to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
October 18, 2019 – Friday
Luke 17:6 NIV
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
What was Jesus replying to in the verse above? It was the apostles crying out to Him Increase our faith! Which brings up the next question, why were they crying out for more faith? To answer that let us take a look at the first five verses and our verse for today all together.
1 Jesus said to His disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
There is much to unpack here so let’s begin with verses one through two. First of all things will happen to cause people, anyone, to stumble that is a fact of life. We must be prepared for that and be ready to get back up after stumbling as soon as possible. However we don’t want to be the one that causes others to stumble. We want to avoid that at all costs for Jesus says woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. The little ones here are not just children as He spoke of in Matthew 18:6, but new or weak Christians or simply people finding their way to Christ or away from drug or alcohol use or just learning how to really take care of themselves. To purposely cause one of them to stumble is to have Jesus declare a woe upon the person causing the stumble.
The word woe is not to be taken lightly as it is clearly a terrible declaration of judgment by Christ as we read here When the word woe is used, it is quite possibly signifying impending doom, condemnation and/or the wrath of God so it is never used to only emphasize something in the sentence in which it is used. The example of a millstone around one’s neck and being thrown into the sea was not some simple exaggeration, but an example of a punishment that would be preferable, a quick drowning, to what one would actually receive as punishment.
Thus in the first part of verse three Jesus tells His disciples and us So watch yourselves. What would be the purpose of that warning? Likely to avoid causing people to stumble by false teaching, avoiding leading them astray by false teachings as the Pharisees often did, or leading the little/weak ones astray by being hypocrites as the Pharisees were. The disciples were, and we are, to walk the walk not just talk the talk.
If this was not enough to get the apostles to declare to Jesus, Increase our faith, before they could do so He added “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them”. This would be tough for more than one reason. First of all it is simply not in our nature as we by nature harbor hard feelings or grudges. Secondly and more importantly we want to judge the reality or realness of someone’s repentance. Here we are effectively told we are not to judge someone’s repentance, but that we must forgive them. No room for argument there, thus it is not wonder the apostles cried out to Jesus, Increase our faith!
His reply must have shocked them when He said “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” A mustard seed was the smallest known seed at the time of Christ, so small you can hold hundreds in your hand at one time. Almost weightless you can easily blow them out of your hand as well. So what was Jesus telling the disciples and us? Jesus was saying only a very slight very small, but very real, faith would be ample power to accomplish the seemingly impossible task He has set before them and us. In other words If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgment of others. (Pulpit Commentary)
In fact with such a real faith [Y]ou can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Mulberry trees were known to often live to be over 100 years old with very strong and extensive roots so to have one uprooted and planted in the sea would be quite a feat. Thus the capability of one’s very small very real faith, no larger than a mustard seed, would make it possible for one to do seemingly impossible things in their lives.
The reality of this shows up when we do something so simple as to accept God’s free gift of Grace through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross as payment for our sins. When this is done with repentance in accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior one’s life changes and others can see and observe this as well. It is one of the reasons we praise God daily and go to church on weekends to engage in worship with others who have accepted this wonderful gift from our Heavenly Father. A Father who loves us so much He gave His only begotten son as Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)