Faithful Jesus | Matthew 17:14-23
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 17:14–17:23
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series has been titled the Revelation of the King as the section we will be looking at (chapters 14-20). Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus performs miracles, but above all Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people; he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. We have been in chapter 16, Jesus taught his disciples about his identity as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” He then tells his disciples he is going to have to go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the religious elite, be killed, AND rise again. Those that follow Jesus will also be led into places of suffering and trail and to not lose heart. Jesus then gives specific assurance and clarity about His mission and what is to come by showing a few of his disciples a clear vision and preview of His glory on top of a mountain. While we should see and behold the image of God in his Glory and long for the communion with God on the mountain top, the Christian life is not one lived on a constant mountain top. The mountain has been reviled, the mountain we will return to, but the mission is not on the mountain, it’s in the valley. That is where Jesus comes to engage with people who feel far from God and that is where Jesus has called those who follow him to labor, serve, preach, love, all while pointing people back to the mountain top of God’s glory shown in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Last week we closed with Jesus leading Peter, James and John back down the mountain. This week we see what happens when Jesus and the three come down and engage a faithless father, generation, and disciples.
Matthew 17:14-23 14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”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.”
22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Verse 14- 16 | Faithless Father
Jesus and the three disciples have come down from the mountain where Jesus glory was revealed. The retreat is over, the revelation has been experienced. It is now time to get back into the valley, into the plain. What do they encounter? There is a great crowd around the other disciples who didn’t go up the mountain. Mark’s account says there are scribes present arguing with the disciples. This is NOT the great and glorious mountain. This is a chaotic mess. This is not dissimilar to Moses when he came down the mountain after experiencing God’s glory and having the law revealed, only to see God’s people, without godly leadership, deep in faithless idol worship. But this mess is where the mission is. In the crowd are people who are hurting, families with members who are sick physically and oppressed or possessed spiritually. There are religious legalist seeking to undermine Jesus disciples, there are disciples failing to fulfill their ministry to help and heal. In the crowd is a father with a son who is suffering greatly. His boy is spiritually oppressed such that it has physically manifested itself with epileptic symptoms. It is so dramatic and over powering it causes him great harm as he falls into fire and water. The father has exhausted all other options and he has even come to some of Jesus’ disciples for healing. Everything, including the disciples, has failed to heal. In great desperation he comes to Jesus. He kneels in reverence, he begs for mercy for his son. Through tears he lays out his ailments. While he is desperate he is not entirely confident in Jesus ability to affect positive change in his son. In Mark’s account it says he asks Jesus “If you can do anything, have compassion.” Jesus responds with “If you can!” The man seems to have faith in Jesus character, but not in his power. He lacked a both comprehensive and personal faith in Jesus. “Jesus I’ve heard you have healed and provided spiritual relief before but I am not sure you can help me here and now.” We often believe Jesus can and does help others. But when we are in the deeps of suffering we can easily be like this father, we want the pain and problem to go away, we try everything BEFORE Jesus, and when we do finally come to him we can be slow to have true faith that rests knowing God is both willing and able to help us and walk with us personally in and through our specific situation.
Verse 17-18 | Faithless Generation
Jesus shows real genuine frustration. While the father’s incomplete faith is an instigator it is not the exclusive cause of Jesus frustration. Jesus is frustrated with his disciples as well, but he is also clearly frustrated with an entire faithless and twisted generation. This isn’t the first time Jesus has used similar language (he did back in Matthew 12). They don’t have their hope exclusively on the God of the universe. They have a twisted (literally perverted) view of the world that praises what God says is wickedness and mocks what God has declared is virtuous. worship God’s creation rather than the Creator. This seem like a strong rebuke to a crowd that appears to seek help from him. We are not as comfortable with this Jesus. Don’t mistake Jesus being merciful with Jesus being soft. Don’t mistake Jesus patience as God not taking sin seriously. He has great concern for the pain we can be in and he has great frustration for sin that leads to faithlessness and perversion that causes pain and death.
Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
We, in all of Jesus compassion and calls he gives to all sorts of people, cannot forget there was and is a brokenness in the world that necessitates Jesus direct intervention which includes repeated calls for repentance. All is not well, perfect, and good. God made it that way, but the first generation showed faithlessness, when evil came and perverted the truth of God’s word and character. They chose to accept the lie of evil that life can be had apart from God, rather than life being constantly dependent on God. Sin entered the world, and every generation since has been one defined by the same meat of faithlessness and perversion with merely different seasonings. Jesus frustration is a righteous one born from an intimate knowledge of how the world, and we, should be. When we’re frustrated it is usually because something isn’t going the way we wish it would, our expectations aren’t being met. In this case, we see God’s character in response to man’s faithlessness and perverted world view. Jesus is the only Son of God, he has dwelled for eternity in heaven and now he has spent 30+ years in a world twisted and broken by sin and corruption. This is not a “natural” place for a perfect Jesus to be, but he endures.
And yet, how does Jesus respond to a faithless and twisted generation? How does he respond to a father who is hopeless, whose faith is incomplete, and yet is desperately hopeful for his son? How does Jesus respond to evil seeking to oppress and destroy a young boy? Jesus rebukes, releases, and restores “instantly” in that hour. There is immediate relief, there is change and freedom from this oppression from this time forward. The father who was unsure if Jesus could heal now sees Jesus work completed. Demon saw his evil design thwarted with the power and intervention of Jesus. The boy who had been thrown between burning fire and drowning water now has the freedom to walk straight down the path the Lord has for him. The gospel is God responding to our faithlessness and perversion with faithful restoration.
Verse 19-21 | Faithless Disciples
After evil has been cast out and great work of healing has been accomplished the disciples come to Jesus and ask “why not us?” Healings, casting out demon, they have all experienced success with these very things before. In fact Jesus even called and commissioned them to specifically carry out this type of ministry back in Matthew 10:1. What is the deal now? What is missing? They have relied on, had faith in, their ability to carry out the will of God without constantly relying on God for strength. The disciples had a “We’ve got this!” attitude. They have faith in the power they have been given, in the authority they have been granted, in the mission they have been called to, in the processes they have followed, in the successes they have had, in each other as a team. What started with a powerful call and commission from Jesus, has now become completely powerless failure as the disciples have placed their faith in everything, and reliance on everything, except where it is to ultimately rest, in Jesus. They had great expectation of what they would be able to accomplish. If you’re going to be a disciples of Jesus, you have to first (and consistently) acknowledge you “don’t got this” even with (or especially with) things you think you’ve done before. Past “successes” relying on God does not mean present or future success without Him.
The disciples have come to Jesus to wonder why something didn’t work and he points to them and their “Little Faith” What is Jesus talking about? It can’t be the amount of faith that is the issue. This is where the health and wealth crowd gets it wrong. “You can do more and have more if you have more faith, conversely if you’re suffering or don’t have health and prosperity it’s because you just don’t have enough faith, you’re the problem.” It’s not the amount of faith because in verse 20 Jesus says “truly if you have faith like a gain of mustard seed you can do amazing things for God (for God, maybe not for you)” It is not the amount of faith that is the issue, it is the object of it. Faithless disciples rely on themselves rather than God and they (we) are way to “little” to place effective faith in. We are called to place our faith, our reliance, our dependence a God who is greater. Many manuscripts include “verse 21” “But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” Greater strength and ability to follow God and be used by God comes with greater humility and reliance on Him. Put the other way, less dependence = less strength and ability to carry out his will. 1 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
True faith in Jesus, reliance on the Holy Spirit, genuine desire to do the will of the Father, you have those, even micro measurements and Jesus says there is nothing you won’t be able to accomplish. Moving mountains was a Jewish saying at the time, Jesus was using to say “Nothing God asks you to do will be impossible if you trust in Him.” Faithless disciples live/act for their own glory and will rather than God’s. Don’t misunderstand, it has to be in God’s will not “if you have great faith you can have whatever you want.” No. If you have faith and trust in God that leads to you resting that what God has for you to accomplish, or trail to go through, or victory to experience, or loss to endure it is ultimately what is truly best for you. There is usually a part of us that says “God do something great, and let me be the instrument for it” “God bless our city, and if you do please make sure I get a big old helping of it.”
AW Towzer "It is possible for me to go to my knees, even miss a meal and fast, and go to my knees and say, 'O God, let Thy glory be revealed to men.' and at the same time have a sneaking hope that I'll be the one He uses to reveal that glory?...Now, my brethren, we must elevate our hearts and pray: 'O God, honor Thyself, but do it through me or do it without me or do it apart from me.' We have to pray like that. Otherwise we are praying selfishly.
Jesus has told these men just a chapter before, I am going to build my church with you, and through you. I have plans for you. There are things I am going to accomplish in this world using you and you need to humbly submit the will of the father. But the moment you forget how dependent you are on God’s power, and who has gifted you for His purposes and begin to think somehow God is using you because you’re great or because you are especially gifted and think it’s really about you and your abilities you are destined for failure. On the other hand if your posture is one of humility, constantly seeking God’s will, understanding your dependence there is nothing you cannot accomplish, nothing is beyond possibility that God has said you will do to display His glory and spread his mercy and grace to others.
Verse 22-23 | Faithful Jesus
Jesus does not call his disciples to be defeated or discouraged regardless of momentary trials, challenges, or worldly disasters because faithful disciples know of Jesus final faithful victory over satan, evil, sin, and death. Yes there is rebuke here, yes there is correction. But ultimately there is hope and encouragement in this section. Jesus has said some of the most condemning words about this generation and some of the hardest correction to his disciples and yet He is going to continue to remind them about the purpose of his mission. Things are going to get much, much worse, but don’t lose heart. Jesus came to die for a faithless and perverse people, because we are the ones in need of saving. Let’s not get distressed or discouraged like the disciples who in being reminded of the cross don’t see the life and joy that comes from the resurrection. When we hear a rebuke about how long must he endure a faithless generation we know Jesus will endure even worse on the Cross. The height of Jesus mission is the Cross, but it that is not the end of his mission. Jesus is clear “The Son of Man will be raised from the dead.” Jesus willingly endured a lifetime in our world of sin ending with a brutal death on the cross, so we could experience an eternity in His world of perfect unending life.
Philippians 2:5-8 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Remember the cross, revere the cross, praise God for the cross, because Jesus went there faithfully because of your faithlessness. The cross is where you and I belong, but Jesus is there in our place so it is a moment to morn our sin and celebrate Jesus sacrifice. But do not also forget the resurrection that gives the promise of new victorious life. We no longer are doomed to lives of independence from God which is really no life at all. But we can have freedom that comes from daily dependence on God the Father, by power and presence of the Holy Spirit, because of the faithful work of Jesus. Trust Jesus.