Published on
February 21, 2024

Luke 17

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed..."

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
Luke 17
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’  ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,’ the Lord said, ‘you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea.” and it will obey you.’”  Luke 17:5-6 (HCSB)

Depending on your Bible translation, the tree that was thrown into the sea (in today’s passage) is either a mulberry, sycamore, or fig tree.  It may be confusing to some why the translators would choose different trees.  Sycamore & mulberry trees are types of fig trees.  The scholars obviously didn’t consider that most of us in the 21st century wouldn’t know much about trees!

All that being said, Jesus is once again using the mustard seed image as a metaphor for His Kingdom.  The mustard seed generally only grows into a bushy shrub.  But in Matthew 13:32, Jesus described a miracle of prophetic nature, wherein a mustard seed grows into a large tree where the birds of the air nest.  In that chapter, the mustard seed was set in contrast to the cursed fig tree, which represented Israel’s spiritual decline, leading to its unproductivity.  

In today’s passage, Jesus is reminding His disciples of the previous “mustard seed” image, which, again, is in contrast to the fig tree, which represented the decline of Temple worship.  In essence, He said that, although Temple worship seemed like it would last forever, unless its leaders embraced Jesus as Messiah, it would be uprooted, treated as apostasy by the Lord, and replaced with the greater Messianic community (the Church).  His words proved true.  Although the community of believers (at that time) was as small as a “mustard seed” and not expected to grow much bigger than a small sect, it flourished and expanded worldwide.  In contrast, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD and still has not been rebuilt.

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple.  He also cursed the fig tree in Mark 11, which was a direct fulfillment of prophecy.  

“Woe is me!  For I am like the fruit pickers, like the grape gatherers.  There is not a cluster of grapes to eat, or an early fig, which I crave.  Micah 7:1 (NASB)

In the Bible, whenever someone or something is thrown into the sea, it denotes judgment, the direct result of sin.  

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; and the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.”  Exodus 15:4 (NASB)

“Then they picked up Jonah and they threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.”  Jonah 1:15 (CSB)

So, what is our takeaway?  Jesus tells His disciples that the only way to break bad tradition is by changing their ways and beliefs and putting their faith into action.  When God’s people live according to His Word, a distinction between right and wrong is clearly seen.  Based on the testimony of surrendered lives-in-action, bad tradition is identified as sin and discarded.  Is the Lord telling you to break with bad “tradition” and to draw nearer to Jesus, Messiah, and Lord of your life?  By all means, do it now!

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