“Can faith really move mountains?”


In order to correctly interpret a passage such as Matthew 17:20, we first look at the overall context of the passage. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John, had just come down from the “mount of transfiguration,” and they encounter a man with a demon-possessed child. The man tells Jesus that he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t cast the demon out (recall that Jesus earlier, in Matthew 10:1, gave His disciples the authority to cast out evil spirits). Jesus then chastises them for their lack of faith and then casts the demon out of the boy. When His disciples inquire as to why the demon didn’t obey their command, Jesus replies with the statement in Matthew 17:20. Their faith, He says, is small and weak. If it were the size of even the smallest of the seeds, the mustard bush, they would be able to “move mountains.”

The first thing that needs to be considered is the Bible’s use of literary techniques. The Bible is first and foremost God’s revealed Word; we want to be clear on this point (2 Timothy 3:16). While the Bible is God’s revealed Word, it is revealed to us by way of language. God condescended—He lowered Himself—to speak to us in ways in which we would understand. Consider a father trying to communicate with his young child. The father has to condescend in order to be understood by the limited intellect and understanding of the child. This is analogous (though not identical) to the way in which God speaks to us.

The Bible employs many forms, or genres, of literature. There is historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writing, and epistolary literature (to name a few). Among these various literary genres, several literary techniques are used—metaphor, simile, imagery, parable, allusion, irony, personification, paradox, and hyperbole. As readers of the Bible, we must recognize when these techniques are being used so we can properly interpret the meaning. For example, in John 10:7, Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep.” How are we to interpret this verse? If we are too literal, we might start looking for a doorknob hidden somewhere on His body. However, if we understand this to be a metaphor, then we can begin to understand His meaning (Jesus is the way of access to eternal life, much like a door is the way of access into a room).

Another thing to consider in biblical interpretation is the context of the passage. More often than not, when we take a single verse out of its native context, we end up misinterpreting the verse. In the context of Matthew 17, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their weak faith and says that even if they had mustard seed-sized faith, they could command the mountain to move. Contextually, the mountain must refer to the demon that was afflicting the man’s son. Jesus tells His disciples that, if their faith was stronger, they could have commanded the demon to leave the boy, and it would be so. This was clearly the case in Matthew 10 when Jesus sent them out to cure diseases, cast out demons, and spread the gospel. Therefore, it is clear from the context that Jesus does not intend to assert that mustard seed-sized faith can literally move mountains. Rather, the expression Jesus uses was a common colloquialism of that day; to a Jew of Jesus’ day, a mountain is a metaphor signifying a seemingly impossible task.

Faith that can move mountains is not meant to imply a faith that can literally move literal mountains. The point Jesus was making is that even a little bit of faith—faith the size of a tiny mustard seed—can overcome mountainous obstacles in our lives.“Can faith really move mountains?”

Answer:
In order to correctly interpret a passage such as Matthew 17:20, we first look at the overall context of the passage. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John, had just come down from the “mount of transfiguration,” and they encounter a man with a demon-possessed child. The man tells Jesus that he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t cast the demon out (recall that Jesus earlier, in Matthew 10:1, gave His disciples the authority to cast out evil spirits). Jesus then chastises them for their lack of faith and then casts the demon out of the boy. When His disciples inquire as to why the demon didn’t obey their command, Jesus replies with the statement in Matthew 17:20. Their faith, He says, is small and weak. If it were the size of even the smallest of the seeds, the mustard bush, they would be able to “move mountains.”
The first thing that needs to be considered is the Bible’s use of literary techniques. The Bible is first and foremost God’s revealed Word; we want to be clear on this point (2 Timothy 3:16). While the Bible is God’s revealed Word, it is revealed to us by way of language. God condescended—He lowered Himself—to speak to us in ways in which we would understand. Consider a father trying to communicate with his young child. The father has to condescend in order to be understood by the limited intellect and understanding of the child. This is analogous (though not identical) to the way in which God speaks to us.
The Bible employs many forms, or genres, of literature. There is historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writing, and epistolary literature (to name a few). Among these various literary genres, several literary techniques are used—metaphor, simile, imagery, parable, allusion, irony, personification, paradox, and hyperbole. As readers of the Bible, we must recognize when these techniques are being used so we can properly interpret the meaning. For example, in John 10:7, Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep.” How are we to interpret this verse? If we are too literal, we might start looking for a doorknob hidden somewhere on His body. However, if we understand this to be a metaphor, then we can begin to understand His meaning (Jesus is the way of access to eternal life, much like a door is the way of access into a room).
Another thing to consider in biblical interpretation is the context of the passage. More often than not, when we take a single verse out of its native context, we end up misinterpreting the verse. In the context of Matthew 17, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their weak faith and says that even if they had mustard seed-sized faith, they could command the mountain to move. Contextually, the mountain must refer to the demon that was afflicting the man’s son. Jesus tells His disciples that, if their faith was stronger, they could have commanded the demon to leave the boy, and it would be so. This was clearly the case in Matthew 10 when Jesus sent them out to cure diseases, cast out demons, and spread the gospel. Therefore, it is clear from the context that Jesus does not intend to assert that mustard seed-sized faith can literally move mountains. Rather, the expression Jesus uses was a common colloquialism of that day; to a Jew of Jesus’ day, a mountain is a metaphor signifying a seemingly impossible task.
Faith that can move mountains is not meant to imply a faith that can literally move literal mountains. The point Jesus was making is that even a little bit of faith—faith the size of a tiny mustard seed—can overcome mountainous obstacles in our lives.

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Jesus is a safe harbor

I am a follower of Jesus. I am a grateful delivered woman who was once an addict, but now God has restored me and renewed me. I have been redeemed and remade by our Creator through salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ! I just want to share what God has done in my life that you may have the opportunity to experience the same joy He gave me. I give God all the glory for everything in my life for I couldn't accomplish anything apart from Him. If ye shall know the truth, the truth shall set you free, John 8:32. He puts people in my life that help me and gives me the opportunity to help another. I am never surprised by his love and blessings. God has placed a confidence and love in myself that I have never had before… so "Thank you God".. for the many True Blue Christians you have put in my life and for all the blessings you bestow on me daily. I have not come this far without lots of prayers and the help and love of my true friends and family and I thank you God for those special people in my life. You are 100% my Savior! I will forever have your name on my lips. I realize now with lots of prayer and reading of the Word… that all the answers were here for me and I never asked the questions. Although I still struggle daily with other life’s daily cards that are dealt, I have an attitude now of “NO MATTER WHAT “– I will praise You, Lord~~~through my storms and my triumphs! I have much more to share and would love to answer any questions anyone may have for through all my trials what has come to be is that I want to help others to see what I didn’t see and hopefully prevent the same hurts, guilt, shame and woes that I had to deal with and give them the best gift of all… JESUS! I believe it's important that we know who we are in God ... We are a one of a kind and God has made us like no other for a purpose- His purpose. Yes, bad things happen and yes, we make poor choices, but we don't have to continue to make them. God's mercies are new each day. Once we realize, know and most importantly believe who we are in Christ, that we are a child of God, we are not an accident, and whatever the circumstances before us each day no matter what they are... God gives us the choice and the power of Him to choose right and live right. We no longer have to live in the past, but in the present and look with expectation to the future with God by our side guiding us and directing our steps. He is our strength and our hope needs to reside in Him. Let his power and love work in your life today and see that life does not have to be the way you are living now. He wants to help you, but you have to let him. He can't make us come to him, he is not lost - WE ARE! Please share this blog with others to encourage them for the glory of God! Ministry: Lost Sheep Ministries on Facebook

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