Faith Doesn’t Work; Jesus Does

August 24, 2016

Matthew 17:14-20

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [21] 

CONSIDER THIS

He keeps coming back and back and back to our faith.

Today’s text presents us with two examples. First, we have the faith of the father who came on behalf of his son. This is good faith. His faith in Jesus is driven by his love for his Son. Unfortunately, Jesus’ disciples can’t help him. I kind of wonder if his disciples blamed their failure on the father’s lack of faith. If so, the father nipped that notion in the bud when he decided not to head back home but to instead wait for Jesus. Note how his faith moves in response to this failure.

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said.

This faithful father did not let his disappointment with Jesus’ disciples turn him away from Jesus. He waited on Jesus to get down the mountain. The father’s faith was in Jesus, and this turned out to be a short putt for Jesus.

Like a coach on the sideline of a team getting beaten badly, Jesus went “Bobby Knight” on them. “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Jesus was not speaking to the crowd and he certainly was not speaking to the boy’s father. He was dressing down the team, aka his disciples, as if to say, “We’ve practiced that play every day for two years and you still can’t make it?!”

In order to avoid further public excoriation, the disciples opted to follow up with a private conversation, at which time Jesus told them the problem was with their faith. He brings the mustard back out. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I bet they were scratching their heads. Hadn’t they demonstrated their faith in their bold efforts to help this boy? It wasn’t like they didn’t believe, nor was their problem acting badly on that belief. So what was the problem? It was the locus of their faith. Their faith had slowly drifted from its anchoring in Jesus himself to being anchored in their own ability to perform miracles with Jesus power and authority. It sounds subtle, but its not.

It’s like Jesus is telling us, “Don’t consider confidence in yourself to perform miracles in my name as somehow being faith in me. I am God here; not you. I am the miracle worker, not you. When you move to cast out a demon or heal someone in my power and authority, this is not you somehow using my power and authority. That’s where you go wrong. You must understand I am actually there, present, and doing the thing myself.

With even the tiniest shred of this kind of faith—faith actually anchored in me—anything will be possible. I repeat. You are not acting as my surrogate. I am acting as your surrogate. Yes, I am actually acting in your presence—through your presence and as your presence. That’s the kind of faith I’m looking for. This is a shifting of the center of faith’s gravity I’m after—from the gravity of you to the gravity of me.

Admittedly, I am putting words in Jesus’ mouth here, and that’s always a risky thing to do. I offer it to you as my interpretation of what’s going on in this exchange in light of where Matthew’s account has taken us. And because that’s a fairly nuanced speculation I have just put forth, I am gong to stop here and give you some time to ponder and consider it.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, I want for my faith to be properly and deeply anchored in you, not in my ability to do things in your name, power and authority. Raise my level of awareness to trust your unseen presence—just through the veil—that I may offer myself up to you completely so that you can do your work in my stead. Teach me what it means to participate in this with you, rather than always asking you to participate in something with me. It’s for the glory of your name I pray. Amen.

Daily Text MATTHEW 08-24-16THE QUESTIONS

1. What do you think? Am I splitting hairs here? Does this resonate with you or not?

2. What if this is right– that we aren’t acting in Jesus stead but he is actually acting in our stead? What are the implications of this?

3. What would it look like for the center of gravity to shift from you to Jesus as relates to faith?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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