Disciples – An Obstacle To Faith
DISCIPLES – AN OBSTACLE TO FAITH
Here in this story you find a man who believes in Jesus…He believes that Jesus can help.
- But he runs into an obstacle to his faith…
- He runs into something that nearly derails the faith that he has and if not for his own persistence he would not have received the help he needed.
- The obstacle that he runs into is…Jesus’ disciples.
Can you imagine….those who were “following Jesus”…those who claimed to be His disciples being obstacles to another man’s faith?
- Are some of us obstacles too?
Well, let’s study the passage and see. Let’s set the context.
Jesus has been up on the mountain. He has been transfigured.
- Peter, James and John have seen his real essence…they have seen His glory.
- Not only that, but Jesus’ Messiah-ship has been confirmed by Moses and the Law, and Elijah and the prophets.
- In addition, God Himself has spoken from the cloud and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
- It has been a glorious scene…and the disciples want to stay there and build shelters and live on the mountain.
- Wouldn’t that have been great?
- I think all of us would like to just stay on the mountain with God.
But Jesus leads them back down the mountain because that is where the people are.
- That is where people are hurting…and where people are searching.
- You see, as much as we, as disciples, would like to stay on the mountain with God…God wants us in the valley where the people are. That is where the work of a disciple is.
- Sometimes as Christians, we want to distance ourselves from others.
- We want to seclude ourselves.
- But that isn’t what God wants.
- And so Jesus leads them down the mountain.
And when they get down the mountain they are met by a multitude of people…a crowd.
- Mark tells us in Mark 9:4 that when they came down from the mountain that the other disciples (the other 9) were in an argument with the teachers of the Law or the scribes.
And out of this crowd…this multitude a man comes up to Jesus and look what he says here in Matthew 17: 15-16:
“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 “And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” (Lunatic – moon struck; ruled by the moon)
This is what the argument that Mark mentions was all about.
- This man brought this boy to have this spirit cast out.
- And when the disciples couldn’t do it, the scribes jumped on them…and challenge their power and authority.
- And you can almost imagine what it must have been like.
- The disciples keep trying and trying.
- And with every failed try the scribes snicker and sneer some more.
- And the disciples can’t figure out what is wrong.
- And so they try again and again.
- And still nothing works….
- They must have been frustrated…and disappointed…and a little embarrassed.
- If they could only cast out that spirit they could shut the scribes up.
- But nothing worked.
- The scribes must have enjoyed this.
But I want you to notice something else here. Notice verse 16 again.
- Here this man is…he has this boy with this horrible spirit.
- And notice what he says. He is speaking to Jesus here and he says, “And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
This man says something here that we need to remember.
- When this man brought this boy to the disciples, in his mind he was bringing this boy to Jesus.
- He saw Jesus’ disciples as representatives of Jesus.
- In his mind, whatever they could or couldn’t do was what Jesus could or couldn’t do.
And think about this…this man says, “I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
- Do you know how disappointing this must have been for him?
- This man had enough faith in Jesus to bring this boy for help.
- And it couldn’t have been easy for this man to do this when you look at the problems this boy had.
- We all know what it is like to travel with a sick child.
- This child was more than just sick.
- This had to be extremely difficult for this man.
- But still, this man’s faith pushes him on.
And he gets to where Jesus’ is supposed to be…but Jesus isn’t there.
- But that is ok because Jesus’ disciples are there.
- And in the past they have been able to cast out spirits.
- Back in chapter 10 when Jesus called them to preach he also commissioned them to drive out demons.
- And in Mark 6:13 they did…Mark says they “drove out many demons
So this man gets to the disciples.
- His faith has brought him there.
- He is probably excited…and full of hope.
- And then they can’t cast out the spirit.
- And when they can’t the teachers of the Law jump all over them.
- And this huge argument takes place.
- And when this man tells Jesus that the disciples “could not cure his boy”, not only is he disappointed…but His faith has taken a huge hit!
- “If the disciples can’t do it, then maybe Jesus can’t either.”
- “If the disciples are fakes…then maybe Jesus is too.”
Did you know that people who are looking for faith see us the same way?
- As disciples of Christ, people see us as a reflection of Christ.
- They see us as representatives of Christ.
And what we do…or don’t do….
- The way we act or don’t act…
- The things we say or don’t say…has a tremendous impact on their faith.
A man comes to a point where he is trying to decide whether or not he should give God a chance in his life…and so he looks at us who claim to be disciples of Christ.
- And if he doesn’t see us in church…studying our Bible….praying…loving…obeying Christ…giving of self…
- If he doesn’t see that…then his faith is going to take a hit.
- And instead of us being an encouragement to his faith…we will be an obstacle to his faith.
Ghandi….was so impressed with Jesus that Jesus’ teaching became the basis for all that he did.
- But when Ghandi was a young man he went to a Christian church in the southern part of India…and he was told to leave because of the color of his skin.
- He never went back.
- Later he wrote, “Perhaps we would all be Christians if it weren’t for the Christians.”
This man saw Jesus’ disciples as representatives of Christ.
- And people today who are looking for faith…or who are desiring to grow in faith see us the same way.
- And depending on what they see in us we can be an encouragement…or a hindrance to their faith.
Not only that, but just like these disciples gave fuel to the cause of the scribes, we too can be an encouragement to the unbelief that others already have.
- I cannot emphasize enough the roll we play in the shaping of the faith of others.
Look at verse 18. Look what Jesus says: “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to me?”
- Jesus expresses His disappointment…not only in the disciples but to everyone.
- He is disappointed in the scribes because instead of showing compassion on the man and his sons they are in all probability gloating over the fact that the disciples can’t cast out the demon.
- And He is probably disappointed at the crowd because in the gospels they are usually pictured as being more concerned about themselves than about others.
- And then finally He is disappointed with the disciples because of their failure to do what they could have done.
So, look at what Jesus does in verse 18: And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
If you are looking for faith…if you are trying to decide whether or not you should give Jesus a chance with your life…
- If you are struggling with your faith…and you want to grow stronger in your faith…
- I hope you will learn the lesson found here in these verses we just read.
This dad was disappointed by the disciples.
- But when he pushed past the disciples and went straight to Christ…he got what his faith brought him for.
Sometimes Christians don’t live like they should.
- As disciples, we sometimes fall way short.
- But don’t let our failings stop you.
- You press through until you get to Jesus…the one who never disappoints.
It is He who can save…He who can heal your hurts…and He who can help.
- Jesus does not withhold his blessing from anyone because of the ineptness of the disciples.
- His power is not limited by the inadequacies of His church.
You press through to Jesus…and hold on to Him…regardless of what His disciples around you might do.
- Don’t let the flaws of Christians be a reason to stop believing.
Look now at verse 19. Jesus casts out the evil spirit…and he goes into the house…and the disciples ask, “Why couldn’t we drive out this spirit?”
- Do you know why they ask this question?
- They ask it because they are stunned they couldn’t do it.
- After all, they had cast out spirits before.
- They were experts at the business of exorcism. (Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:13)
- They knew how to cast spirits out.
- So they are stunned that they couldn’t do it.
- So why couldn’t they do it?
Look at verse 20-21: And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you. 21[“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
- Now, first of all, we don’t need to misapply what Jesus says here…many do.
- Many take these two verses and almost destroy their confidence with them.
- And what they do is they have some trouble, some illness, and they pray about it and ask God to remove it…and when it isn’t removed they think, “I must not have enough faith…I must be doing something wrong…God doesn’t care about me.” (Faith healers use to justify failures).
Listen, the power to cast out demons and to perform miracles was never given to us today.
- This passage is talking about the disciples that were endowed with this power and because of their “littleness of faith” they were not able to do what they could have done.
- These verses are not an indictment against us today charging us with not having enough faith.
- These verses are a rebuke against the disciples who had the power to perform miracles but couldn’t do it.
So why couldn’t they? Why couldn’t they cure this boy?
- What does Jesus say, “Because of the littleness of your faith…”
- Because of the “littleness or lack of their faith in Christ and the power He had endowed them with.”
So, how lacking were they in their faith…well look at what Jesus says; “…for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
- Do you see how little their faith was…how little they trusted in Christ and the power they had received from him?
- If they would have had just as much faith as a mustard seed…they could have done mighty things…if God willed it so…they could have done that which would have been impossible.
- But they didn’t even have that much faith.
And notice what else they did. Look at verse 21. I know this is a disputed verse…these words may have been added in later manuscripts from Mark 9:29…so even though they may not have been original with Matthew we do find them in Mark 9…but notice what they say: But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Now, let me tell you what is significant about this.
- First, prayer is that by which we attach ourselves to God and things of the spiritual world. It indicates a dependence on God…a reliance on God. (God there are some things I cannot do.)
- Fasting is that by which we detach ourselves from things of the world.
- Here these disciples were, they were endowed with this power to cast out demons…but apparently they had detached themselves from the source of that power and had attached themselves to the world.
And what that indicates is, back in verse 16 when they tried to cast out the demon…they had faith that they could do it or otherwise they would not have even tried…they would have just said, “We need to wait for Jesus.”
- So they had faith they could do it…but who did they have faith in?
- Their faith was in
- They had faith in the process they had been using.
- And it had replaced the faith they should have had in God.
These disciples had cast out demons before and what has happened here is they had cast out enough demons that they had forgotten who was actually working through them to defeat those demons.
- They had begun to think that the healing and casting out of demons was something they could do and they were leaving God completely out of it.
- They never could cast out demons by their own abilities…God deserved the credit, not them.
- Their failure here was intended to get them to get their thinking back on track.
- And what Jesus is saying to them is, “This kind of demon flees only by the power of God and not by the power of men.”
- If they were going to cast this demon out they would need to depend on God’s powers and not their own perceived abilities.
How many of us have done this same thing?
- How many of us think “It all depends on Me?”
- “The reason those people were baptized is because I taught them.”
- I have heard people say, “I baptized 10 people last year” as though those people’s salvation depended on them.
- We don’t give any credit to God or the power of His word.
Preachers are bad about this.
- We often think that the only way anyone is going to grow in their faith is if “I write a good sermon and if I am a dynamic preacher.”
- Preachers often get discouraged and depressed when a congregation doesn’t grow or when people aren’t converted because they think “they are the ones who have to make it happen.”
- We are just the tools that God works through…and yes, I believe that we should always allow God to use us and we should put forth our very best efforts.
- But, when it comes to the work of God, we should not and must not leave God out of it…and for us to take credit for the growth and successes that occur is to set ourselves up to be humbled and embarrassed…just like these disciples were.
These disciples couldn’t do what they believed they could do because they left God out of it.
- And if we leave God out of it, we won’t be able to do what we believe we can do either.
Let’s close with verse 17 again.
- “And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving and pervereted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”
This is what Jesus said about these people.
- What would Jesus say about us? This church?
- What would He say about you?
- Are you an unbeliever but don’t know that you are?
- If so, I hope that you will learn from Jesus in the passage and repent.
For some of you, if you are trying to decide whether or not to give God a chance…I hope that you will do what this dad did here in this passage.
- I hope you will push all obstacles aside…and come to Him.
- If you will, you can be assured that He will not disappoint you.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2022