Luke 17:5-6 – The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." (NIV)
In 1859, The Great Blondin became the first of many tightrope walkers to make the death-defying walk 175 feet above the Niagara Gorge from Canada into the United States. Blondin crossed the tightrope pushing a wheelbarrow, or on a bicycle, or walking blindfolded. He once crossed the Gorge on stilts, and on another occasion, stopped in the middle to cook and eat an omelette.
For Blondin's last performance, his manager asked the audience if they believed that Blondin could carry someone across the Gorge on his back. Now, after witnessing earlier amazing feats, everyone put their hands in the air. Yes, unquestionably, they unanimously believed that The Great Blondin had the skill to cross the Gorge while carrying someone.
Then Blondin's manager asked for volunteers to do so!
Among all of those who believed Blondin could carry someone across the Gorge on a tightrope, precisely zero people volunteered. So the manager himself crossed on Blondin's back.
The difference between belief and faith is like the difference between staying in our place with our hands in the air, and volunteering to climb onto Blondin's shoulders.
It's interesting to think that if someone had volunteered, it would certainly have been a highlight of their life, and their name would have become part of Niagara's history to this day. But the cost — possibly their lives — was too high a price for them to commit to.
By the time the event described in today's reading from Luke occurred, the disciples had been following Jesus for some time. They had been witnesses to His miracles and to His teaching. They had also watched as many of the crowd walked away when they realized that the price Jesus was asking was too high for them to commit to.
Just as it would not be easy to be a disciple for Blondin, so, too, was it not easy being a disciple of Jesus. To witness Jesus as He taught and performed miracles, the disciples felt they needed something more to be the kind of people that their Master was. Out of this sense of inadequacy, the disciples asked Jesus, "Increase our faith!"
Knowing that they already had enough faith to do all that He was asking of them, Jesus said, "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."
Jesus knew that, for His disciples, what was even more important than great faith in Him was their faith in God's ability to perform the seemingly impossible through them. What Jesus was implying here for His disciples — and for us today — was that no force in the world is greater than the force of faith; even the smallest amount of it can do seemingly impossible things. Even faith that seems as small as a tiny mustard seed can do the seemingly impossible: "For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37 NIV) Conversely, without God, nothing is possible; that is, nothing of lasting value:
John 15:5 – I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (NKJV)
Prayer: Lord, more than an increase in our faith, today we ask that we use the faith You have imparted to us, in order that we might complete Your will for us, and become the people You have created us to be. Amen.