In Luke 17 Jesus delivers his teaching on temptation, sin, and forgiveness. Disciples of Christ are to forgive the repenting brother even seven times a day – the number here is not a limit but an expression of a complete amount. In other words, you are to extend complete forgiveness to the repentant brother, no matter how often it is requested. The disciples in turn call out to Christ for an increase of faith. Jesus response is interesting – he responds by telling them if they had even a mustard seed of faith they could accomplish difficult and even impossible feats – like extending complete forgiveness to those who seek it.
I had not noticed this before, but Jesus teaching on the unworthy servants immediately following these scenes punctuates Jesus’ points connected to the call to complete forgiveness. Jesus here explains that his followers position is one of an unworthy servant – servants do not expect a thank you or a pat on the back – they know their place and live it out through humble obedience. Forgiveness is not optional – it is commanded, it is ordered, it is required of those who are in truth unworthy servants to the Lord of forgiveness – Christ is Lord of forgiveness by nature as God and by right, as in his incarnation he himself was the blood price for sin that made forgiveness and remission of sin reality for God’s people.
Taken together we see that in order to ‘increase faith’ as the disciples requested, the position of the Christian must be pressed deeper into the heart and mind:
You are an unworthy servant. Forgiveness is commanded by the Lord who bought you.
This is the anatomy of the mustard seed. Two small propositions indeed, and a promise that nothing beyond them is needed.
Without them, the mountains remain – insurmountable masses of offense, stumbling blocks that cannot be avoided – and woe to the one through whom such causes to sin come.
But if you possess this mustard seed of knoweldge by faith, you will indeed command not only the minor stumbling blocks of unforgiveness, but mulberry bushes or mountains of offense into the sea by your simple act of complete forgiveness, and you will be as one who makes straight the way of the Lord.