If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, I tell you that you could say to this mountain, "Move," and it would move.
If you have faith and do not doubt, I tell you that you could say to this mountain, "Move," and it would be thrown into the sea.
Not once, but twice in Matthew's gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that they can move mountains. The first time He says this, they have failed to cast out a demon. The second time, they are marveling at the way the fig tree withered when Jesus cursed it.
When we read these verses, we often think about how Jesus is telling us that we can move the biggest things in our lives, that we can overcome our greatest obstacles. That if we just have a little bit of faith - the size of a mustard seed - or if we do not doubt, then nothing - nothing at all - can stand in our way.
But that's not how the disciples would have heard it.
I know, right? You're thinking right now - wait a minute. Even my pastor has preached about my mountains, about my obstacles, about all the big things that I'm up against. I've read books by prominent Christian authors about power and authority over all of the huge things that get in my way. Everyone I've ever heard talk about these passages talks about them in the same way; this is what Jesus was saying. Clearly. Have you gone mad?
Nah. I'm not mad; I'm just thinking.
In Jesus's day, and throughout the Old Testament leading up to Jesus, we never once see a mountain as an obstacle. A mountain wasn't an obstacle for Abraham, when God commanded him to sacrifice his son. A mountain wasn't an obstacle for Israel, who gathered at the foot of one to meet with God and to receive His commands. God even told them not to set foot on the mountain there because it was holy. And in the New Testament, in the Gospels, a Samaritan woman talks to Jesus about which mountain they will worship on in the age to come.
That's what mountains have always been for God's people - places of worship. Sites where they met God. Not challenges to overcome, but places to gather in holy assembly. The Temple was built on a mountain. The tablets were carved on a mountain. When Noah came to rest in God's promise after the flood, the Ark settled onto a mountain. The Samaritan woman's question reveals that all of the people wanted to worship on the mountain. A mountain. Which mountain, again, God?
And if that's the case, then it's hard to believe that when Jesus spoke to His disciples about moving mountains, that He was talking about obstacles. No. Jesus was talking about worship.
And if that's the case, then we have a lot to learn about what Jesus was saying. So let's take a couple of days and look at our mountains.
Not our obstacles. Not our challenges. Not the big things in our lives that seem to stand in our way. But our worship. Because if that's what Jesus was talking about, then that's what we ought to be talking about, too.