Hello and welcome to a new week of our Foundations Daily Podcasts. My name is Liam and I’m part of the staff team here at STC. Last week, Dave, took us through the next part of Matthew’s Gospel ending with the transfiguration. This is the moment where Jesus reveals to his three closest disciples his true identity – as God’s son, as the Messiah – the one whom God has appointed to rule over this new kingdom He is building.
As we pick up the thread again this week, we move from looking at who Jesus is, to what his kingdom will be like. What does it look like to allow God to influence and shape our lives? That’s in essence what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples as they journey together over the course of three years.
In the first part of today’s reading, which you can hear in full at the end, we read about Jesus healing a boy possessed by a demon. An amazing miracle! Another astonishing example of God’s compassion. Yet, this doesn’t seem to be the main focus of this short passage. We’re drawn to the conversation that Jesus has with the disciples immediately afterwards. We earlier learn that the boy’s father had brought his son before the disciples first before coming to Jesus and had asked them to heal him but they couldn’t. Let’s read from verse 19: Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
This seems like an obvious question. They are disciples after all. Learners on the job. They ask the obvious question. Why couldn’t we do it? Where we were going wrong?
Reading from v20: 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.”
Jesus’ response is perhaps not the obvious one back and it seems a little harsh. They might have expected him to say because you didn’t pray hard enough, or for long enough, or maybe you did it the wrong way. No, he says, it’s because you have ‘so little faith’. Wow!
What is Jesus saying here? In the letter to the Hebrews we read that: faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is something which enables us to trust God even when we can’t see Him. Faith is being certain that even though we can’t see it, God is working, speaking, and that he with us.
Jesus says the disciples have ‘so little faith’ which is perhaps a little confusing as given what we already know about these young men it would seem that they clearly do. I mean, they’ve given up everything to follow him! What is Jesus saying here? It would seem that Jesus is saying to them it’s not that you don’t have faith, it’s that it’s not in me – it’s in yourselves. To emphasise his point further, Jesus talks about only needing to have faith the size of a mustard seed. He’s saying that it’s not really about the size of your faith, it’s who or what you put it in. Jesus is trying to teach his disciples something here about faith, about fully trusting in God – knowing that he will soon leave them when he ascends to his Father in heaven. ‘Do you really trust me?’ Jesus is in effect asking them.
Faith is God’s gift to us. The Bible is clear – we can’t muster up faith in God. It’s something we receive through Jesus, through his death and resurrection. Our own salvation comes through faith in him which is a gift from God.
Faith is God’s work, it’d God doing, not ours. Jesus knew that in order for his disciples to function as leaders in his new community, they needed the gift of faith and they needed to recognise the power and the authority of the one in whom they had put their trust. They needed to know that healing the sick, seeing people come to know Jesus, advancing his kingdom – it’s not their doing, it’s his. But through faith, he enables us to receive his Spirit and be people who he uses to extend his influence in the world around us.
What is God saying to us today? Perhaps it’s the same question he appears to ask his disciples – Do you really trust me?
Do we trust God when it comes to provision – the things we currently need? For healing – when we or others are sick? For our future – the things yet to come? And are we willing to continue to trust him, even when we can’t necessarily see the immediate result of doing so? Do we still believe in a God who can move mountains? Who makes the impossible possible? Will we continue to seek him today where we find ourselves lacking? Will we live a life that says – I trust you God. I believe in you God. Help me to live by faith this day.
Jesus, we ask that you would give us the gift of faith this day. That whatever we face this week, we do so knowing that our God is faithful. And help us Jesus, to live by faith today – and to know that our help comes from you Lord, the one who can immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. Amen.
READING: Matthew 17:14-27
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘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.’
‘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.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’
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.’
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered 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.
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’
‘Yes, he does,’ he replied.
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 children or from others?’
‘From others,’ Peter answered.
‘Then the children are exempt,’ Jesus said to him. ‘But so that we may not cause offence, 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.’