Sunday, October 9, 2011

Faith that Moves Mountains

This is an amazing story that reflects God's power, the faith of a simple shoemaker, and triumph over evil. If you only have a short amount of time to read, scroll down to where it says "The story gets good here."

From The Travels of Marco Polo, Book 1, chapter 7-8

Baldach = Baghdad
Saracens = Muslims
Tartars = Asian Empire under Kublai Khan. The four Tartar princes mentioned (Mangù, Alaù, and 2 others) were Kublai Khan’s sons. Genghis Khan was the son of one of these princes.
Cathay = China

Chapter 7: Of the great city of Baldach or Bagadet, anciently called Babylon—of the navigation from thence to Balsara, situated in what is termed the Sea of India, but properly the Persian Gulf—and of the various sciences studied in that city.

Baldach is a large city, heretofore the residence of the khalif of all the Saracens, as the pope is of all Christians. A great river flows through the midst of it, by means of which the merchants transport their goods to and from the Sea of India; the distance being computed at seventeen days’ navigation, in consequence of the windings of its course. Those who undertake the voyage, after leaving the river, touch at a place named Kisi, from whence they proceed to sea: but previously to their reaching this anchorage they pass a city named Balsara, in the vicinity of which are groves of palm-trees producing the best dates in the world. In Baldach there is a manufacture of silks wrought with gold, and also of damasks, as well as of vests ornamented with the figures of birds and beasts. Almost all the pearls brought to Europe from India have undergone the process of boring, at this place. The Mahometan law is here regularly studied, as are also magic, physics, astronomy, geomancy, and physiognomy. It is the noblest and most extensive city to be found in this part of the world.

Chapter 8: Concerning the capture and death of the khalif of Balach, and the miraculous removal of a mountain.

The above-mentioned khalif, who is understood to have amassed greater treasures than had ever been possessed by any other sovereign, perished miserably under the following circumstances. At the period when the Tartar princes began to extend their dominion, there were amongst them four brothers, of whom the eldest, named Mangù, reigned in the royal seat of the family. Having subdued the country of Cathay, and other districts in that quarter, they were not satisfied, but coveting further territory, they conceived the idea of universal empire, and proposed that they should divide the world amongst them.

With this object in view, it was agreed that one of them should proceed to the east, that another should make conquests in the south, and that the other two should direct their operations against the remaining quarters. The southern portion fell to the lot of Alaù, who assembled a vast army, and having subdued the provinces through which his route lay, proceeded in the year 1255 to attack this city of Baldach. Being aware, however, of the great strength and the prodigious number of its inhabitants, he trusted rather to stratagem than to force for its reduction, and in order to deceive the enemy with regard to the number of his troops, which consisted of a hundred thousand horse, besides foot soldiers, he posted one division of his army on the one side, another division on the other side of the approach to the city, in such a manner as to be concealed by a wood, and placing himself at the head of the third, advanced boldly to within a short distance of the gate.

The khalif made light of a force apparently so inconsiderable, and confident in the efficacy of the usual Mahometan ejaculation, thought of nothing less than its entire destruction, and for that purpose marched out of the city with his guards; but as soon as Alaù perceived his approach, he feigned to retreat before him, until by this means he had drawn him beyond the wood where the other divisions were posted. By the closing of these from both sides, the army of the khalif was surrounded and broken, himself was made prisoner, and the city surrendered to the conqueror.

Upon entering it, Alaù discovered, to his great astonishment, a tower filled with gold. He called the khalif before him, and after reproaching him with his avarice, that prevented him from employing his treasures in the formation of an army for the defense of his capital against the powerful invasion with which it had long been threatened, gave orders for his being shut up in this same tower, without sustenance; and there, in the midst of his wealth, he soon finished a miserable existence.

I judge that our Lord Jesus Christ herein thought proper to avenge the wrongs of his faithful Christians, so abhorred by this khalif. From the time of his accession in 1225, his daily thoughts were employed on the means of converting to his religion those who resided within his dominions, or, upon their refusal, in forming pretenses for putting them to death.

The story gets good here.

Consulting with his learned men for this purpose, they discovered a passage in the Gospel where it is said: “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,” (upon prayer to that effect addressed to the Divine Majesty;) and being rejoiced at the discovery, persuaded as he was that the thing was utterly impossible, he gave orders for assembling all the Nestorian and Jacobite Christians who dwelt in Baldach, and who were very numerous. To these the question was propounded, whether they believed all that is asserted in the text of their Gospel to be true, or not. They made answer that it was true.
“Then,” said the khalif, “if it be true, let us see which of you will give the proof of his faith; for certainly if there is not to be found one amongst you who possesses even so small a portion of faith in his Lord, as to be equal to a grain of mustard, I shall be justified in regarding you, henceforth, as a wicked, reprobate, and faithless people. I allow you therefore ten days, before the expiration of which you must either, through the power of Him whom you worship, remove the mountain now before you, or embrace the law of our prophet; in either of which cases you will be safe; but otherwise you must all expect to suffer the most cruel deaths.”

The Christians, acquainted as they were with his merciless disposition, as well as his eagerness to despoil them of their property, upon hearing these words, trembled for their lives; but nevertheless, having confidence in their Redeemer, that He would deliver them from their peril, they held an assembly and deliberated on the course they ought to take.

None other presented itself than that of imploring the Divine Being to grant them the aid of his mercy. To obtain this, every individual, great and small, prostrated himself night and day upon the earth, shedding tears profusely, and attending to no other occupation than that of prayer to the Lord.

When they had thus persevered during eight days, a divine revelation came at length, in a dream, to a bishop of exemplary life, directing him to proceed in search of a certain shoemaker (whose name is not known) having only one eye, whom he should summon to the mountain, as a person capable of effecting its removal, through the divine grace.

Having found the shoemaker and made him acquainted with the revelation, he replied that he did not feel himself worthy of the undertaking, his merits not being such as to entitle him to the reward of such abundant grace. Importuned, however, by the poor terrified Christians, he at length assented.

It should be understood that he was a man of strict morals and pious conversation, having his mind pure and faithful to his God, regularly attending the celebration of the mass and other divine offices, fervent in works of charity, and rigid in the observance of fasts. It once happened to him, that a handsome young woman who came to his shop in order to be fitted with a pair of slippers, in presenting her foot, accidentally exposed a part of her leg, the beauty of which excited in him a momentary concupiscence; but recollecting himself, he presently dismissed her, and calling to mind the words of the Gospel, where it is said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire,” he immediately, with an instrument of his trade, scooped out his right eye; evincing by that act, beyond all doubt, the excellence of his faith.

The appointed day being arrived, divine service was performed at an early hour, and a solemn procession was made to the plain where the mountain stood, the holy cross being borne in front. The khalif likewise, in the conviction of its proving a vain ceremony on the part of the Christians, chose to be present, accompanied by a number of his guards, for the purposing of destroying them in the event of failure.

Here the pious artisan, kneeling before the cross, and lifting up his hands to heaven, humbly besought his Creator that he would compassionately look down upon earth, and for the glory and excellence of his name, as well as for the support and confirmation of the Christian faith, would lend assistance to his people in the accomplishment of the task imposed upon them, and thus manifest his power to the revilers of his law. Having concluded his prayer, he cried with a loud voice: “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I command thee, O mountain, to remove thyself!”

Upon these words being uttered, the mountain moved, and the earth at the same time trembled in a wonderful and alarming manner. The khalif and all those by whom he was surrounded, were struck with terror, and remained in a state of stupefaction. Many of the latter became Christians, and even the khalif secretly embraced Christianity, always wearing a cross concealed under his garment, which after his death was found upon him; and on this account it was that they did not entomb him in the shrine of his predecessors.

In commemoration of this singular grace bestowed upon them by God, all the Christians, Nestorians, and Jacobites, from that time forth have continued to celebrate in a solemn manner the return of the day on which the miracle took place; keeping a fast also on the vigil.


  1. I thought this story was too good not to share. This is a fascinating book, full of adventure and great stories. How many times have you heard a sermon on the verse about moving a mountain? Isn't it always, "Um, um, um, well, we know that, nowadays, you know, you have to understand, um, um, that there's a figurative meaning to these things, and um, um, you have to understand the cultural context, uh, so, yeah." I wish every pastor in America knew this story and used it as a sermon illustration.

  2. That is truly amazing! I've always thought of 'moving a mountain by faith' as just a figure of speech and that is was impossible. This has changed my perspective! :)


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