Luke 17:5 tells us that the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith.
This was the Lord’s response.
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. (vs. 6)
(Note some versions say mulberry tree but I lean towards the KJV sycamore. Mulberry in comparison to a mountain in the gospel of Mark just doesn’t fit the context of what Jesus was talking about. Check out the link below)
A sycamine or sycamore is a huge tree. In Mark this story is relayed as a mountain. The sycamore tree can grow as tall as 30 to 40 meters (or 98 to 130 ft) with a diameter of 1.5 to 2 meters (or 4.9 to 6.6 ft)
The sycamore has a very deep root structure. The root structure is so aggressive that it can even lift a side walk. While a mountain being tossed into the sea is a big obstacle the sycamore tree is a deep rooted problem. Either way it takes faith the size of a mustard seed to get rid of it.
Jesus uses the illustration of a mustard seed to describe the Kingdom of heaven or how the kingdom of heaven operates in Matthew chapter 13. That is why when the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith he referred to the mustard seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man planted.
The mustard tree Jesus was referring to is a black mustard tree or bush that grows in Israel. A large annual plant which grows up to 9 feet (2.7 m) tall.
The black mustard seed is quite small. About 1-2 millimetres.
The mustard seed must be planted in order to grow. In God’s kingdom many times things have small beginnings.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. Zechariah 4:10
On the seventh time the servant reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” And Elijah replied, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 1 Kings 18:44
Growth of a mustard seed into a mustard tree takes time. Faith takes time to develop in the same way. Faith is having complete trust in God without doubting.
Faith comes from God’s word to our heart. Planted in our heart God’s word will grow and our faith will grow too.
Consequently, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
Take for example the scripture. But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
When we make petition in Jesus name for our need to be met and that need is met our faith grows. A sprout occurs!
After a while another petition is answered and our faith grows even more.
God proves he is our provider and our faith in him grows through having experience with his faithfulness.
Then after a time of trust and reliance on Jesus a great big need presents itself. A great big mountain or a great big sycamore tree which is rooted down deep in our heart or someone else’s heart. It needs plucking up and cast into the sea.
We now have experience with God. He met all those little needs. He has proven himself faithful. Now that grain of mustard seed has become a mustard tree where the birds can feed and take rest.
Feeding on God’s word is important for our faith to increase.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; in Your word I have put my hope. Psalm 119:147
Resting is an important factor in the development of faith. When we rest we trust that the Lord is doing his work. No matter what the circumstances look like to the contrary.
Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
By telling the apostles the parable of the mustard seed Jesus was showing them how to increase their faith. By planting the mustard seed of God’s word in the heart faith will grow.
That big sycamore in your life may look like it’s an impossible problem. That mountain standing in your way may look like a real big hindrance but the Lord tells us to plant our mustard seed. Plant the word of God in our heart! Water it every day and it will grow!
The Lord has promised in his word to come through for us. We may not know the exact process or the timing but what we do know is that the Lord is faithful to perform what he has promised.
So we can say with confidence: “The Lord is my helper!” Hebrews 13:6,
“I trust in your word.” Psalm 119:42