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Sunday, March 31, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Seed-Sized Faith"

“Seed-Sized Faith”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 31, 2019 :: Matthew 17:14-27

We’ve been learning that the Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the Lord Jesus Christ. The key question that Matthew is answering every way he can think of is, “Who is this Jesus?” “What is the true identity of Jesus?”

We’ve said “Keep your eye on the ball.” And the ball is the question, “Who is Jesus?”

And once you know the true answer to that question, the only logical thing is to dedicate yourself to following Him.

That’s why our series is called “Following Jesus.”

Because that’s the appropriate application of the Gospel of Matthew.

Find out Who Jesus is and begin to follow Him by faith.

So, let me ask you a question.

Do you think that Matthew is basically done with answering the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Do you think he’s about out of tricks and tracks?

I mean, Jesus has asked the key question outright, and Peter has answered it correctly.

“Who do you say that I am?”

“You are Christ the Son of the Living God.”

That’s right.

And do you remember what Peter, James, and John saw last week? At the beginning of chapter 17?

How Jesus was transfigured?

How Jesus’ face shone like the sun?!

And God the Father answered the big question?!

“Who is Jesus?”

“This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.”

So do you think that Matthew is basically done with answering the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Probably not.

So do you think that Matthew is basically done explaining what it means to follow Jesus?

He’s told us that Jesus wants us to renounce ourselves, take up our own cross, and fall into line after Jesus.

Do you think there’s more that Matthew wants to say about that?

Yep, there is.

Today, Matthew wants to tell us how truly following Jesus means truly trusting Jesus with a seed-sized faith.

“Seed-Sized Faith.”

I get that from verse 20 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, 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.”

Like most good stories, this one begins with a problem.

And this problem is a doozey. It starts with a demon-oppressed boy.

Jesus, Peter, James, and John have been descending from the mount of transfiguration.

They have just come down from the most amazing mountain top experience that these disciples could imagine.

And on the way down, they were talking about Elijah and eschatology. What has to happen before the end of history when all things will be restored. Elijah had to come. And Elijah had come in John the Baptist, but he had suffered, and so would the Son of Man.

And they get to the bottom of the mountain, and there’s trouble. V.14

“When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. [Desperate] ‘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. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’”

That’s a problem!

This boy has these seizures. They get a hold of him, and he can’t control his body. He ends up falling into ponds and wells and cooking fires.

And this dad is desperate. Can you imagine?

And he kneels before Jesus and begs Him for mercy and aid.

And he says that these 9 disciples of Jesus were no help.

Peter, James, and John had missed all of this because they were there for Jesus’ metamorphosis. But these other 9 had had no success.

Should they have?

Yes, they should have.

Remember back in chapter 10 when Jesus gave them authority to do this sort of thing?

I don’t think that authority has been rescinded.

And neither, apparently, does Jesus. V.17

“‘O 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.’” Stop there.

I don’t know about you, but those words in verse 17 are haunting to me.

Jesus sounds exasperated. He almost sounds like a parent who is at the end of their patience.

“How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

How long will I continue to endure this?

We know that Jesus has tremendous patience, especially with someone who is trying. Someone who is taking the faltering steps forward.

If you are trying, if you are facing forward and trying to walk forward in faith, please ignore verse 17. It’s not for you right now in your walk.

Sometimes, I think the wrong people listen to the wrong verses.

They are all true verse, but they are aimed at different people in different places at different times.

Verse 17 is for those who are showing:

NO FAITH.

“‘O, UNbelieving and twisted generation,’ Jesus replies, ‘How long will this last? How long will I put up with people who are showing NO faith?”

That’s what really bothers Jesus.

When there is no faith where there should be faith.

I don’t think that’s this man or this boy.

The man is showing faith by asking for this mercy.

I think Jesus is aiming this comment at the whole generation who are unbelieving, that’s maybe why there are so many active demons at this point showing themselves.

And I think that Jesus is aiming this comment at the 9 disciples who were acting more like this unbelieving generation than they were acting like true followers of King Jesus, like they should be.

“Why NO faith?”

“Don’t you know Who I am?”

If you are here today, and you’re skeptical about this whole Jesus thing, I’m glad you’re here, hopefully seeking answers.

But if you’re rejecting Jesus today. You don’t believe. You know you don’t believe. You don’t think the evidence is there. You don’t think that Jesus is Lord. That’s just a liar, or a lunatic, or a legend. Then I’m really concerned for you.

That’s a dangerous place to stay.

Because eventually, this exasperated longsuffering patient Jesus will say, “Time is up.”

So I encourage you now to put your faith in Jesus.

Don’t forget keep your eye on the ball.

Who is Jesus?

Jesus has called for them to bring this suffering boy to Him.

And Jesus discerns that he has a demon.

Now, not all seizures are caused by demons. Let’s be clear about that.

But these seizures clearly were. V.18

“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.”

Wow!

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the exorcist.

Jesus is the Son of God Who has authority over even the unclean spirits. They have to do what He commands.

Why wouldn’t we trust Him?

But the disciples were discouraged. V.19

“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn't we drive it out?’ [We thought we had the authority. We’ve done it before.] He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith.”

LITTLE FAITH.

We’ve seen those words before, haven’t we?

Chapter 6, verse 30.
Chapter 8, verse 26.
Chapter 14, verse 31.
Chapter 16, verse 8.

It’s like Jesus’ favorite name for His disciples when they are acting like dummies.

Oligopistoi. “O you of little faith.”

“It’s because you have so little faith.”

In this case, it’s almost like you have none.

You’re acting like the unbelieving generation around you.

No wonder you have so little effectiveness!

Do remember the Canaanite woman that tussled with Him back in chapter 15?

He said that she had “Great Faith.”

A Canaanite woman from Paganland!

But these disciples who have been walking with Jesus, “little faith.”

I think their faith was “little” because they had gotten their eyes off of Jesus.  “Why couldn’t WE drive it out?”

“Why didn’t WE have the authority, the power?”

I think a lot of Christians allow themselves to get their eyes off of Jesus and onto themselves, and then their lives lack power and joy and blessing.

Yeah, they still believe.

But, there’s little faith there. And very little joy and love and hope and blessing.

Is that you right now?

Look at Jesus.

Turn your eyes back to Jesus.

Don’t ask what can I do, but think about what He can do.

Jesus changes the metaphor here. He keeps talking about relatively small faith, but He says that small faith is actually enough.

If it is faith in the Lord. V.20

SEED-SIZED FAITH

“I tell you the truth, 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.’”

Do you remember how small Jesus said a mustard seed was back in chapter 13?

It was considered the smallest of seeds that they knew.

I could pretend that I have one up here, and say, “Here is a mustard seed,” and you couldn’t tell the difference between that and me not having one, because it’s so small.

So the point, isn’t really how tiny it is, but how true it is.

What is really important is not how big our faith is but how big the object of our faith is.

If we are truly trusting in the Lord, then nothing will be impossible for us.

Now, I don’t mean this mountain moving literally.

If He did, I would have expected a somebody to actually do it in the Book of Acts.

Moving a mountain was a metaphor for them, just like it is for us.

It means doing something seemingly impossible.

Really hard stuff.

Pulling off a really difficult task, a great accomplishment.

Jesus says that you and I will be able to “move mountains” like that if we only trust Him with seed-sized faith.

Now, some of you need to kinda “not listen” to those verses, because they have been twisted for you by false teachers, especially prosperity teachers.

Some of you may be expecting big things to happen that God has not truly promised you.

Unfailing health, unbelievable wealth, happiness and comfort all life long.

I don’t think so.

Some of you because you don’t have those things have a nagging suspicion that you don’t have faith.

But this “nothing will be impossible for you” means “nothing that God wants you to do will be impossible for you.”

You will be able to do whatever it is that He truly calls you to.

Which could be very pleasant or very unpleasant.

Do you remember when the Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation?

Whether well fed or hungry?

What was the secret?

“I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.”

All things. Including go hungry.

All things. Including sitting in prison. Like Paul was doing right then.

All things that Jesus calls us to, He will provide us with the grace to pull them off.

Great things! And hard things.

“Nothing will be impossible for you” if you only trust Him with the smallest faith you can muster.

Seed-sized faith in a gloriously great God.

Are you trusting Him?

He’s so trustworthy!

“Jesus, Jesus, How I Trust Him
How I’ve Proved Him O’er and O’er
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus
O For Faith to Trust Him More”

Matthew uses this moment in His gospel to remind us again what Jesus is heading into.

It’s the second major announcement of His approaching passion. V.22

“When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.”

They still don’t understand, but they are starting to the get the picture.

Faith does not mean no suffering.

Even Jesus is going to suffer.

And He had great faith!

He had unfailing faith!

He had 100% faith, and it still meant betrayal and crucifixion.

By the way, this is the first time we learn about the betrayal that is to come.

It’s so right that they are filled with sadness grief.

They don’t know the half of it.

Of course, they don’t know the half of that “raised to life stuff” in verse 23, either.

So thankful for the third day!

One more short story before we end.

It’s about what we need to put our seed-sized faith in.

And that’s Who Jesus is and What Jesus has done. V.24

“After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?’ ‘Yes, he does,’ he replied.” Stop there for a sec.

Matthew follows the announcement of Jesus’ betrayal, murder, and resurrection with this strange little story about the temple tax.

All men over the age of 20 (according to Exodus 30, verses 13-16) were supposed to pay a tax which amounted to two-drachmas, about a day’s wages.

And the temple tax collectors found Peter and asked him if Jesus paid his temple tax.

And Peter assumed that the answer was supposed to be “yes.”

Is that the right answer?

I mean, it’s in the law of Moses, right? This isn’t just a tradition of the Pharisees.

Should Jesus pay it?  V.25

Jesus already knows about this interaction.

“When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes– from their own sons or from others?’”

Who pays taxes, the servants of the king or the sons of the king?

“‘From others,’ Peter answered. ‘Then the sons are exempt,’ Jesus said to him.”

What’s He saying?

Keep your eye on the ball.

What is the ball?

“Who is Jesus?”

“Who is Jesus?”

Matthew isn’t done. He isn’t close to being done with answering the question in lots of different ways, “Who is Jesus?”

“Who owns the temple?”

“Whose is the temple?”

It’s God’s, right?

It’s God’s temple, right?

Who is Jesus?

He’s the Son of God.

Do you think He needs to pay the temple tax?

But here it gets interesting again. V.27

“‘But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.’”

I love it.

Only Matthew gives us this story. It’s not Mark, Luke, or John.

And Matthew doesn’t even tell us if Peter went out and got that fish and that coin in it’s mouth. I’m sure he did.

He just doesn’t bother to tell that part of the story. You can just assume it.

What a strange miracle!

What a show of power.

“The first fish you catch” and there will be the tax money you need!

That’s as amazing as walking on the water or feeding the five thousand.

It’s just really quiet.

It’s seed-sized, too.

Unless you knew that it was happening, this miracle would have been completely miss-able.

What’s the point?

I think it follows verses 22 and 23 for a reason.

I think it’s a story about how Jesus supplies exactly what we need because of Who He is.

“Give us this day our daily tax money.”

Jesus supplies.

Jesus provides.

By the way, I was really struck by how Jesus says He is doing this so that we they not give unnecessary offense.

In other words, Jesus is giving up His rights.

“So we my not offend them.”

Jesus doesn’t HAVE to pay this tax, but here is paying this tax.

He doesn’t always stand on his rights.

I think we could learn a lot from that if we thought about it for a while.

We Americans aren’t very good at laying down our rights.

And right now in America, it seems to me that everybody feels like they have to exercise their rights, especially to free speech.

“I have a right to say whatever I think, and everybody around me just has to deal with it. If not, they are just snowflake.” As if Archie Bunker was our model instead of Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying we don’t have those rights. We do.
And I’m not saying that there isn’t a time to exercise those rights. There is.

And I’m not saying that we need to become politically correct, fearful of what others will think of us if we say what we think.

But I am saying that just because we have the right to say it, doesn’t mean that we should say it.

Jesus didn’t have to pay this tax, and yet he goes out of His way, doing a miracle[!] so as to not give unnecessary offense.

There is necessary offense, and we should give it.

There is a necessary offense when you explain the gospel.

Hell is offensive.
The Cross is offensive.
God’s justice is offensive to unbelievers.

We can’t and shouldn’t shy away from those things.

But there are plenty of hot takes and opinions and thoughts and sentiments that we don’t have to express and don’t help anyone and aren’t sourced in love.

And maybe we ought to take a page out of Jesus’ playbook here and do what we can to minimize offending others.

It takes a big person to do that. A big heart. A big soul.

Not a fearful heart or a fearful soul.

Jesus wasn’t afraid of anything.

It takes a big heart to not stand up for your rights.

And to pay the tax that you didn’t have to pay.

Think about that.

Jesus is paying a debt that He did not owe.

Does that sound familiar?

Jesus wasn’t just supplying their needs or paying a tax.

Jesus was paying a debt that He did not owe.

That’s what Jesus does, right?

That’s what the Cross is all about.

That’s why He was betrayed.
That’s why He was crucified.
That’s why He had to die and be buried.

And the rise again to life.

To pay the debt that He did not owe and that we could not pay.

The Son of Man.
The Son of God.
The Son of the Owner of the Temple.

I tell you the truth, if you put some seed-sized faith in that Person, nothing will be impossible for you.

***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun

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