The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 17:14-21
Preached @ Anchor Community Church on June 7th, 2015
Our passage today reminds us of the great hope we have in Jesus Christ. We are consistently promised that if we believe (Trust) in Him, we will be able to move mountains, and we will receive “Anything we ask.” What does that mean? How many of us have already experienced the opposite? How many of us have lost love ones, and prayed with great faith that God would save them from physical death and it simply didn’t happen?
So what does it mean in our passage when Jesus says, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will be able to say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you?’” Can it mean that we get everything we want, and that all will be well with our health and wealth on this planet; or is it so much more?
Our passage today reminds us that all things God calls us to do, we can accomplish because He is able! And we are ABLE to “Move Mountains” when we depend on Him and are doing His will!
How can your faith help you move mountains? There are three Key Elements in our passage that put this into perspective.
From the Head…
Faith Has An Attitude of Hope (Matthew 17:14-15)
The father in this story asks Jesus, “Lord have mercy on my son” who was struck with epilepsy, which is translated from a word that literally means “Moonstruck” and is akin to our word Lunatic. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. His boy had been thrashing around since he was young, and throwing himself into fires, water, etc. His dad was desperate, and so much wanted to believe that Jesus could heal him, so he went to Jesus, and asked Jesus to have “compassion” on him and his son, and Jesus healed him “Instantly.” In the parallel passage in Mark 9 we read that Jesus says to Him “’If you can?!’ All things are possible if you believe.”
There it is again, if you believe, you can do anything. Dunk a basketball, get better scores on tests, heal the sick and raise the dead; right? The Father meekly declares that he believes, but then prefaces it with “Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24). Isn’t this really the case for most of us? We believe; sort of. We need God’s help to believe that He can accomplish what He has promised. Is Jesus really saying that we can do anything if we believe? There are some that think so, but I don’t think either experience or theology backs this up. What is the context? A specific ministry under the authority of Jesus during His ministry on earth. When God calls us to do something, there is no doubt NOTHING is impossible. But using God as our personal valet demanding Him to work based on our faith is not biblical. Doing what God has called us to do according to His will and purposes is a whole other story. This man’s son was healed because he placed his very small faith in the hands of a very big God carrying our His purposes for His glory that that moment. His faith in Jesus was his hope; his only hope!
Faith Brings Forth Clarity (Matthew 17:16-18)
Now we read that when the man brought his son to the disciples “They could not heal Him.” Why not? They did a pretty decent job in Matthew 10? Even Peter walked on water until he took his eyes of Jesus. It is so easy to begin to feel that you can do what God has called you to do in your own power.
Ministry becomes a drain, because we have failed to do what we are called to do by the power of the Spirit, and have done it for so long in our own power that when we fail, or the ministry crushes us, we are shocked. When you stop depending on God ministry gets harder, and I believe that Christian life gets mundane. Real life ministry is hard, and it moves you away from your comfort zone and test your faith regularly.
When Jesus heard of His disciple’s failure He called their faith “Faithless and Twisted.” Another translation uses the idea of “Perversion,” but the word itself means not straight. Another way of seeing it is that it is not clear. When your faith wanes, it isn’t thinking clearly, and cannot see straight.
In reality there is only one that is faithful, and that is Jesus (2 Timothy 2:13), and while we are faithless, He remains faithful. In spite of the father’s small faith, Jesus heals his son.
This demonstrates Jesus’ grace and compassion in His people’s lives. We are blessed, because we serve a God who is always faithful, in spite our lack of trust and faithfulness to Him.
Faith Enables To See Past the Impossible (Matthew 17:19-22)
The question remains why couldn’t he disciples cast it out? In our passage and the parallel passages, there are at east 2 reasons.
- “Because of your little faith”
Jesus indicates that there faith was little, but in reality compared to His illustration of the very small mustard seed, we can deduct that He is actually decrying their complete lack of trust and dependence on Him. He clearly says that those that have the faith of a mustard seed (Very small) that they’d be able to “move mountains” and “Nothing will be impossible for you.” Mark 9:23 “All things are possible for the one who believes.” Again this is all in the context of what God is calling us to do. The fact is He doesn’t always heal. As a matter of fact, Paul, who definitely healed people through Jesus Christ did not even attempt to heal 2 of his closest friends (See Philippians 2:25-27 and 2 Timothy 4:20. Why not? Because God isn’t our personal puppet doing what we tell Him. He acts for His purposes and glory in His timing.
Then what is faith? It means that we trust God, even when we can’t see how this ends positively for us. We trust that God is good and He really is working. According to Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It’s believing God can do what he promises He will do.
2 Corinthians 9:8 reminds us “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”
We serve a huge God that can do ALL things; in His timing and according to His purposes.
- Because of a lack of Prayer
A second problem that Jesus’ disciples had is a lack of prayer. While the Matthew account doesn’t include this, the Mark 9 account does, and it is in some Matthew manuscripts, but was left our because the evidence indicated it was probably added later by a scribe who wanted to rectify it with the other accounts. It most likely is in your footnotes, and in many translations verse 21 is omitted and the text goes from verse 20 to verses 22 showing that the verse is not included in Matthew. In Mark 9:29 Jesus says, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer,” while the omitted verse in Matthew includes prayer and fasting. As I said before, the disciples were not only trusting themselves more than God to do the ministry, they weren’t praying either, which is generally a sure sign that we aren’t trusting God for our provisions.
…to the Heart
So what do we do? What are you trusting God for? Is what you’re trusting God for horizontal/vertical? Are we not doing what we know God has called us to do, because we don’t trust Him, and the demand is too much; it’s uncomfortable? We don’t bear much fruit, and have lackadaisical walks with God, because we are pre-occupied more with things that we do trust for our happiness. God is a huge God, who can accomplish so much, and will do so in spite of us, but He is calling us to join in on His mission for His glory.
Of course, there is no way we will be as faithful as Jesus is/was when He was on earth; in perfect trust and subsequent obedience to His Father, He went to the cross for our sins, and the demonstration of God’s “Righteousness” to the universe. We can be so thankful that in spite of our faithlessness, and perverted understanding of the world, He is faithful!
Questions To Ponder
- What is faith?
- What/Who have you really placed your faith in?
- Does this verse teach that all illness’ and problems will be healed? Why? Why not?
- If faith in Christ moves mountains, why do Christians still experience death, pain and depression?
- What does Jesus mean by our faith moving mountains?
- Why do you/we struggle with faith?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti
Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson
To Hear the sermon go to http://www.anchorlongbeach.com