Which Mountain Did He Mean?

by Stephen Rhoda

Bible Reading: Mark 11:20-26

Mark 11:23

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”

Here is a glorious promise from our Lord, but not because it assures us of quick, dramatic victories over the “mountains” of our lives, that is, our troubles and struggles.  We may be tempted to hear Jesus promising that whatever we want, we can get, in exchange for a perfect faith, but this will leave us always navel-gazing at our faith.  After all, if the “mountain” doesn’t move, there must be something wrong with our faith, right?  If the illness isn’t healed, or the debt doesn’t go away, or the trouble remains, there must be doubt in our hearts.

But what is the context made clear by Jesus Himself?  In verse 25, Jesus adds, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  In other words, the biggest mountain that needs to be moved is the mountain of our sin.  To be forgiven by God is no less than a mountain being “thrown into the sea.”  And our failure to forgive others is the doubt, that is, the indicator of unbelief, that may give us to see that the mountain still stands opposed; we are still in our sin.

Until we see the glory of the Gospel, that is, how significant and astounding it is for God to forgive sinners for the sake of Christ, we will be left to focus on other lesser mountains.  We will be left to clench our “faith muscles,” grunting and straining at the effort of faith.  Picture a child trying to lift a thousand pounds; this is the image of someone trying to muster up the faith to move the perceived mountain they face.  But the point of this verse is not that “faith can make anything happen.”  The promise of our Lord is that salvation comes by faith, and that is a glorious and delightful truth, far more glorious than the moving of our molehills in this sad life!