One of my problems in reading the Bible is that I take many things Jesus said as being literal. The disciples had this problem too. When Jesus said to sell your cloak and buy a sword, it sounded like advice to have a sword in case people persecuted you. But this flies in the face of the other things Jesus said about turning the cheek and loving your enemies.
Most commentators of the Bible say Jesus was not being literal. And I believe they are right since when Peter cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man and told Peter not to use the sword.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:
“At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spoke only of the weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves.”
Whenever I would read what Jesus said about moving a mountain into the sea if we had enough faith, I would wonder what he really meant. Then I read someone say the mountain represented difficulties in our lives. They said in the Old Testament, mountains represented difficulties,and that made sense.
Today, I was reading Luke 17 and Jesus spoke about the Sycamore or Mulberry tree. He said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea and it would obey you.’”
He said this in answer to his disciples who had asked him, “Increase our faith.” And they asked him to do this after he had spoken about forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness they thought impossible for them.
“Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to you, you shall forgive him.”
So, uprooting a sycamore tree is impossible for anyone to do; therefore, if you think it is impossible for you to forgive over and over, you are wrong. Faith in God will make it possible for you.
This is what I read in some commentaries this morning:
“The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible. In other words, he says, “If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgement of others.”
Barne’s Notes on the Bible
“This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year but these figs grow on short stems along the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in other fruit-bearing trees. The figs are small and of a greenish-yellow color.
It is easily propagated, merely by planting a stout branch in the ground and watering it until it has struck its roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith.”
Thinking of all this reminds me of the fires of hell preachers talk about. I believe the fire is symbolic of something else.What would be the point of God burning people who are lost? Punishment? Punishment is supposed to be restorative. Actual, physical burning? I don’t think so. Being burned is very painful, and I think when the wicked realize they are lost,it is like a burning in their soul. A terrible pain in their heart at seeing what they have given up because they loved darkness rather than light.