Title: O’ Faithless Generation!
Text: Mark 9.14-29
Big Idea: The author’s aim is to place an emphasis on the need for faith in the coming days as Christ moves toward Jerusalem and the crucifixion.
We’re at the halfway point in Mark. To this point, we’ve been learning that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s the Gospel – God sent his son into this world – that’s the Christmas Story. Now, a transition has occurred. Jesus is no longer placing a focus on ministry, but rather, he’s turning this thing over to his disciples because he’s leaving. He’s headed to Jerusalem where he is going to die. Spoiler alert! It’s ok, that sounds bad, but it really is a good thing. But, without him walking with them day in and day out, they’ve got to learn to live differently. They’ve got to learn to live in faith.
Living with faith, living in faith is so very hard to do. It’s hard to explain in detail. Basically, here is what that means: God says something, and you live out your life according to His statement (be it a command or a promise or a declaration).
Ill.: The Principle of Tithing and giving.
I’ve said for years that I don’t live with regret. I’m not sure that’s an accurate statement. What I mean is, that while I wish I did not have sin and rebellion in my past, I’m glad for my sins and my failures because they remind me that I’m weak and in desperate need of a savior. Where I really failed is that I did not truly trust what God had told me. Oh, how I wish I could have lived in faith. Oh, how I wish I would have trusted God. Because this is what it all comes down to: you do what you believe. Faith is how you live.
In today’s message, Jesus and 3 of his disciples have descended the mountain and find… – or should I say, what they don’t find, is Faith…
- They don’t Faith.
- Faithlessness is what they find.
Let that ring and echo in your head for a moment. Faith. What is it? How is it measured out, so that you can track it, see it, feel it, hear it, experience it? Boy, that’s a hard one. Let me stop right here and clarify my intention this morning:
I mentioned earlier that I don’t live with regret; however, guilt resulting from a lack of faith can eat me for lunch. Sure, no regrets, but I feel guilty for my lack of faith that led me down those paths. God says do this or do that or don’t do this or don’t do that. God says, “Trust me in this.” And for some reason or another, I didn’t trust God like I should have.
So, moving to our story this morning: they’re coming down the mountain, after having witnessed Jesus be transfigured and they’re discussing eschatological issues related to what they’ve just seen. They understand that Jesus is the Messiah and they have expectations of what that means. And, they’re dreaming about what the future will look like, and boom: what do they not find at the bottom of the hill? They don’t find faith in the disciples. Rd v 14
Transition: This leads me to a question. Technically, a few questions, but it starts with this one.
I. How do people act or what do people do when they are faithless? (14-16)
exp.: We see the answer in v 14; Answer: they argue. The disciples are followers of Christ. They’ve been given the ability to cast out demons and have done so in the past. Mark 3.13-15 – 13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. That was intended from the beginning. In 6.7 Mark tells us: 7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. And in 6.13 we see that this is exactly what they did: 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
ill.: But now, they find they’re unable to accomplish what they did before! You ever been there? What worked before isn’t working now? God? What are you doing? Where are you in this? Why can’t I just do what I did before?
Exp.: Can I add to this? There is a lot of pressure with an audience. Man, I’m a rock at 5 in the morning, on the couch, under a lamp; just me, my Bible, and a cup of coffee, and I’m visiting with the Lord. But, put me in front of an audience who is watching me pray – now I’m feeling a little pressure. What if God says no? I’m going to look foolish in front of the skeptics, in front of the unbelievers.
app.: Why arguing? I’m sure they were caught off guard when they couldn’t cast out the demon-like they had before. People are watching and all. I can just see them trying to step up and be the man. Peter, who is traditionally the leader isn’t there. Neither is James or John. So maybe Andrew is first. Flop! Let me try… Flop! Come on guys, step aside. This is how Judas and I did it… Flop! Arguing ensues…
exp.: But the Messiah and the other three disciples come walking up; rd 15; that’s what I’d do; I just read that verse and I’m so moved. Oh, dear Jesus, show up and interrupt my messes. I gladly bow out. Steal my show! My dog and pony routine only takes me so far! I see him and I’m amazed, too!
I wonder if this amazement has anything to do with the Transformation that just took place upon the mountain? I think of Moses and the Exodus story where Moses descended from the Mountain, having been in the presence of the Glory of God and the glory stayed with him. He needed a veil to hide his face from the people.
Exodus 34.29-35 describes in detail how that worked as Moses would remove the veil before the Father as he spoke with God – and then he would cover his face with the veil as he would return to the people.
Is this why they were amazed? I don’t know, but it fits with the Exodus parallel we saw a few weeks ago.
Jesus then asks them: rd v 16-18; So, they’re all arguing about this casting out of a demon. I wonder how these ‘discussions’ get started. I wonder if the religious leaders were there to investigate Jesus, to trip him up. Well, he wasn’t, but his disciples were and what an auspicious occasion for them as they witnessed their failure.
Funny thing about these religious leaders: we don’t see them anymore in this passage. They cause trouble and then disappear. That is so like troublemakers! I wonder if religious leaders today are like that – not worried about the people and their needs. They just want to maintain their power and position. So, they do their best to stir up trouble and dissension among those who are doing their best for God – even if it is failing, they’re doing their best.
So this father identifies the reason for the arguing going on: the disciples’ failure and then, Jesus speaks: rd v 19
t.s.: O’ faithless generation. Next Question: Who is he talking to?
II. Who is this ‘faithless generation? (19-25)
exp.: Did people look at the disciples? Did they, the crowd, think he was talking to them, too? Did they just lower their heads? How would you respond if that was said to you by Jesus: O’ faithless generation. I don’t want Jesus to feel that way about me. When the son returns, will he find faith here? Please, Lord, let me be found faithful. Let us be found faithful. So, who is Christ speaking to? Answer: I don’t know.
- The Disciples: some folks think he’s just talking to the disciples. They’ve been taught and trained and have done this before. Make some sense. They’ve failed here – was it their lack of faith that caused this failure. If you don’t understand how faith works, you just might be thinking that he’s talking to the disciples. If they just had the faith, they could have accomplished this.
Listen, Beloved, don’t buy into that lie! Faith doesn’t work like that. When someone tells you that all you need is a little more faith – that’s a cop-out. Faith isn’t dispensed like water or gas or soda. There is something super cool about knowing that God can do something and being totally at peace if he chooses not to do that.
Maybe he was talking about:
- The Father: rd 20-24; is there a more powerful, poignant dialogue between two people in this gospel? Boom – What do you mean: if you can?!?! Years ago, there was a lady in our church, (Copperas Cove), who had been attending a ‘health & wealth; name it, claim it church; she was sharing with me of how the pastor’s message was: when you “can God?”, you “can” God! Like canning vegetables or fruit. Doubting God’s ability makes it where he can’t do something. That’s another lie I’m begging you not to fall for. Yes, it preaches well and makes the preacher sound really witty. But it ain’t true! There is no power on earth that will ever limit the power of our God. Your lack of faith doesn’t weaken him one bit. God isn’t up there crying to himself because he has become inefficient and ineffective at the faith of the people here on earth! There is no faith meter registering the faith of the church at Tarpley or in the home of a member.
Ill.: using a meter, demonstrate weakness; Well, there just aren’t enough members putting their faith in me, so, I feel weak. If just a couple of more would believe!
That’s non-sense and it just isn’t Biblical. Look at what Jesus says: All things are possible for the one who believes. Lit.: All things are possible to the one who believes. The ESV, the NIV – I think their translation is weak. The NASB, The Holman – they do a better job of translating from the Gk: to the one, not – for the one. That is slightly different in form – tremendously different in meaning. When you use the word for, you think reason or cause. When you use the word to, you think direction. For would imply that nothing is impossible for him or her, placing the emphasis on faith or even you. But, when you use the word to, which is what the original language uses, that means that nothing is impossible toward you – that work lies outside of you. The idea isn’t that faith does the work, but rather placing faith in an object, which does the work.
Ill.: present the GOSPEL; Romans 3.23; 2 Cor 5.21; Isaiah 53.6 – So faith is not in what you can do just because you believe – but rather, faith is placing your trust in something else or someone else who can accomplish the task. Faith in a chair isn’t faith until you sit in it. Faith in a plane isn’t faith until you get on it and fly. Faith in Christ isn’t faith until you surrender all of who you are to Christ. And trust that what He did – the work of dying on the cross, being buried in a tomb, and rising three days later – trusting that what he did is what saves you.
Ill. #2: There is a story of three men who refused to bow down to a king. The King ordered that they be thrown into the fire – to be killed as punishment for their rebellion. They said they couldn’t bow down because God had ordered them not to. The King was furious! And in a rage ordered their death. The Bible reads in Daniel: 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
He can, but that doesn’t mean he will! That’s faith – trusting Him to do what He has chosen to do to bring Him Glory and Honor.
Ill. #3: David, fasting, praying, laying on the floor, begging God to save his baby boy. The Baby dies. David gets up, cleans up, and goes into the Temple to worship. Then, he comes back and asks for some food. The servants are like, what, you were fasting and praying and begging God before. Now, the baby is gone and you’re eating? David said: I will go to him someday, but he will never return to me.
That is a picture of FAITH. Trusting, begging God to work, but knowing that He will do what is best for His Glory.
Transition: The 3rd, group some folks believe Jesus is referring to is the…
- The Crowd: rd v 25; some say, their unbelief would hinder his ability to do this miracle – he’s got to get it done before this non-believing pagans interfere. No. That isn’t what this verse is saying. I simply understand this to say that more people were coming, running to see what was going on. Maybe the disappearing religious leaders have gone back into the town and were overheard talking. We don’t really know. What we do know is that it isn’t just the growing crowd. And, it isn’t just #4…
- The Religious Leaders: We know they don’t believe.
I think it is all of them. The only one not included in that statement is Jesus. He is different; He is set apart from them – above them.
Now some might argue with me and say look at Mark 6 and Matthew 13 where Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown, but he couldn’t do any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Let’s clear this up. That isn’t what the Scripture says at all.
Mark 6.1-6a; that doesn’t say he couldn’t because of their unbelief. I don’t think it is even implied. Matthew clears it up a bit. But we will stay with Mark. Mark isn’t saying a lack of faith on the part of the people of Nazareth limited Christ in any way – only that he marveled at their unbelief. The only reason you and I think this is because we’ve heard it taught incorrectly. Matthew even words it differently than Mark and clarifies it for us that Jesus didn’t do any mighty works there because of their unbelief. Not that he couldn’t because the faith meter was too low limiting his power.
app.: Here’s the point: God is not limited in any way – whether you believe it or not!
So, let’s bring this to a conclusion: which is my 3rd question –
III. What causes a lack of faith? (26-29)
- The Father: his experience verses his expectation; repeated attempts to find relief and nothing results; each attempt thwarted; no one has been able to help; repeated failure brings frustration; But God had other plans: Our heavenly Father wanted this father and his son to meet Jesus, His Son. Not understanding God’s Purpose.
- The Disciples: their eyes; what they saw; failure and then, doubt creeps in; hopelessness builds; (describe the boy’s response); foaming at the mouth; that is why we walk by faith and not by sight. True faith.
- The Religious Leaders: their knowledge – or should I say, what they thought they knew for sure or to be true. (3. Faulty Doctrine) Maybe your struggle with faith is that you don’t really understand the reality of faith. What you think to be true isn’t true at all. Can I say, this one is the hardest! When you live your life by something you were taught, and then you find it isn’t true… man, that’ll rock your world.
- The Crowd: Secular; wrapped up in the world; mostly curious; onlookers – wanting to see a show, they want to be entertained or to simply see something spectacular;
- Jesus – he gives us the answer in v 29; rd v 29: a lack of prayer; Prayer and Faith go hand in hand.
Ill.: do you remember me sharing the catchy cliché of the preacher who said, “when you can God? You Can God.” As a young preacher, I did that same thing – I came up with a catchy cliché to make my sermon better. I said, “Praise moves the heart of God. Prayer moves the hand of God.”
Man, I was so proud of that! But can I tell you that although that preaches well, and makes the speaker look impressive, bad, faulty theology is bad, faulty theology – no matter how much window dressing you put around it.
Al Mohler taught me this invaluable lesson on prayer and faith: prayer doesn’t change God – nor, get him to align with our will, but rather, prayer changes the individual – prayer changes me – and aligns our will to His. That is nowhere clearer than when one prays to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. The change that takes place is in the repentant sinner.
Conclusion: O’ faithless generation… I don’t want that to be said of me – I don’t want that to be said of us. I want to hear: O’ Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your salvation!
Application: So, what are we to make of this or, what are we to take from this?
- Understanding faith is hard – especially with all of the strange teaching out there. So let me offer a few steps to make it a little easier:
- Follow: Let your faith in Christ lead you to a place where you trust that God is in control. No matter the circumstance. I don’t care who dies, who is elected president, what hurricanes or tornadoes do, if the sun rises tomorrow – God is still sovereign!
- Then, Surrender to His leadership. That may be the hardest part of exercising your faith. Too often my selfish desires get mixed into the equation. But I don’t want to let go of him, her, it, whatever! Don’t let that happen – surrender.
- Pray: Ask Him to do, accomplish, save – whatever it might be – Just ask, let your requests be made known to God. Pray Psalm 20:
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Note: This is a good practice – to align your heart with God’s heart: Weave Scripture into the mosaic of your prayers. And then Rest in the power he has to accomplish anything you can think or even imagine.