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Unbelief is not the Opposite of Belief

Matthew 17:14-21 | Mark 9:14-24

· belief,faith,Matthew,Partner,Unbelief

Today we are continuing our conversation through the book of Matthew. Now the book of Matthew is not just a haphazard book about Jesus. Rather, it’s an intentional telling of the life of Jesus that invites each of us into relationship with Jesus. The book outlines that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, of the line of David; that Jesus was similar and yet more than Moses, He was not just a deliverer from political slavery, but humanities saviour from slavery to sin; and that every person is invited into relationship with Jesus.

I have this love hate relationship with this book. Matthew is really all about process. While I am glad that there is a process and I don’t have to understand or get it all at once, I also don’t like that it is a process because I want to get it, I want to understand it.

Today we continue deeper into the process Matthew invites us into. We are going to start with a question here. What are some things that others do that you marvel at? Now, my mind quickly goes to physical abilities like this video:

What about you? What abilities do you marvel at?

  • Stupid human tricks

  • Division in your head

  • Speed

  • Conversationalist

  • Backing a trailer

  • Woodwork

  • Photography

  • Hosting

  • Reading

  • Cooking

  • Drawing

  • Public speaking

  • Video games

  • Listening

What abilities do others have that you marvel at?

Now, I want you to reminisce back to a group project moment. What type of group project team member are you?

  • Organizer - you do this and I will do this

  • Doer - Don’t worry, I will just do it all

  • Complainer - I have group projects, our group is the worst

  • Peacemaker - We can do this guys

  • Coaster - Let me know if you need me to do anything

  • Disappearer - Silent, absent, gone, unavailable, but don’t forget to get my name on it

  • Distractor - Guys, look what I can do

  • Other

Maybe it is not always the same, but we each have tendances. Take a minute and decide if you had to pick one of the above to describe yourself in group project situations. Now a question out of that:

When you are part of a team working on a project, what are some keys to success and what will guarantee failure?

Some of us love group projects. Most of us hate them. We all have people, process, essentials that are needed to be successful together. We all have people, process, issues that will lead to failure. Unfortunately, each of us are part of that equation of success of failure.

The challenge that comes up today in Matthew’s writing is that we are called to a group project with Jesus. I am going to toss us right into the pool of this idea. What does partnership with Jesus look like? This is a complicated question.

  • Partnership for what?

  • Doing what?

  • What is my part?

  • What is Jesus part?

  • How do we manage group differences?

  • How do we do this partnership?

  • When

  • Why…

So much… but I want you to walk into this complexity.

What does partnership with Jesus look like and entail?

Today we are looking at Matthew 17:14-27. Today we are going to look at Mark’s telling of this same story. Jesus, Peter, James, and John were walking down the mountain.

  • Jesus was transfigured

  • Moses and Elijah were there

  • The disciples wanting to camp out

  • The cloud, the voice of God came

  • The disciples thought that they were going to die

After they walk back down the mountain. I am not sure what the walk down the mountain was like.

  • Were the disciples talking about it over and over again?

  • Were the disciples quiet and internally contemplating?

  • I can imagine Peter talking rambling non-stop

  • Were they giddy?

  • Were they confused?

  • Were the enlightened?

Then we turn to Mark 9:14-29 (the following is summarized)

They made it back down to where the other disciples were at and they could see from some distance that something was going on. As soon as the crowd saw Jesus they ran to him, screaming, arguing, loud, overwhelming, pointing, yelling, pushing. Jesus asked his disciples, “What are you arguing with them about?” A man pushes out of the crowd and says:

“Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

Jesus’ head swings around and he looks at his disciples:

19 “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” the man replied.

22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus repeated back:

“If you can? Really? If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Then the man said the most amazing words:

Mark 9:24

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

As much as we might not like it, belief and unbelief sometimes exist in the same space. I think God would love for us to continually approach him with our realizations of unbelief and invite him into those moments.

What does it mean to invite God into our moments of unbelief?

Jesus healed the boy. Jesus helped him up. Then the disciples pulled Jesus aside:

Mark 9:28-29

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.

Matthew 17:20

20 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.”

To Jesus healing this child was not a problem.

  • Why was Jesus disgusted with the disciples?

  • Why did He call for faith from the dad?

  • Why did He call for faith for the disciples?

  • Is there a similar call to faith for us?

It comes back to this section of Matthew. God’s plan is to partner with us.

  • Genesis 1:28

    • God called Adam and Eve to fill the earth

  • Genesis 6:14

    • God called Noah to build an ark in order preserve life through the flood

  • Genesis 17:5

    • God called Abraham to be the forefather of a great nation

  • Exodus 3:10

    • God called Moses to go and lead the people out of slavery in Egypt

  • 1 Samuel 17:45

    • David killed Goliath and spared the Israelites in the Name of the Lord

  • 1 Kings 17:1

    • Elijah spoke as a prophet to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel

  • Luke 1:31

    • Mary was called to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and give birth to Jesus

  • Luke 3:4

    • John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus’ ministry

Our answers to last week's questions matter. When we proclaim who Jesus is to us it affects how we partner with God. Jesus wanting to partner with us is dependent on our faith. Jesus is not “lording” over us but inviting us to partner with Him. A final conversation today. Thinking about our abilities or lack of abilities. Thinking about our group project conversation. Thinking about partnership with Jesus.

What does this prayer “I believe, help me with my unbelief” mean to you?

  • How is this prayer answered for you?

  • Have you seen it answered for you?

  • Where are you in this spectrum of belief and unbelief?

  • How will this prayer being answered in your life affect you and your “neighbor?”

Take it Deeper Questions

  • Read Mark 9:14-32

  • When you were a child, what issues were most likely to trigger an argument within your family?

  • Whom do you identify with in the story of the demon possessed boy: The Pharisees, the disciples, the boy, the boy’s father?

  • What do you think the argument was about in verst 14?

  • When have you felt like the boys father, believing and unbelieving at the same time?

  • What kinds of doubts hit you the hardest; future, religious, self-image, other?

  • What would help you most in dealing with your doubts?

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