I think I've always read this and seen in it only the faith like a mustard seed that could uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea - and of course concluded that I too, just like those apostles, needed more faith - indeed a lot more faith!
But I read these verses this morning, this Good Friday morning, and saw something else, something much more basic and so illuminating.
I suppose like all of us I began praying this morning with a deep thankfulness to the Lord Jesus for His death on the cross for me, for my sins. I think over the years since I first became a Christian I have grown in my understanding of the depth of my sin and the enormity of the sacrifice on my behalf and yet there is still so much of me that wants to skip over the cross and get to resurrection Sunday - get to the part where I can be made glorious in Him, where I can be like my Saviour who is now and forever seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
I began reading in Luke 17 and thought this passage so familiar until the Lord opened my eyes just a little wider and gave me an insight into, not only the hearts of those disciples but also into my own. Jesus has just been telling them that they must forgive their brother - forgive him no matter how many times he has sinned nor how many times he has 'repented'. They were to forgive him even if they doubted his repentance, leaving that to the Father - because their forgiveness of each other was more to do with them, and their heart condition than the effect it would have on their brother.
I had concluded that it was a lack of faith that made those words hard to hear - a lack of faith that would make it impossible for them to forgive. But Jesus cuts right across that deception and tells them - it is not your faith that is lacking it is your desire for obedience. Forgiveness is simply the act of the one who knows his/her true position in comparison to the One who forgave them.
Look at how Jesus continues here - with the example of the slave and his master and how even after a long day of work the unworthy slave is still expected to serve and to know that what he had done was simply what was commanded and only that which they ought to have done.
Like those disciples I am often tempted to ask the Lord to give me the faith to do what He has commanded when all of the time He is telling me - simply obey - simply do as I command because you trust that I am the One who knows the end from the beginning and I am the One who has promised to enable you to do it.
And this morning, like a bolt of lightning I saw it - here He is walking towards the cross, walking in obedience to the command of His Father simply because He knew that here is the plan set before the foundation of the world by the One who knows the end from the beginning and who had promised that by this obedience would come the redemption of the human race.
Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you understood that He hung on that cross for you? Have you read in Matthew's gospel and in Luke's that He prayed three times that His Father might 'take this cup from Me' yet in the end would say 'nevertheless not My will but Yours be done'. That did not take more faith, it simply required that the author of our salvation would Himself obey.