed for the health of loved ones, and they still haven’t gotten better. I have tried many times to muster up my faith and pray for something, and nothing happens. And in those moments I feel guilt that maybe I don’t have the ability to move a mountain.

I am also overwhelmed with a sense of doubt. Move a mountain? The disciples couldn’t heal this boy, but Jesus tells them they could move a mountain? I don’t know about you, but I find that hard to even picture. I can’t pray a ticket away, but I can pray a mountain into moving? How would you even move a mountain? That’s something that Superman would be able to do, but surely not me, right?

This conversation between Jesus and his disciples is beautiful, but I always feel like it is impossible for me to achieve.

At least I felt that way until I visited the Holy Land a couple of weeks ago.

One morning, as we were eating breakfast, I looked out the window and noticed a mountain sitting at a distance. That mountain was the Herodium and it is a very interesting historic site. It sits about 3 miles to the southeast of Bethlehem and it stands out. Let me put this into perspective. Mid City Church is launching on March 15 (shameless plug) from Bernard Terrace Elementary School. The school is just over 3 miles away from the state capitol building.

The capitol building is a tall building that can be seen from a long way away. But if you walk out the front door of the school, you would not be able to see the capitol building. It is big, but not that big. To put that in relevant terms, the Herodium, is about the same distance away, and during Jesus times, you would have been able to see this mountain from basically anywhere. It is a pretty big mountain.

And that was its purpose. Herod the Great had this fortress built for two main reasons. First, to protect himself from an uprising. His fortress was built at the top of this mountain and he (his army) could see anyone and anything approaching them from a distance. It was a strategic defense location, filled with tunnels and hideaway spots so that Herod could live safely.

The second reason was that it was a constant reminder to Jews living in Bethlehem and Jerusalem that he was looking over them. It was a power move, reminding them that he, and ultimately Rome, was in charge. This location was perfect for the Heordium.

But there is something interesting about this mountain. It was not originally this massive. Originally, this mountain could not be seen from long distances. Originally, this mountain was a hill. When Herod put his eyes on this mountain, he had slaves build up this mountain to sit as tall as it does now. It was, in many ways, a man made mountain.

So what does this have to do with mustard seeds?

Let’s recall our scripture from earlier. One day, Jesus was journeying to Capernaum with his disciples. Along that journey, a man came to Jesus and begged him to heal his son who was struggling with epilepsy. When the disciples couldn’t heal this boy, Jesus heals this child then tells the disciples that if they only had faith the size of a mustard they could move mountains.

You see, when Jesus said this to them, it is fair to say that the disciples’ mind probably pictured the Herodium, a mountain that was built by the command of Herod the Great. They probably pictured this big, massive mountain, (which at the time was fairly new) and understood that mountains could indeed move at the command of one person.

As I sat in that hotel eating breakfast and looking at the Herodium, it became very clear to me that Jesus was not trying to guilt the disciples with his saying and he was not even setting unreachable goals. What he was doing was giving them hope.

You see, if this guy named Herod could invoke mortal beings into moving a mountain, how much more can you and I do by invoking the name of God. If Herod, can say a command and have a mountain moved, how much more can God do when you call him by name?

Herod may have been great, but Herod was not God. And if Herod can move mountains, God can do so much more.

I want to challenge you today to own that truth for yourself. No, you and I cannot physically move a mountain on our own. Neither could Herod, he had to get help. But God can. And our goal as Christians is to pursue a deeper and deeper relationship with God every day so that we can have power over the mountains in our life.

Depression, anxiety, fear, worry, financial burdens, sickness and every other mountain that we face are powerful and immovable when we face these things on our own. But God can help us overcome all things, if we pursue God deeper every single day. No, you and I cannot move mountains. But I know without a doubt that God can. Will you choose to put your trust in that?

Together on the journey,

Pastor Fernie

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