Matthew 17:20 Commentary, If ye Have Faith as a Grain of Mustard Seed…

A close-up image of a mustard flower sitting atop mustard seeds.

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Matthew 17:20, KJV

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20, NIV

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Matthew 17:20, NLT

20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20, ESV

20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20, NKJV

For this verse analysis, we will be using the O.I.C.A. method of studying the Holy Bible.

An image describing the OICA method of bible study. The O represents Observation and says "Read the passage and make some observations about what it says, consider why it was written. What does this tell you about God? About the Bible? Any key words." The I represents Interpretation and says "What does this passage mean? Why was it written? Always remember the context of the scripture when you make your interpretations." The C represents Correlations and says "How does this passage fit into the overall story of the Bible?" The A represents Application and says "What does this passage mean for your own life? What is the potential personal application?"


This verse was written to encourage believers to have faith in Jesus and to show that even the smallest amount of faith can produce great results. It is a statement of the power of faith. 

This verse highlights the importance of faith regarding God. Jesus tells his disciples that their lack of faith is why they were unable to drive out a demon and that with even a small amount of faith, they would be able to do anything. This shows that God is incredibly powerful and that we need to have faith in him to achieve impossible things.

Wherefore, Christ adds that if we have even the smallest amount of faith, we can achieve great things. 

Like a Grain of Mustard Seed

“Like a grain of mustard seed” is a common phrase that is used to describe something that is small but has the potential to be very large. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, but it can grow into a large plant. This shows that even a tiny amount of faith can accomplish great things. 

Similarly, when someone talks about having faith like a grain of mustard seed, they are saying that they believe in their ability to achieve great things, even if they may seem small or insignificant at first.

So Little Faith

“So little faith” in this case does not refer to a small amount “like a grain of mustard seed,” but rather no faith at all. It is also translated as unbelief depending on your Bible, and should not be compared similarly to a small amount of faith, but rather the complete absence of it.


This verse is often interpreted to mean that faith can move mountains (not in the literal sense, at least for us!), or that with God, all things are possible. 

This verse is about spiritual possibilities (and not followers moving mountains in historical faith), therefore, what Jesus is saying is that even the smallest amount of faith can achieve great things. Whether we interpreted it literally or figuratively, it is clear that this verse is a powerful reminder of the importance of faith in our lives.

With but just a small portion of the power of the Lord, we can achieve great things; Imagine what we can be done with more.


The book of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and was written by the apostle Matthew.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus is asked by his disciples why they were unable to drive out a demon from a boy. This interpretation is based on the fact that the verses immediately before Matthew 17:20 deal with His disciple’s inability to cast out a demon before Jesus has to do it himself. 

I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Matthew 17:16-19, NIV

This statement is part of a larger conversation in which Jesus is teaching his disciples about the power of faith. In this particular instance, Jesus is using an analogy to emphasize the point that even a small amount of faith can produce great results. 

This passage provides context for understanding the importance of faith in the Christian tradition. Through this story, Jesus is teaching his followers that even a tiny bit of belief can result in mighty deeds.


This verse is often cited in relation to faith and miracles. In other words, it is believed that if we have strong enough faith, we can perform (or be blessed by) miracles. This interpretation is supported by other verses in the Bible that discuss the power of faith.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:22-24, NIV

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Even if our faith is small, we can still accomplish great things if we have trust in God.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Mark 10:26-27, NIV


When we face challenges in life, it can be easy to lose sight of our faith or be discouraged, but do not compare faith with others. We may start to doubt ourselves and wonder if we can overcome whatever is standing in our way. The truth is that faith gives us the strength to persevere even when things seem impossible. 

Just as importantly, it reminds us that we are never alone – God is always with us, even in the darkest of times. So whatever challenges you may be facing today, take comfort in knowing that you can overcome them with the power of Faith by your side.

What is one way we can manifest our spiritual faith? Through prayer. When we are faced with a situation that seems impossible, we can pray and ask God for the faith to see our problems through in a way that is pleasing to Him. He may not always answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but we can trust that He knows what is best for us. So whatever you are facing today, know that God is with you and He will help you overcome it if you put your faith in Him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

Jeremiah 29:12, NIV

It is such a wonderful action to give glory to God and start your genuine faith as a very small seed; heed the words the apostle expresses, and maybe you too can do the seemingly impossible. 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16, ESV

For more on the book of Matthew, please reference our articles here.

This article references verses written from the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), and New King James Version (NKJV) translations of the Bible.