Matthew 17:20 Amplified Bible (AMP)
20 He said to them, Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
When we were in the Golan Heights near an old Roman city called Gamla, we were walking along the path and our guide said, “Look, there is a mustard seed plant.” I had seen lots of pictures of the seeds and at one time had called my bookstore, The Mustard Seed Bookstore, because the mustard seed represented to me the persistence that was needed to produce the Aramaic materials. Here was one first hand! At first I was disappointed because when you picked a bit of those dried pods, they just crumbled. But then the seeds fell out! There they were — tiny, yes and very difficult to hold on to. In order to bring some of them back home, I had to just take the whole pod. Here is a picture I found that shows the perspective of the size of the seed.
That reminded me of things I had learned about the characteristics of the mustard seed, other than it is small.
—It is unaffected by other plants around it
If you plant tomatoes close to jalapenos you will get hot tomatoes. Many other plants and vegetables cannot grow around certain types of other plants or vegetables, because they take on the characteristics of what they are around. Certain plants cannot grow near a black walnut tree, or even near its roots, because they take in the toxins that the black walnut tree produces. However, a mustard tree, can be grown around anything. It is not affected by its surroundings. You could plant a mustard seed right on top of a jalapeno seed and it will grow to be nothing BUT a mustard tree, completely unaffected by the jalapeno.
—It cannot be made into a hybrid
Man has discovered how to make hybrid vegetables. The way this works is by changing the DNA. For example, to get corn to be perfect corn that bugs won’t eat, you have to cross the corn DNA with cucumber DNA. The ONLY way they can get the corn to accept the cucumber DNA is to introduce it through a virus. Make the corn “sick” and then it will accept the cucumber DNA and end up as hybrid corn. But science has discovered that mustard cannot be made into a hybrid. The mustard seed can never be anything other than a mustard seed. It refuses all viruses and there is no way to make it anything other than what it is.
—It is tenacious and grows in unfavorable conditions
We found this mustard plant alongside a sandy dirt road where there was very little earth and only received the rain that came there in the rainy season. Yet this large plant had grown up here. That must have been one of the main reasons that Jesus used this as an example of faith. The mustard seed grows in difficult circumstances and even in garbage or contaminated areas. It grows where other plants will be choked out, eaten by bugs or infested by disease. It basically says, “I am a mustard seed, and I will grow!!!”
—It grows large enough to shelter the birds
The mustard plant is not really a tree, but it can grow to be 10 to 15 feet tall and be a resting spot for birds. When our faith increases, despite attempts to dilute it, despite ways of the world that try to make it into a hybrid, or despite many unfavorable situations, then it ends up being a shade and shelter for others to lean on and to take strength for themselves.
What wonderful lessons to learn about faith. It is not the amount of faith that is so important, because even though the seed is small, once it starts growing, it is programmed to become a large bush and produce many other seeds. AND not only that, but the mustard seed faith is unaffected by others around, impervious to things that are contrary to God’s promises and truth, and is persistent in spite of unfavorable circumstances.