Matthew 17:14-23 All things are possible to those who adopt Christ’s calling
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15 “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 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” 22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. Matthew 17:14-23
The disciples at this time were left to minister to a demon possessed boy without the chaperonage of their Master. As Jesus was just coming down from the mountain, He chanced upon his disciples who were not up to the task. While the boy and his family benefitted from Jesus’ timely intervention, it left the disciples perplexed at what was supposedly a simple and straightforward operation. However, through this incident, Jesus surfaced deep seated issues within the disciples concerning faith and the motives of the heart. In today’s devotion, we learn that all things are possible to those who wholly adopt Christ’s calling and convictions.
You unbelieving and perverted generation.
The father of the boy sought help from Jesus after the disciples failed to heal his son. Jesus’ immediate response reflected the dilapidated state of the generation of His time. Jesus used the word “unbelieving” or faithlessness to describe a generation devoid of the truth. “Perverted” means misinformed, referring to a generation that had deviated from the teachings of God. By those piercing words, Jesus meant in no uncertain terms that the entire generation because of their unbelief was collectively demonised. At the request of the boy’s father, Jesus rebuked the demon, and the boy was cured at once.
If you have faith like a mustard seed.
Jesus’ seemingly effortless intervention set the disciples thinking, “Why could we not drive it out?” Jesus’ answer was in every sense impeccable and straight forward albeit overly simplistic to the modern day reader: because of the littleness of your faith. However, the question remains: What is faith? Or what was lacking in the disciples’ faith? Jesus illustrated the qualities of faith using the mustard seed: if you have faith like a mustard seed. As the original Greek text omits “the size”, the bible translators’ intention to help readers see the smallness of the mustard seed was unwarranted. The mustard tree, in Hebrew tradition symbolises the kingdom of God whose seed represents its very inception. Hence, unless you have faith like a mustard seed as opposed to other species of seed, there will be no manifestation of God’s kingdom! Here, Jesus was in fact referring to the authenticity of faith, which is firmly rooted in God’s agenda; if you have faith like a mustard seed.
What is authentic faith like? Jesus had repeatedly emphasised the pre-requisite of being born again in order to enter God’s kingdom (see John 3:3). Born again describes the rebirth of a man’s spirit leading to total transformation of his heart – to above all love God, and to put the interests of others before his own. Jesus’ teaching goes against the prevalent teachings (of that time) that salvation predominantly stems from a sufficiently accurate understanding of doctrine as opposed to a genuine change of heart and lifestyle. The authenticity of one’s faith comes not from knowledge alone but from proven character and the works of the Spirit. Faith as opposed to mere knowledge, produces a dramatic transformation of one’s life goals and passions towards God. Jesus, in full view of the people demonstrated the authenticity of His faith by casting out the demon and healing the boy.
You will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move.
One who has faith naturally possesses the ability to exercise authority over the elements of the world. There is no question that God will bestow such abilities upon the believer who has faith. However, as there are different levels of faith, there are also mountains of different heights. One can move any mountain so long as his faith suffices. Hence, the greater the faith, the greater the ability to move higher mountains. The gesture of speaking (say to this mountain…) depicts a superior charging his subordinates towards a course of action. Here, Jesus illustrates the immense power a man of faith wields over elements as massive as a mountain: say to this mountain… and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.
Jesus later told His disciples of His impending death as well as His eventual resurrection. What is the gospel writer’s intention for supplying this extra bit of information? More importantly, was Jesus trying to further substantiate His teachings in relation to the miracle He just did? The disciples had since begun to perceive Jesus as the omnipotent miracle worker who was capable of restoring Israel’s sovereignty and bringing swift destruction upon Israel’s enemies. However, true faith necessitates full submission under the Father’s will and the determination to love one’s enemies. In a separate incident, Jesus demonstrated true faith in the way He handled oppositions. Towards the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He and the disciples were passing through Samaria en route to Jerusalem. When the Samaritans refused to receive them into their villages, the disciples, sensing the villager’s animosity proposed to destroy them by sending fire from heaven. Jesus promptly rebuked them, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:55-56.
Authentic and mustard seed faith expresses itself in full submission under God’s will and in tolerance towards oppositions.
If the focus of the church was not trained towards Christ-likeness, every kind of bondage and demonic activity will be there.
The entire Jewish community was misinformed concerning the things of God. Their eyes were trained towards blessings as opposed to God’s ways. They were taught that salvation came through knowledge of the law and in the partaking of temple sacrifices. Nevertheless, the Jews did not love God’s law, neither did they practice the virtues written therein. Instead, they chose the wide path of comfort and pleasure as opposed to the narrow path of Christ-likeness. As a result many were severely demonised, more so than the non-believers. Jesus spoke about an unclean spirit returning with seven other spirits more wicked than itself because man having known the way of the truth rejected it; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation. Matthew 12:45b.
The condition of the Jews during Jesus’ time mirror the condition of the church today. They often refer to salvation as an irrevocable gift and godliness as a tall order. They consider Christ’s work already done and would not sacrifice their personal comfort for the course of the gospel. As a result, many are hanging onto salvation by a thread. Because their desire is not to know Christ or to be like Him, their hearts become like empty rooms waiting to be filled by demons. That explains why (in my experience as a healing and deliverance minister) it is much more tedious to administer healing to some churchgoers than to one who is yet exposed to the gospel.
If believers adopt Christ’s calling without reservation, nothing will be impossible for them.
Many churchgoers are of the view that they can exercise Christ’s authority without adopting His lifestyle and mindset. They are taught that all believers are ubiquitously given the authority to work miracles at will in Jesus’ name. And they can do all things as long as they “believe” in Jesus citing His teachings in John 14:12. However, even the demons “believe” that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” John 14:12
Believing in Jesus involves a wholesale adoption of His calling and mindset. Many suppose they can possess Jesus’ authority apart from His state of maturity. In reality, they are often disempowered when left alone by themselves. On the other hand, great signs and miracles will follow those who adopt Christ’s calling while rejecting the pleasures of the world. Jesus said concerning those who have believed,
These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. Mark 16:17-18
After witnessing Jesus’ sacrifice of love at the cross, the disciples came to realise where His authority laid. And before long, they too began to move as Jesus did with great signs and wonders bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Believers must focus their energy towards maturing and taking authority over their circumstances as opposed to worrying and praying.
Many churchgoers when faced with unprecedented challenges collapsed into despair and helplessness. With tears of distress they resort to asking God to remove their mountains, but never taking authority over their circumstances. And they keep wondering why their mountains remain despite countless prayers and petitions. Such churchgoers operate like new born babes, perpetually dependent on their parents but unable to do something for themselves. However, Jesus advocates personal maturity and empowerment, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain…” While a child is fully dependent on his parents, a son on the other hand takes authority over his father’s business. He goes about his business making decisions and making things happen through his father’s authority. As a believer matures according to the virtues of Christ, greater authority will be bestowed upon him.
In one incident, when Jesus was faced with the task of feeding 5000 people in the middle of the wilderness, He said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat!” As believers, we must learn to mature and take up the authority that God has entrusted to us. Refrain from repeating our prayers, but rather understand what the will of God is and do it! However, believers must focus their energy towards maturing to the full stature of Christ. For God will only entrust divine authority to those who are mature and wise in the things of God. To him who has faith and who is mature, God will entrust His angels under his charge to do the impossible!
Are you accustomed to worrying and repeating your prayers when faced with unprecedented challenges? You can change your circumstances today by first changing your mindset. Be determined to focus on His word as opposed to seeking out solutions for your problems. In so doing, God will anoint you with divine wisdom and authority to move the the mountains that stand in your way.
Dear Lord, I believe that there is a way out of my current difficulties. And the way will be revealed when I learn to trust you and walk in your ways. Entrust me with your authority and charge over the angels as I endeavour to walk in your truth. I will not misuse the authority that you have given me but will obey you even when I do not fully understand. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.