25th April 2023
Read (Matthew 17v14-21)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
As the Lord was being transfigured on the mountain, nine of His disciples were approached by a man whose son was suffering at the hands of a demon. In this twisted day and age some worship Satan, others unwittingly are on his side and still more think that it would be better to have fun in hell than to worship in heaven. They are fools. Satan hates humanity and he hates even those who have joined his cause.
In this instance one of Satan's legion of fallen angels was causing a little boy to have seizures (v15) and if that weren't bad enough, the vindictive demon often caused the child to fall into the fire and also in water. The enemy is a liar and a murderer, for him he doesn't care if you die in flames or by drowning - he rages against us for he knows his time is short.
Nevertheless, the nine were unable to heal the child (v16) causing Jesus to respond “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.” (v17). The child was brought to Christ and after hearing the Lord's rebuke, the demon left the little boy who was healed instantly (v18).
Christ's critique of His followers and the wider "generation" of Israel didn't miss. He described them as "faithless and twisted" (v17) and lamented "How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?". It wasn't that the disciples were totally without faith nor were they guilty of moral twisted failure. Rather their faith was "little" (v20) and their thinking was twisted.
What did that look like in practice? Perhaps as they tried to drive out the demon it was more about their own ability rather than God's power. Maybe their understanding was "twisted" and they wondered silently if the demon was too strong for the Lord. Or as Leon Morris suggests "perhaps the disciples had been treating their power to cast out devils as a new possession of their own - a kind of magic - they would go through their routine and the devil would come out!"
Whatever their attempt looked like, the disciples had once again taken one step forward and two back. Their faith was "little" meaning poor in quality and their minds had become twisted in unbelief - the power of the enemy seemed to trump the power of God.
Such unbelief caused a weariness in Jesus. His followers had seen and heard much and yet still there seemed to be so little growth. All these years later and we are no better. We have all the benefits of the Word and sacraments and the ministry of the Spirit and the intercession of Christ and yet how often do we run to ur default setting of misunderstanding and unbelief?
Jesus said "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." (v20). Jesus isn't calling us to move the Mournes into the sea and His statement "nothing is impossible" does not turn us into superhuman "little gods". Instead the Lord reminds us that our faith must not shrink in the face of mountainous challenges, it is faith in God for Him nothing is impossible.
Many years ago a man called William Carey was told that if it was God's plan to convert the heathen nations then He would do it without the help of Carey or anyone else. William Carey was not satisfied with this wisdom and one day famously preached that in the Christian life we are to "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. "
We may not be called to India as Carey once was but there is much wisdom in his sermon. The work is not about us. The Gospel is not about us. The power is not from us. Faith is a receiving and resting in Christ as He is offered in the Gospel. May Jesus strengthen our faith today even as we cry to Him "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9v24).
Q29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.