Sermon: Barry McWilliams Christ Church 94/04/10

"Swelling Seeds, Not Swollen Heads" from Luke 17:5-10

Faith increases as it draws from the Lord, and does His will

Introduction: Gardening time is on us again... planting seeds - first they swell, then they grow, then they increase - this message is concerned with two subjects... The "What?" and the "Why?" of the disciples' request for increased faith. In Jesus' answer we have instruction on...
1. Growing faith - the mustard seed way and
2. Serving the Master - getting the chores done<p>

The Parable of the Servant: Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 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. Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'come along now and sit down to eat?' Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait in me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink?' Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

Growing Faith produces "an increase".

"Lord, Increase our faith: What is asked?

Use of "Lord" indicates presence of faith - they are asking for an increase - What kind? Quantity? Quality? Capability? Vision? (The context of this saying is unclear - is this related to previous verses? Watching against temptation - avoiding offending your brother, forgiving the offenses of others. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, sees them related)

Perhaps the clue lies in Jesus' answer to them.... A Saying (not quite a parable)

Faith as small as a mustard seed..... Jesus has related faith to seeds already in his parables

  1. The parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9, Mk 4:1-9; Luke 8:5-15)... The seed is the word/ gospel sown in men's hearts (there he spoke about hardened hearts, impulsive hearers;and those who are lost because of cares, riches and pleasures; trials, temptations and maturing too) Seed on noble ground stands for those with a good and noble heart, who hear the word and retain it, and by persevering produce a crop) Bearing fruit is crucial!

  2. Parable of the seed sown in secret (Mk 4:26-29).... Jesus relates the mystery of faith at work in our hearts - we cast the seed into the ground and we're powerless to make it grow - only God can give it life to grow. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernal in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he put the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. (note again emph on fruitfulness) (cf Psalm 126:6)

  3. Parable of the Mustard seed.....(Matt 14:31; Mk 4:30; Luke 13:18-19) the tiniest of seeds (Mt & Mk), yet it grows into a very large bush, where birds can roost and feed on its seed. Luke: a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew, became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches --- How can something so tiny accomplish so much - the power of the Gospel

  4. Saying of the Mustard seed ...(1).... Matt 17:20, Small faith can move mountains You can say to this mountain move from here to there and it will move (overcome obstacles Nothing will be impossible for you), This saying was given in the context of the failure of some of the disciples to cast out a demon, due to lack of prayer (Mark 9:29). Jesus' rebuke: your faith is too little. It needs increase.

  5. Saying of the Mustard seed ...(2)Here in Luke 17:6 Say to this Persian Black Mulberry Tree....(not a particularly large or unusual tree Black or persian mulberry - fruit similar to blackberries, short trunk, large heart-shaped leaves, about 30'. (Size and variety of tree not as significant as transplanting it in the sea!)) Not an emphasis on power here, but of accomplishing the impossible. The peculiar construction of the phrase seems to leave something out.

Conclusion: faith grows (increases) as it "draws" from the "soil" - abiding in Christ - and as it strives to bear fruit!

Significance for us - We are stepping out in faith - building a church - we definitely need faith for the task- how to increase it? Where does the power come from? What can it accomplish? How great is our faith? How great can it be? How we must get there!

The Lord's work must come first as Faith increases

But Jesus has more to say.... A Parable too. Another part of his answer to their request?

Why are they asking? What do they expect? To become personally more important, powerful, gain the recognition of others and increase their own prestige? What is the motive behind the question - Jesus seems to know as He responds further with a parable.

The point of this parable concerns the proper attitude of faith in a servant concerning his service to the master.... "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep" - (a ministry?) The tasks may vary, but the servant attitude toward the master is common to all.

  1. This parable clearly rejects a slavish attitude of doing only the minimum expected and that grudgingly as well (is faith bearing fruit the connection?) Luke 13:37 - the parable of the unfruitful vineyard We don't just put in our "8" and consider our duty done - Jesus wants all of us and our lives and service. Freely, not grudgingly given.

  2. A Matter of God's timing - It's his timeclock! "Would he say Come along now and sit down to eat?" Luke 12:42ff We will get our food at the proper time - Impatience is inconsistant with faith. His needs take priority! He is in control - we can't question His timing, nor grumble. It is his work and as servants we are not free to argue or complain with the way He has determined to accomplish it. The work comes first, not the benefits!

  3. " The danger of seeking recognition for doing what we are told. "Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do" - The mistake of thinking we deserve some sort of recognition or special credit for what we do - the problems of perceiving merit or taking credit (pride). "Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'come along now and sit down to eat?' Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait in me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink?' Would he thank the servant for doing what he has been told? "(in the Greek, assumed incorrect?) Do we need a pat on the back, or some kind of special treatment when all we are doing is what is expected of us?

  4. The recognition that we belong to the Lord and our purposes are really His. We are here to serve Him not visa versa. 1 Cor 8:6 for whom we live...through whom we live. What is expected of us? What tasks still have to be done. Is our faith related to the tasks He has given to us, or orientated to our needs and wants. We may be thirsty or hungry, ready for a break, but the work comes first.

  5. The recognition that we don't deserve any of what he gives to us, but He has made Himself our servant!. Whatever meal and rest Christ gives us is undeserved, unearned - it is instead his gift of love and grace - when he serves us, it is truely wonderful!. (Luke 12:37) - the promise - I will wait on (serve) you. )

    "When you have done everything you were told to do you should say: We are unprofitable servants, we have only done our duty." Do we seek increased faith for ourselves, or for His work to be accomplished through us. We are to be "swelling seeds" as His power makes us fruitful, but must not have "swollen heads!"

    "They were but servants; and even though they had done their work, the master expected them to serve Him, before they sat down to their own meal and rest. Yet meal and rest there would be at the end. Only let there be no self-elation, nor weariness nor impatience, but let the master and his service be all in all. (with these parting words he most effectually and forever separated in heart and spirit, the church and the synagogue.)" Edersheim
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