happens to every Christian: the mountain top experience is followed by a trip
down in the valley. The three disciples now follow Jesus down the mountain,
and find the crowds waiting for them.
When they came to the crowd, a man came
up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, "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. "I brought him to Your disciples, and they
could not cure him." 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." And Jesus rebuked
him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
(Mat 17:14-18 NASB)
please, that in our last lesson Christ was transfigured before Peter, James and
John. They are now returning to the valley below. The first thing that greets
them is – the crowd. Please notice what the three disciples do next:
nothing. Is this in obedience to command, or fear of public speaking? No
matter; it’s back to reality – leaving the real reality behind for a while.
it is just as well. Christ has told them to shout from the housetops that
which He reveals in secret.
Most of us would tell Him we’d like to, but we are afraid of public speaking.
Which may explain why He tells us so little in secret these days.
Yes it is. But the time of secrecy has long since passed, and we need to heed
our Lord’s command.
assume that Jesus’ words are directed towards the disciples for their lack of
faith. The words are actually directed at the crowd, and speak to their faith.
point is of some importance. The boy is said to be a “lunatic” – literally
“moon struck”. The name is evidence of a culture that considered sun, moon and
stars to have influence on the mentally ill or demon possession – a form of
animism crossed with astrology. Such people are still with us today.
then points out the barriers to faith – for that is what it will take, faith on
the part of the father – found in that generation. See if either seems
This is not so much a failure to believe as it is a failure to commit. Oh,
we’re Christians, sure, but we have good luck charms, medals, candles and
mysticism to help us along too. As Ray Bolger ( the Scarecrow in the Wizard
of Oz) put it, “Some people do go both ways.”
The word in the Greek originally meant, “distorted.” It’s not that we
don’t believe marriage, we’ve just distorted the word to include
homosexual marriage as well.
him to Me
such a rebuke, you might think that Christ would have nothing to do with the
man or his son. It is not so, and in this there are two lessons:
As Remig put it,
this is “an example to preachers to attack sins but to assist men.” A
perverted generation, but still the lost children of God.
It servers as a
reminder to us that we are to take all our cares and troubles to the Lord.
Then the disciples came to Jesus
privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" 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. ["But this kind does
not go out except by prayer and fasting."] 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; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third
day." And they were deeply grieved.
(Mat 17:19-23 NASB)
(It should be noted that verse 21, the
section in brackets, is not
found in the most ancient of manuscripts, and may be a later addition.)
Faith suffers without the presence of
The nine disciples below have been
without the presence of Christ for some time now – and their faith suffers from
this. Perhaps as much as a week has gone by without Jesus. Without clear
touch with the Master, faith fades.
So how do we as Christians handle such a
situation: By prayer, for one way. Look at the habit of Daniel:
when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his
roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling
on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he
had been doing previously.
(Dan 6:10 NASB)
Remember: He will not exclude us from
life; we are the ones who exclude ourselves from Him.
Mustard Seed Faith
This is a much debated passage. May we
take this one simply and cleanly?
- If your faith is inadequate, whose
fault is that? Have we even asked Him to help our unbelief?
- Why is this so common? Perhaps it
is our habit “hedging our bets” that is at fault. Christianity in
moderation – don’t let it run your life. That’s halfway faith. Better no
faith at all.
- Why don’t we ask for faith? Perhaps
we are not willing to wait for the mustard seed to grow.
Why the disciples are going to need such
From the mountain top He showed them His
glory; in the valley He tells them of His coming death. They’re going to need
the mustard seed faith to get through that. Note what kind of faith is the
- It is a faith in God Himself. They
need to know that no matter how black things look, God will work His plan.
- It may be a small faith – but it
needs to be a living faith, like the mustard seed.
Sovereignty of Christ
they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your
teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?"
He *said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him
first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From
whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or
from strangers?" When Peter said, "From strangers," Jesus
said to him, "Then the sons are exempt. "However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea
and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open
its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and
(Mat 17:24-27 NASB)
The tax spoken of here has its roots in
the Old Testament.
At this time the tax was voluntary, so the men who are coming to Peter have no
real authority. But Peter takes it as a challenge, and announces that his
Master does indeed pay the “temple tax” as it had become. This tax had a
- In the original, all were required
to bring this tribute – there was no favoritism. Everybody paid the same
- The tax was an atonement tax – a tax
which all men paid, because they are all sinners.
The Sovereignty of Christ
Jesus has a problem here. On the one
hand, He has been instructing His disciples on just who He is. How can you tax
the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? He has no need of atonement; He is
sinless. No one on earth has jurisdiction over Him, for all authority is given
But He has also set an admirable record for complying with the Law of Moses –
not the one as distorted by the Pharisees, but the one given to Moses. Since
He was the Giver, it is gracious on His part to condescend to do so.
“Who do you say I am,” He asks His
disciples. The very Son of God, in the flesh; indeed, in the form of a servant.
He must show His disciples that He remains the Son of God even though He pays
this temple tax.
The power of Christ – in the details
The incident that happens next is not
quite a miracle. No natural laws were violated by this procedure – but the
laws of probability have been well stretched. This is called a “providence”
of God, after the God who provides. May I point out a few little things here?
- The amount is exactly that which is
required. When God provides, He sometimes provides exactly – so that you
and I will think about it.
- The amount was for “you and I.”
- In effect, that makes it a ransom
The ransom is for all of us.
The Crucifixion is coming, and Jesus is
preparing his disciples for it. To this end He shows them the glory His death
will bring. To this end He strengthened their faith in valleys as well. We
may well ask, for what is He preparing me?