So the apostles wanted faith. Most commentators suggest they saw the miracles and thought it would be “cool” to be able to do miracles themselves. I do not believe that is correct.
Most of the apostles, like Peter and James, were ordinary enough working men. They were not raised to desire the limelight. Simon the Zealot likely hid from notoriety. Matthew the tax collector probably kept a low profile as well, considering what most people thought (and still think) about tax collectors.
No, I imagine it was understanding they were after. How were they to understand what Jesus was doing, what all these miracles were about, and what Jesus was telling them about what he was facing in Jerusalem? They did not want to hear about Jesus dying! They were troubled, lots of angst, but perceptive enough to believe that faith was a solution. “Increase our faith” was a plea to be able to accept what Jesus was telling them. It was begging to understand and to have the strength to stand up when Jesus walked to his death and believe that he would be raised on the third day like he said.
How hard that must have been to hear.
Jesus gives a curious response. He basically confirms their self-diagnosis by suggesting they have no faith at all. Have you ever seen a mustard seed? Talk about small. He said if they had even the least pin prick of faith they could manipulate creation itself – tell the tree to throw itself into the sea and it would.
Paul says the same. The Gospel, Jesus, Salvation and everything is only apprehended and received by faith – but that is not our own faith (of ourselves lest anyone boast). Faith is a gift of God. Note: Anyone who tells you that you are not seeing miracles because you don’t have enough faith does not know what they are talking about!
When I was young, (15) I had a job bussing tables in a hotel restaurant. One time I stepped to the office and asked the boss what he was doing. He was kind. He explained what he was doing with the paperwork, but then he looked at me. “What are you doing? It isn’t your place to question or worry about what I am doing. You just need to do the job you were hired to do.” I got the message.
Jesus said much the same thing with his story. Don’t question or worry about what God is doing. You will understand everything you need to understand. Your job is to do what you do understand. Do what you can do. Do what you are called (hired) to do, and when you have done everything, remember you are the employee and walk humbly before the boss. Say “I have done my duty” and let it go at that.
Over and over again Jesus tells stories praising those who are doing their job when the Master suddenly arrives. The master is pleased. We need to do our duty and not worry about the rest.
Certainly, you don’t want to be the one who says, “Bu-bu-but. I didn’t do what I could. I didn’t do what I knew I should. I-I-I” And I don’t think “if only I had more faith” will be an acceptable excuse.