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Little Faith Series, Part 4: Taking Jesus Seriously

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Introduction

Illustration:
In George Lucas’s The Empire Strikes Back, which has a pervasive New Age worldview but illustrates some biblical principles, nine-hundred-year-old Master Jedi-Knight Yoda counsels Jedi-hopeful Luke Skywalker on how to use the Force so he can be victorious in the ongoing battles against the evil Darth Vader and the imperialistic Empire. While teaching Luke to use the Force on the isolated planet Dagobah, Yoda challenges him to balance himself upside down on one hand with Yoda perched on one of Luke’s feet. Simultaneously, Luke must mentally raise a basketball-sized rock in the air.
Yoda tells him, “Use the Force… Now—the stone. Feel it.”
Suddenly, Luke is distracted by the sound of his starship, almost half sunk, now sinking to the muddy lake’s bottom. He falls forward, and Yoda tumbles down. Seeing only the tip of his ship’s wing sticking out from the swamp, Luke despairs. “We’ll never get it out now!”
Yoda sighs and answers, “So certain are you? Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”
“Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.”
Yoda insists, “No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Luke nods, “All right, I’ll give it a try.” Yoda, somewhat exasperated, says “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Luke tries to mentally raise the ship out of the water using the Force but fails miserably. Exhausted by the effort, he sits down beside Yoda and tells him, “I can’t. It’s too big.”
Yoda answers, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?” Yoda tells Luke that his ally is the Force, and it is a powerful ally: “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us… You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere! Yes, even between this land and that ship!”
Luke, totally dejected, tells him, “You want the impossible.”
Yoda concentrates and mentally raises the ship out of the water and onto the shore. Luke walks around the ship in amazement and tells Yoda, “I don’t—I don’t believe it!”
Yoda responds, “That is why you fail.”
Illustration: Taking someone seriously
Taking someone or something seriously- to treat (someone or something) as being very important and deserving attention or respect
To treat, consider, or approach someone or something with the seriousness or importance that it or they deserve.

Transition To Body- Jesus’ Seemingly Powerless Disciples

Matthew 17:16–19 ESV
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

Body

Authenticating Impact Of A Maturing Faith

Matthew 17:16–17 ESV
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
Authenticate- to prove or serve to prove to be real, true, or genuine
Authenticity
Authentic
James 2:14–19 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Disciples are taught by Jesus
Disciples spend time with Jesus
Disciples follow Jesus
Disciples ought be like Jesus
Jesus is saying it is time for me to launch you
Matthew 17:17 ESV
17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Disciples Who Believe In Jesus Ought Do Greater Works

John 14:12–14 ESV
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Authenticating Faith Shows Love

John 13:34–35 ESV
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Maturing Faith Teaches

Hebrews 5:12–14 ESV
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Maturing Faith Graduates From the Elementary Teaching

Hebrews 6:1–2 ESV
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Maturing Faith Believes In God

Hebrews 11:6 ESV
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Incapacitating Influence Of A Weak Faith

Matthew 17:19–20 ESV
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

The Disciples have a genuine faith yet they are now ineffective because they have little faith

Incapacitate-
to deprive of capacity or natural power : DISABLE
2
: to make legally incapable or ineligible
Paralysis-
complete or partial loss of function especially when involving the motion or sensation in a part of the body
2
: loss of the ability to move
a state of powerlessness or incapacity to act

Jesus Gave The Disciples Authority/Power To....

Matthew 10:8 ESV
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

It seems that the authority to throw out demons (10:8) is not enough on its own; faith is also necessary.

Genuine Faith That Is Week
By their response to Jesus, the disciples have demonstrated that they have faith, but over and over again their behavior indicates that this faith, while genuine, is weak. It needs to be strengthened through exercise.

Maturation Through Endurance of Suffering

Romans 5:2–5 ESV
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Examples of Weak Faith Incapacitating Disciples

Provision vs. Mission

Matthew 6:30 ESV
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Protection vs. Fear

Matthew 8:26 ESV
26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Focus vs. Distractions

Matthew 14:31 ESV
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Substance vs. Superficiality

Matthew 16:8 ESV
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?

Wonder-working Power Of A Sincere Faith

Matthew 17:20 ESV
20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Sincere-
free of dissimulation : HONEST
a sincere interest
b
: free from adulteration : PURE
a sincere doctrine
sincere wine
2
: marked by genuineness : TRUE
Unlocking Of God’S Power through expressions of Faith
Matthew 17:19–20 (ESM1728): mustard plant’ [LN]. This noun denotes a large herb noted for its very small seeds and in some instances growing to a height of three meters (about ten feet).

Power & Productivity of a mustard seed

Mark 4:30–32 ESV
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Mark 4:30–32 (IVPBBCNT): 4:30–32. Scholars still dispute what plant is meant by the “mustard seed.” Nevertheless, by no conjecture is it the smallest of all seeds that Jesus’ listeners could have known (the orchid seed is smaller). The point is that it was proverbially small and yet yielded a large shrub. Around the Sea of Galilee, it can reach a height of ten feet and has sometimes reached fifteen feet, although its usual height is about four feet. Because it would grow anew each year, birds could not nest in it when they built nests in early spring; but small birds could light on it, all that is necessary to fulfill the language here (an allusion to a bigger tree in Dan 4:12). The hyperbole Jesus applies to the best image of growth from tiny to large that he had available does not change the point, however; the kingdom might begin in obscurity, but it would culminate in glory.

Power of Mountain Moving Faith

The moving of mountains was proverbial among the Jews for accomplishing something of very great difficulty (e.g., it was said that Rabbah was “an uprooter of mountains,” Ber. 64a; one who saw Resh Lakish in debate “would think that he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,” Sanh. 24a). The expression should, of course, be understood metaphorically. Through the centuries pious souls have never been conspicuous for transferring physical objects such as literal mountains, but there are many instances on record where mountainous difficulties have been removed by the exercise of faith.
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV
27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Nothing Is Too Hard For God

The interest is, of course, not in moving mountains but in achieving what goes way beyond the exorcism that the disciples failed to achieve. Thus the generalizing words at the end. Surely, ‘nothing will be impossible for you’ is intended to echo the proverbial OT language of nothing being too hard for God. The powers held out here are a participation in the boundless powers of God. This provides Matthew with a suitable high point to end the section which began with the first Passion prediction in 16:21–23.

Faith Is Reliance on a Living God

It is a striking illustration of the fact that faith is, for Jesus, not a matter of intellectual assent, but of a practical reliance on a living God. It is important to observe here that it is not the ‘amount’ of faith which brings the impossible within reach, but the power of God, which is available to even the ‘smallest’ faith.
In Matthew’s formulation of the saying, there appears to be a tension between a quantitative and a qualitative view of faith. The expression “little faith” suggests that faith can be very small and yet be genuine, but for it to become effective it must grow into a “larger” faith. The comparison of faith with a mustard seed, on the other hand, suggests that for faith to move mountains it need only be authentic, that is, faith that cannot work miracles is not real faith. We need not attempt to resolve this tension, since there is truth in both perspectives, and each serves as a correction of the other.

Infinite possibilities which faith in Jesus Christ brings

What Jesus meant was: ‘If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.’ Faith in God is the instrument which enables men and women to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path.

Transition To Close

Illustration: I like Mustard
Mustard for your Hamburger and Hot Dogs Tomorrow
Mustard, the condiment, is made from the tiny round seeds of the mustard plant, a member of the Brassicaceae family. In order to release their flavor, the seeds must be broken—coarsely cracked, crushed, or finely ground—then mixed with enough liquid to make a spreadable paste, which can then be used as a condiment or as an ingredient in many culinary preparations.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit!!!

Zechariah 4:5–10 ESV
5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ” 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
God Gave Us A Spirit of Power & Love & Self-control
2 Timothy 1:6–7 ESV
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 Corinthians 2:6–16 ESV
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Close- Time to launch because Jesus has a date with the the cross…

Matthew 17:17 ESV
17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
Matthew 17:22–23 ESV
22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about 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 greatly distressed.

Jesus Had To Go Away

John 16:7–11 ESV
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Without Love Faith to Move Mountains is Useless

1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV
2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

For God So Loved The World

John 3:16–21 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

You Must Be Born of the Spirit

John 3:5–8 ESV
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

He Was Wounded...

Isaiah 53:4–6 ESV
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Kingdom God is like a grain of Mustard Seed

Mark 4:30–32 ESV
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls Into The Earth & Dies

John 12:23–26 ESV
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Whoever Despised the Day of Small Things Shall Rejoice- For the Eyes of the LORD, Range Through The Whole Earth

Zechariah 4:10 ESV
10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
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