Faith that Moves Mountains

We all know well the statement by Jesus:

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. (Matt. 17:20)

Personally, I have never seen a mountain move. In fact, I have never heard of someone moving a mountain.


As in, ever in the history of the world, ever.

I can’t speak for certain, but I suspect that someone rearranging geography is the kind of thing that would make the news.

Many of us, when we read what Jesus said (and believe it) and then we look at the world, we are left concluding: “No one has much faith.” When preachers remind us how teeny-tiny a mustard seed is, we get even more discouraged. “Wow, we really stink, when it comes to faith.”

What Jesus said to encourage us has actually turned into a statement that discourages. What happened?

Let me suggest a different reading. Jesus wasn’t talking about moving an actual mountain. There is some scant evidence there may have been an ancient Jewish figure of speech connecting mountains with challenges. Rabbah was known as an “uprooter of mountains” (b.Ber. 64a). In a fierce rabbinic debate on the qualifications of witnesses, “One who saw Resh Lakish engaged in debate would think he was uprooting mountains” (b. Sanh. 24a).

While we can’t be certain quite how the idiom was used, I suspect “There’s a mountain in the way” would be equivalent to our “I hit a brick wall.” It referred to an obstacle. (If you have been to the Holy Land, you may have noticed that sometimes there were mountains in the way.)

mountainsPerhaps moving a mountain meant removing an obstacle. Now suddenly an impossible saying that never ever happened in the history of the world turns into a saying that likely has already happened in your world. Have you prayed and God removed an obstacle? I think that’s what Jesus meant.

Jesus gave us this saying, not to discourage us, but to embolden us.

Prayer matters.

It removes obstacles.

So, go out there and move a few mountains!


4 responses to “Faith that Moves Mountains”

  1. Have you come across anything relating Jesus’ statement with the city of Jerusalem? In the context, the biggest “mountain” near them would have been Mt. Zion. Do you think Jesus could have been saying anything about the fall of Jerusalem there?


  2. Carl, that is an interesting observation. The “mountains” (hills, really) in the area are pretty much alike. I think the Mount of Olives is higher (as I recollect) but I’m not sure which one would be bigger. Because of the way that the Gospels are written, we can’t be sure of the provenance of any of the sayings. But, nonetheless, it is a thought-provoking idea. I’ve not come across anything to suggest this. What do you think Jesus would be saying? Normally, Jesus portrays the fall of Jerusalem as the judgment of God, not the result of prayers. Do you think Jewish Christians would be praying for Jerusalem to fall? Would Jesus be encouraging that? If you’ve read it somewhere, let me know. Thanks for commenting and giving me something to ponder this morning. Best wishes on your ministry in the Philippines!


  3. Thank you… this was very timely… for a significant family need.

    I was introduced to your blog by my friend and former co-worker JMO and have found your blog and books to be a blessing.


    1. Well, now we both call JMO our friend and former co-worker! I’m glad you find the blog helpful. Grace to you and peace this day.


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