Faith to Move Mountains? What Is the Meaning of Mark 11:23-24?

In Mark 11, Jesus said that those with faith can move mountains. Did He mean this literally? What can Jesus’ statement teach us about having faith in God? 

Everyone struggles with faith from time to time, even longtime Christians. This is part of being human. Jesus Christ knew this and gave encouraging words to His disciples to describe the power of faith and its impact on their lives. We find this recorded in Mark 11:23-24.

The account begins in verse 14 when Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not have fruit. Passing by it the next day, the disciples were amazed that the fig tree had dried up and withered away, fulfilling Jesus’ words.

Peter called Jesus’ attention to the miraculous result, and Jesus responded, “Have faith in God” (verse 22) and then explained what He meant in verses 23 and 24:

“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

What did Jesus mean when He talked about having the faith to move a mountain into the sea?

To learn more about the topic of faith, read “What Is Faith?

Jesus’ use of extremes to make a point

Jesus Christ often used extreme symbols, or hyperbole, to convey a concept. That’s what He was doing here in Mark 11. In Matthew and Luke, He likens faith to a mustard seed—something very tiny. In Matthew and Mark, He uses the symbol of moving a mountain, something huge. 

The difficulty in understanding Mark 11 comes from Jesus’ imagery of removing a mountain and casting it into the sea. This is nearly impossible to even imagine. 

Jesus’ analogy wasn’t about literally moving mountains, but about faith in God’s power over the impossible.However, if we consider this as an analogy to demonstrate that what is physically impossible for us is entirely possible for God, it becomes much easier to grasp. The focus shifts from mountains to God, for whom nothing is impossible. Further, when we put this discussion in the context of prayer, our thinking is transferred from the physical realm to the spiritual.

Jesus’ analogy wasn’t about literally moving mountains, but about faith in God’s power over the impossible.

Consider the many miracles of Jesus Christ, such as healing incurable diseases and restoring life to the dead—immovable “mountains” for humans alone. But these miracles happened and were recorded to drive home the point of God’s unlimited power.

The first recorded miracle of Jesus Christ in John 2:1-10 provides a road map to apply the principles found in Mark 11:23-24. This account is one of the most impactful examples of faith found in the Bible.

The wedding in Cana

The wedding in Cana provides essential lessons of faith we can use when approaching God in prayer. When reading this account, we can easily focus on Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. But let’s consider it from the perspective of His mother, Mary. She provides a powerful example of faith without doubting. 

Turning water into wine is impossible for humans—just as impossible as moving a mountain and casting it into a sea. This account is found in John 2. 

We read that a problem arose when the master of the wedding feast ran out of wine. Mary became aware of this and approached Jesus, saying only, “They have no wine” (verse 3). Mary made Jesus aware of the situation with a brief statement of the need. It was direct, short and didn’t include instructions on how to handle it. She made Jesus aware of the need and left the solution in His hands. 

It is an expression of faith in God’s power over the impossible.

Verse 5 records Mary’s instruction to the servants: “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 

Mary was absolutely confident that Jesus could and would intervene. In her mind, it was a “done deal.” Turning water into wine is impossible for humans—just as impossible as moving a mountain and casting it into a sea. Grapes ferment into wine; water doesn’t. 

But wine was what was needed, and Jesus provided it. In this account, we learn some essential keys to bringing our needs to God in prayer.

To learn more about this miracle, read “Jesus’ First Miracle: Water Into Wine.” 

What can we learn from Mary’s example?

Consider three lessons we can learn from Mary at the wedding in Cana. 

1. Be direct in taking our needs to God.

Jesus’ comment in Mark 11:22—“Have faith in God”—directs our focus toward Him and encourages us to develop a close, parent-child relationship with God. With a submissive, childlike mind, we can take our needs directly to God as a little child would with his or her parent. As adults, we can overcomplicate faith and lose the simplicity of direct reliance upon the One who can do things we cannot.

In Mark 11:24, Jesus highlighted the importance of trusting God’s power: “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”  

Mary understood this and acted accordingly.

2. Believe God can perform miracles and will act in our best interests according to His will and timing.

Some could say, “Well, Mary knew what Jesus was capable of, so it was easy for her.” (Though since no miracles are recorded before this, she may have never seen Him perform a miracle before this.) 

But we also know what Jesus Christ and God the Father are capable of. The real issue is confidence and developing a calm assurance that God hears our requests and will act in our eternal best interests. Mary demonstrated this in how she made her request. Her comment, “They have no wine,” indicated one thing—she knew He would act if she made Him aware of the need. 

In other words, the confidence in the action preceded the request.

3. Don’t allow doubt to enter.

There’s no hint that Mary doubted Jesus could perform a miracle. In this case, she also believed it would be in accordance with His will and so He would act. After she made Jesus aware of the need, she immediately turned, instructed the servants and walked away, without doubting that her Son would provide the best solution.

In the account of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28), Peter did the impossible until he looked around at the physical circumstances surrounding him. Then he began to sink. Jesus’ response in verse 31 is telling: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Doubt kills faith. We should rather have confidence that God will grant our requests, according to His will, in His time and in the manner that is best for us. (For more insight on doubt as a faith killer, read “Enemy of Faith: Doubt.”)

This also helps us understand why we haven’t seen Christians move any mountains into the sea—because this kind of request is not a need. Neither does submerging mountains currently align with the will of God. 

God certainly has the power and ability to do it (Psalm 97:5; Micah 1:4). Jesus used the image to graphically illustrate God’s power over the impossible.  

A real-life example of Mark 11:23-24

Mary’s faith at the wedding in Cana provides an example of how we can understand and apply Jesus Christ’s instructions in Mark 11:23-24.

Did Mary need to move a mountain? In a sense, yes. There was a need that was impossible for her to fix on her own, but she believed that God could do the impossible. 

She went directly to Jesus with her need, had confidence that He would act to take care of the need, and didn’t doubt that He would solve it in the manner of His choosing. 

Mary provides an example for us to follow as we approach God in prayer for our needs, knowing that what is impossible for us is entirely possible with God.

Topics Covered: Christian Living, Christian Growth

About the Author

Bill Welch

Bill Welch

Bill Welch resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife, Kathy. They have two married daughters and have been blessed with four wonderful grandchildren. He has been a member of the Church of God since 1971. He attends the Houston South congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, where he serves as a deacon.

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