What is faith like a mustard seed?

Instead of my usual bible time this morning, and yesterday too, I’m taking some time to journal my frustration with Matthew 17:14-20 which says: 14And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18And Jesus rebuked the demon,b and itc came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.d 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”e (e 20 Some manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting)

So I will list the parts of this verse that confuse me.

  • Jesus seems frustrated at the crowd because of their lack of faith, but isn’t it by the faith God has given them that they bring the child to Jesus? Further more isn’t because of faith that the man is left puzzled about the disciples failure to heal his son?
  • Jesus explanation for the disciples failure to cast out the demon is because of their little faith – but then he goes on to tell them that faith as small as a mustard seed would have done the job. So that leaves me with the question; is the problem that their faith was smaller than a mustard seed, and if only it had been a little bigger they would have succeeded? That doesn’t sound right at all.
  • Lastly is the issue of verse 21–which is missing from the ESV with a note that says “Some manuscripts inset verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” If that is what Jesus said, than a)Why was it taken out and b)Why didn’t Jesus pray and fast?

Oh Lord, I know you are good. I know you are faithful. I know you are a merciful God, even coming to us humbly and bearing our pain so that we might know your glory. I don’t understand this passage but I want to know this faith! You are the one who breathes life into the dead. You are the one that has lead me to your word to drink of your life. I am bowing down to put my lips to the water. Please Lord– let me drink and take in your goodness according to the righteousness bought for me through Jesus Christ your son. I am not worthy to drink, but Christ is. Have mercy on me a sinner, and let me know you deeply. Give me faith like a mustard seed as I fall helplessly at your feet and seek your will. Forgive me of my unbelief. Heal me of my unbelief and let your name be glorified in me as I am changed from death to life.

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