Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Little Faith and Great Deliverance (Matthew 17:24-27)


Rev. Paul Johnson (Guest preacher)

Matthew Seventeen, beginning in verse fourteen. And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly, for often he falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples and they could not heal him. and Jesus answered, Oh 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, and Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said why could we not cast it out? 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 therein it will move and nothing will be impossible for you. And as they were gathering in Gallilee, Jesus said to them, the son of man is about to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him and he will be raised on the third day and they were greatly distressed as by the reading of God's word. May he bless it to us. Please be seated. Well, as this ever happened to you, perhaps you've been enjoying a good time with your family, say on a vacation, where you've had a wonderful time, a time to really relax and really get refreshed, and then you go back into the real world, you go back home and find out immediately that your house has been robbed. Or so you're out with friends, enjoying a good dinner out at a restaurant, and you get so caught up in the conversation that you don't realize until it's too late that you've left your cell phone in the seat next to you. You know what that feels like like. There's a physical reaction to these things when, when joy gives way to panic, you get tense, you feel that shortness of breath. Truly, we've all had those times of joy that just sort of come crashing to a halt, this abrupt change from from peace to distress. What's sort of what we read here in Matthew's Gospel. For Look at what has occurred just before our passage. Chapter Seventeen begins with Jesus and three of his disciples up on top of this mountain, where he was transfigured before their eyes. Jesus physically changed, where he began to shine with with bright light, the glory of Christ was on display to these disciples. He spoke with Moses and Elijah on top of this mountain. There he reveals himself to these disciples in a unique way, as the Lord Incarnate, perfect, glorious. Unlike Moses, whose face shone, reflecting the glory of God, Jesus didn't reflect it, he shined with this divine glory of the Lord. In fact, when Peter was presented with this glory, he made a somewhat rash comment, as Peter tends to do, in verse four of Chapter Seventeen, Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tense here, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah. Here, in his excitement, Peter seems to be saying, can we stay here? Let's make this glory last, let's make this permanent. You've been on a vacation and had such a good time you start looking up home prices. Maybe that's why some of you were in Tucson. And for Peter's no wonder he wants that permanence that these disciples are getting a foretaste...

...of the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the glory of the Resurrection, the Glory of the New Heavens and the new earth, and they're seeing it before their eyes. And so, having been given this glimpse of this glory, having heard the voice from the cloud confirming the identity of Jesus as the son of God, what do you expect to follow this powerful event? What should flow from this glorious display? Don't you want to see an avalanche of blessing and Power and glory cascading down this mountain side? What does Jesus find? When they came to the crowd, a man came up to him, kneeling before him, said Lord, have mercy on my son. He's an epileptic. He suffers terribly, for often he falls into the fire and often into the water, and I brought him to your disciples and they could not heal him. The heavenly glory that's just been displayed on this mountain is now immediately confronted by suffering in this world. Jesus is confronted by this son, so ravaged by a demon that the sun himself isn't asking for deliverance. It's his father coming to Christ on behalf of his son. These aren't just medical fits and seizures, that the results of a demonic presence. Jesus is cast out demons before, and surely the father knows this and that's why he comes to Jesus. But what's a little different about this event is that Jesus has disciples here have already tried to passed out this demon and they could not do it. They could not bring healing back. In chapter ten is where Jesus equipped and sent his disciples with the authority to preach, with the Authority to heal. And Chapter Ten, verse seven, he says proclaim as you go, saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse leppers and cast out demons. So here Christ is not only confronted by suffering, by demonic possession, our Lord is also confronted by his own disciples and their inability to carry out his commission. Sort Lord Declares Jesus answered, Oh 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, and Jesus rebuked him. In the demon came out of him. In the boy was healed instantly. Our Lord here, let's loose with what sounds like something of a lament, right. How how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? But also kind of sounds like a rebuke. He calls this a faithless and a twisted generation. So who is Jesus rebuking? It's just those disciples he left behind while he, Peter, James and John were on the mountain. Is it all the disciples, or is it broader than that? He cries out concerning this generation, doesn't he does, if he's both lamenting and rebuking this entire situation, that there is suffering and demonic possession within the House of Israel, the People God has chosen and called to be his own holy people are under a demonic influence. There's inability among those disciples he has called and commissioned. All it brings about the Lord's chastisement. And just as Jesus... own transfiguration at the top of the mountain shared some similarities to to Moses his own encounter with the Lord on top of Mount Sinai, coming down the mountain, wasn't Moses as well confronted when he encountered the sin of Israel? Coming down the mountain, Moses was confronted by sin and idolatry as God's people were making a golden calf for herself. And upon encountering and enduring the numerous sins of Israel, the Lord himself would utter words similar to Jesus. Here in numbers fourteen eleven, the Lord said to Moses, how long will this people despise me? How long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs I've done among them? And a numbers four hundred and twenty seven. How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? So, when confronted by the faithlessness of his own disciples, our Lord laments. How Long Our Lord Rebukes, Oh faithless, twisted generation? But he doesn't end there, does he? Tho's what Jesus does next, our Lord also comforts and heals. In the midst of his own disappointment, our Lord shows his patience and endurance. It's not the disciples who are cast out. It's the demon. He acts where they have failed. He heals where they could not. He casts out this demon, saving this child. Where the disciples came up short when they asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon, he tells them. He says, 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. And Jesus uses this impossible example to make a point. Knows what Jesus here declares? He's not saying that with great faith comes great things. Jesus speaking to these disciples, to those who have just demonstrated a severe shortcoming, a severe lack of faith. But what does he say? He speaks to those with little faith to encourage them that with faith the size of a mustard seed, they will do the impossible. I love how he illustrates this. He picks the tiniest object around a mustard seed to describe weak, little faith. Then he picks the biggest object around a mountain to describe the impossible. Although he illustrates the impossibility of moving of mountains, to demonstrate his own power, to demonstrate his own ability. What is absolutely impossible for us, Jesus declares his incredibly easy for the Creator of Heaven and earth. There for, as Jesus says, nothing will be impossible for you as believers. That's helpful to be remember that we rely not upon our own resources but upon the resources of God himself. His resources are infinite. This is so important for us to remember because, like these disciples who stayed behind when Jesus went up the mountain, we too are left without our Lord physically before our eyes, aren't we? After his resurrection, he ascended to the father's right hand. Even though he is now ruling over US and interceding for us and protecting us, it's so easy for us not to set our eyes on him, but on ourselves and on our own abilities. Our comfort and our strength is often not based on his promises...

...or on his word, but on what we can see, what we can do, what we can accomplish for ourselves. We can be so slow to pray, and yet we're so quick to be proud. We are hesitant to mention Christ, but so quick to boast in ourselves for this little faith not only describes these disciples, it oftentimes describes ourselves. And why was their faith so small? What would what is it that made their faith so microscopic? On this next little seeing we get a glimpse. When they're told of the coming suffering, the coming death and the coming resurrection of Christ. We're told that the disciples were distressed. They have just heard the greatest announcement the world will ever know, and the disciples were distressed. So what part were they listening to? What part of Christ's predictions? Did they hear his suffering or his victory over the grave? Were they listening just to the cross or to the Empty Tomb? Don't you see where their hearts were at? Don't you see what their faith is in? In the chapter just before this, after Peter tries to rebuke Jesus for speaking of the Cross, in Chapter Sixteen, Jesus tells Peter get behind me, Satan, and then he says, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. As we read through the Gospels, there are many opportunities to show where the disciples don't get it, where the disciples are setting their eyes on the things of men or they don't understand what Jesus is saying, how they don't understand what he's doing. But we're shown there their failures. Were shown their shortcomings, not to prop ourselves up, to feel better that we get it than they didn't. We're to see how easy it is for us to do the exact same thing. We hear Christ's saying, for instance in this passage, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. And what do we do with that? Where do you our minds go? We go, write to those mountains in our lives that we want gone, that we wished weren't there. Don't you go right to those impossible relationships and circumstances that you want fixed. We hear that with faith we can do the impossible and we immediately look to ourselves what we want. Where Christ's words are given as a comfort, we so easily take them and turn them into a burden. Surely have heard the abuse has done with this passage that if you ask for something, they say, and if you didn't get it, the problems not that the Lords to a week. The problem must be with you. The problem must be your faith, but Jesus. His point is not that, with faith, the Lord is now obligated to give you whatever you want, because that's not really faith at all, is it? That's not trusting the Lord, that's using the Lord to serve ourselves. For True Faith, even if it is the size of a mustard seed, is still a looking to Christ. True faith is a trusting what Christ has said. True Faith is satisfied that Christ is enough. So even here, let us be comforted by Christ's words and be encouraged that the Lord is the one who specializes in the impossible. And if there's any doubt that our Lord specializes in what is impossible, listen to what Jesus tells us next.

As they were gathered in Galilee, Jesus said to them, the son of man is about to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, he will be raised on the third day. And they were greatly distressed. And so Jesus takes his disciples immediately to that impossible thing. He takes us right to life from the tomb, life from the grave. He takes us to the impossibly good news that he will be victorious over death, that death will be trampled down that death itself will be cast off. For the stone that rolled away at Jesus's tomb illustrates a farm more impossible mountain to move in Jesus's own death and resurrection. That mountain of our sin, that mountain of our own rebellion, that stronghold of our prideful hearts, has been defeated in Christ's death on the Cross. And so Christ is sharing with his disciples the good news of his mission, the good news he's about to accomplish. But they're distressed, and that's understandable, because it's one thing to say that death has been defeated and it's another to die in the confidence that death has been defeated. It's easy to see the disciples dispress given their lack of faith that's been mentioned to this point. They still don't quite get it. They don't see the full picture. They're still learning what it means for the son of man to suffer, to die and and why that's necessary. Their sorrow here means they don't yet fully understand the resurrection. They don't yet understand the purpose of the cross. Their minds are set on earthly things. But notice what their distress does reveal. Their sorrow shows that they're at least beginning to understand the suffering of Christ. Our Lord's suffering is one of distress. He truly suffers at the hands of his enemies, he truly suffers the wrath and curse of God on the Cross. For his cry, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Is a quotation from Psalm twenty two, and it is a cry of distress, a cry of sorrow. And by telling them what will happen to himself, our Lord is also preparing the disciples to follow in his steps. It's an invitation to his disciples to join in this suffering. By coming with Christ, our Lord is inviting us to come and to die, as he told them back in Chapter Sixteen, Jesus told his disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Isn't this what it means to have faith the size of a mustard seed, even the weakest, even the tiniest, faith that looks to Christ and not ourselves? It acknowledges that our life is found only in Christ, and this means confronting the impossible, to take up the cross of our Lord means being confronted by mountains without a shovel, without even a spoon of our own to deal with him, for our faith often times doesn't make these challenges any easier. In fact, does it make him harder. Knowing of the Lord's love and compassion for us in Christ can make the struggles that we endure that much more confusing. For if he's already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, if he's defeated to death itself, why is it so hard for him to keep my car running, to keep my child healthy? A Lord here's not promising him that following him his health is easy. He doesn't promise life and... and success, but it does promise to be with us, for he is still on the throne. Even when we don't know why we're faced with this or that challenge, we still cling to Christ, for he is the one who has actually conquered sin and death. What does Jesus himself say when confronted by the suffering of this world, the inability of his disciples? He asks how long, Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you. It is this frustration with suffering, with sin, that compels our Lord to go to Jerusalem, to be delivered over, to be killed, not simply because he wants to leave, but because of his desire to redeem. Notice in his lament here, do you hear the Lord's Longing for the Cross? Do you hear his longing for his work to be accomplished? That was how he answers this question, both here and at the end of this Gospel. Here he tells his disciples about his suffering and his coming resurrection. That, the end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus concludes being being raised from the dead, speaking to his disciples with this announcement. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age. Look at how the Lord continues to patiently endure with his people. Look how the Lord continues to answer the challenges of a faithless and a perverse generation. He met this challenge by going to Jerusalem, by being delivered over to the hands of men, by being killed and by being raised on the third day. Being confronted then by the faithless, being confronted by the twisted and perverse. These things didn't weaken his resolve. And yet the dead bring about true distress, true sorrow. How does our Lord then respond to sin we see here? With genuine disgust, with genuine when hate hatred, he despises it. You hear this and in Jesus's cry, don't you ever feel the same? How Long Will Jesus name be mocked? How long will the Lord be blasphemed? How long will these sins go unchecked? How long will the lawless reign, reminded daily that we live in a world with very little regard for the Lord? Our Lord's assessment of his own generation could be spoken of our generation. It is faithless, it is twisted without faith, this world is distorted, it's upside down. Without faith, the world and thrones the self while casting aside the true Lord and King. The World Glories and its sin, while despising the true sinless one. So let in the Lord's cry here of how long we hear our own outcry, the cry of how long, is the cry of faith. It's a cry we hear throughout the Psalms, Psalm for be gracious to me, hear my prayer. Oh men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame. How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Psalm Thirteen. How Long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? But the thesalm goes on to say, but I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

Is Cry of how long is a cry that John Hears from the Saints in Heaven and revelation six, when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who'd been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, oh sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? And so, as we ourselves cry out against this age of of wickedness and death, with frustration and with longing for the Lord, we here in Christ's words, is that our cry is matched by Christ himself. If we've been united to him, we are one, united to Christ by his spirit. There's a sense in which Christ's desires and our desires are the same. He is at the father's right hand. We are here on earth, which means that his church is not yet complete. Until he is finally united to us in eternity. He is still building and still perfecting his body. How long until we are done with this body of sin? How long until we are made perfect, bodily raised and all sin and all wickedness destroyed? We can ask these questions, we can cry out in pain and disgust, knowing that our Lord's cry is the same. And yet his cry is not a helpless cry into the void, but the cry of the one working towards that end, working towards that goal. How long will he be at work? Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Therefore, our task is just as crucial as in Jesus is day, where he calls us to go, to go to the faithless, to go to the twisted and the perverse, to go into this world of sin and darkness with the light of Jesus Christ, with the clarity of his Gospel, even if this means facing the impossible, for it's his strength that is made perfect in our weakness, all the while trusting, because this question that Jesus raises, how long, in our own cries, of how long even Jesus is answer, till the end of the age? They all lead us to consider that there will be an end. There will be an end to sin, there will be a final end to evil and to suffering, and in Christ the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near. And because there will be an end to the twisted and the perverse generations, this means that now is the time to come to Christ by faith. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the time to proclaim peace and good news to the nation's because we have a good gospel to proclaim. We have good news to announce, that your king has conquered, he has triumphed, he has put to shame the strongest thing this world could throw at him, death itself. Therefore, let us sing his praises forever. Amen, let's pray.

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