“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 17:20
The disciples had been given authority in the past with instructions to heal the sick and drive out demons. When confronted with a boy who was severely oppressed by an unclean spirit who would cause him to have seizures and throw him into the fire to be burned or the water to be drowned, the disciples were unable to expel it. Jesus expressed exasperation with them and drove out the spirit (Mt 17:17-18).
Later, the disciples asked Jesus why they were unable to drive it out and he made the statement in 17:20. The statement is remarkable and should be believed by faith. It also provides hope that anything is possible when one is acting in the will of God, in the name of Jesus.
The theme of faith comes up often in the Gospels and seems to accompany a life where the belief that saves is lived out through the works that demonstrate it. Kingdom lifestyle and Kingdom works seem to go together and require a belief that would lead one to act and live in a whole new way of peace, goodness, and power.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Matthew 17:20
#1 “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith.”
Jesus is responding to their question concerning the reason they could not command the demon in the boy. Sometimes it is the faith of the one being freed or healed that is the barrier, such as those in Jesus’ hometown (Mk 6:5). But in this case, it was the disciples’ own inability to believe that was the hindrance to God’s work.
#2 “Truly I tell you,”
This is a phrase used by Jesus whenever he wanted to emphasize an important point.
#3 “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,”
Genuine faith is either present, or it is not. If it is present at all, it is enough for miracles.
#4 “you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,” and it will move.”
This is astounding and should not be taken as mere hyperbole. If we have not been able to move a mountain with a word yet, then we do not yet have the kind of faith that Jesus is referring to. Rather than try to explain this statement away, seek his Kingdom and pray with faith.
#5 “Nothing will be impossible for you.”
This is astounding. It should not be thought of as a superpower to use for your own pleasures, but rather trust for use in God’s plan to save the world. Seek to live a Kingdom life by faith. Cultivate faith in the promises of Jesus. Satan has worked on your mind for your whole life to keep you powerless and weak. Begin to believe Jesus and step out in faith.
Expert Overview of Matthew Ch. 14-28
Biblical Translations of Matthew 17:20
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
He 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.”
And Jesus said unto them, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place;’ and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.