Summary: To encourage the congregation that God can do anything if we have faith in Him

SBC Philippi 3/5/06 am

Rev. Jeff Simms

If You Have Faith

Matthew 17:14-21

Primary Purpose: To encourage the congregation that God can do anything if we have faith in Him.

We are following Jesus closer and closer to the cross and the resurrection. We come to the point in the story where the opposition to Jesus is increasing. He is beginning to speak to his disciples about the cross (Matthew 17:22-23). He has just come down the mountain with Peter, James and John where they have seen Jesus transfigured before their eyes. They will need to remember what they have seen for the days ahead will test the little faith that they have.

Now, upon arriving at the base of the mountain, Jesus finds his 9 other disciples in a crowd of people. Mark’s account in Mark 9:14-21 tells us that the scribes were arguing with the disciples. The disciples had had a man come to them with a boy who had been suffering seizures due to a demon. He had asked the disciples to cast him out and they could not. So, the scribes who had some up from Jerusalem were criticizing and correcting the disciples for they were jealous of the attention Jesus was getting. They were rejoicing in the apparent failure of the disciples. It seems the disciples were humiliated at their apparent lack of power over this demon.

This particular passage says that the boy was described by his father as a lunatic. This isn’t to say that people who suffer seizures are lunatics or that anyone who is epileptic or something of that nature is possessed by a demon. I don’t believe that is the case at all. The word lunatic comes in part from the word luna which has to do with lunar activity or activity of the moon. The word lunatic was developed because people seemed to think that some disordered developed or increased in activity with the moon. Many times in nursing homes and hospitals you might notice that nurses and doctors claim to see an increase even today in activity when there is a full moon.

In this particular case, the boy suffered a disease and was possessed. It doesn’t say or suggest that all people who suffer disease are possessed. It only says that it was the case with this particular boy. The demon sought to destroy the boy by throwing him into water or fire. Jesus himself sees that it is a demon that the boy is struggling with and casts it out of him.

This entire story is a story about faith. It is a story about the disciples lack of faith and the struggle of faith of the father. Matthew’s account stresses the point of the view of the disciples. Mark’s account stresses the faith of the father. The father is being put through a real test. He has done the right thing in bringing the boy to the disciples. Jesus gave his disciples the authority to cast demons out back in Matthew 10. But, they couldn’t because of the lack of their faith. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the father and think about the despair you would feel as you saw how powerless the disciples appeared. All of these other people walking away and being healed and they can’t do anything for you. It’s a real struggle for this man.

Mark talks about how Jesus had a conversation with the father about this very thing. After seeing the powerlessness of the disciples, the father’s faith is wavering. That’s why in Mark 9:22 after recounting how the spirit has thrown the boy near the fire and the water he adds, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus seizes on that word “if” because it shows just how much the faith of this man is struggling. The father cries out in his struggle to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief”. That’s a good prayer to pray because at times we will all need to cry out “help my unbelief”. In other words, have pity on me in my unbelief.

It seems clear that Jesus was rebuking not the father but the disciples for when he says “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you?” (vs.17) How long shall I put up with you?” He isn’t talking to the father, but to the disciples, as well as, the crowds that would not receive him. The word unbelieving here is a word that means unfaithful or faithless. It stresses that the people aren’t being faithful to him. The word “perverted” suggests a distortion or a turning aside. That is what doubt really does to the heart. Doubt clouds the heart of faith and perverts the gospel.

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