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.)
Perhaps 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.
It removes obstacles.
So, go out there and move a few mountains!
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