Our Creator Remodels
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 17:17a Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you?”
Jesus spoke to the nine, but the word “generation” expanded the scope of His words. He was referring to the overall condition of His culture at large.
It’s hard to know if His reaction was more a rebuke or a moan. Either way, He was obviously deeply grieved. Their unbelief hurt Him deeply.
Faith, at its deepest level, is trust flowing from our connecting with God. It is oneness, intertwining one’s self with Him. Unbelief entails aimlessly wandering the byways of life alone, but faith is walking on the road with God.
Unbelief is rebellion. The word means twisted or contorted. Sin creates tangled webs, making life complex and painful. When sin is let loose in an individual, family, or nation, life whirls out of control with no easy solutions to stop its downward spiral. Often, sin sinks life into a vortex so devastating that a point is reached where there are no right answers, but only least wrong answers.
Matt. 17:17b “Bring him here to Me.”
Jesus lived in a faithless, ungrateful time but did not reject people. He never stopped ministering. No level of disappointment can thwart His love.
Disciples still fail Jesus. He loves us nonetheless. We are imperfect, but He remains faithful. We must convince people to look past us and see Him.
We Bible believers want to do this for others, and for us. We want to break through all the modern clutter and return to Jesus’ lovely example.
Jesus is worthy of the whole world’s undivided attention. In our text, before a helpless father, helpless son, helpless disciples, helpless generation, helpless nation, He stepped up to help. Sinners were never nuisances to Jesus.
We say we want to be like Jesus. Regarding the claim, ever be examining ourselves. How well do we handle interruptions from needy, helpless people?
Matt. 17:18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and
from that moment the boy was healed.
It is understatement to say this boy’s case was pitiful. He panicked his loved ones, made strangers uneasy or afraid, and was ostracized for being odd. What in the boy could Jesus love? Everything. God’s image was present.
Jesus understood the sacredness of human life at every level. In the womb, childhood, youth, adulthood—Jesus lived every phase Himself and thereby dignified each level. Sickness, senility, not being able to contribute to society at large—Jesus looked beyond all these things and saw the life He Himself had implanted in this boy. God’s life had been breathed into the boy.
With a rebuke, Jesus healed the child, who could now go play with other boys, and act like them. His parents henceforth gave him space to roam on his own—no more fear of being burned or drowned. Our Savior was and is lovable.
Skeptics, totally rejecting any notion of miracles, read stories like this and scoff at them. They say miracles violate the natural order, breaking inviolable laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. But to God, nothing is a miracle. His extraordinary interventions are merely the Creator remodeling His own house.
We all agree, repetitive actions are the fundamental expression of nature, but no human jurisdiction can for sure declare they have to be rigidly adhered to. We can observe laws of nature, but cannot dictate them to stay constant.
We interrupt our slant on the natural order all the time. We take medicine, undergo surgery, or abruptly decide not to cross a risky looking bridge. None of us is a fatalist. We believe the natural order as we see it can be adjusted.
God feels the same about the created order, viewed from His perspective. Also, since the sick can be healed by natural causes, it is not an interruption of creation when the Creator grants an extra surge of the natural in a given case.
Matt. 17:19 Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and said, “Why
couldn’t we drive it out?”
Never hesitate to ask God for things. Requesting in and of itself shows we hope and trust in Him. Also never hesitate to ask the question of our text.
Disappointed believers, take heart. We are not alone. Don’t think for one second the nine were the last religious leaders to ask this question. When the pain of life becomes overwhelming, we instinctively want to cry out, “God, do something.” His power often seems to have deserted us when we need it most.
The question in our text is always profitable to ask. We want to win, to feel we are not helpless before temptations and circumstances, to make progress in both. Spiritual failure is unacceptable. Our self-questioning must never stop.
Every person ought to know all they can about themselves. Spurgeon said, in nothing do people err more grievously than in self-evaluation. Lloyd-Jones said great believers talk to themselves. Ask, if I’m succeeding, why? If not, why? Seek to know answers that explain who we are at our deepest level.
The question in our text is not trivial. The nine are to be commended for asking it. They cared about their failure. Many fail and never ask why. To the nine’s credit, they wanted to know why, in order to do better next time. Do we?
Be cautious here. When is the right time to ask the question in our text? Should we ask it when we see few or no miracles of healing? Maybe, but not necessarily. These are usually situations too subjective to analyze faith by. They are immeasurable because we don’t know for sure in a given situation whether or not it is God’s will for the person to be healed. A mighty prayer of faith for healing is no less potent if God’s answer is no rather than yes.
In many prayer situations, we can have trouble discerning what is success and what is failure. I do believe we should see miracles in the subjective “grey areas” of God’s will. We don’t want to obsess over miracles of this type, but do need to admit we may be seeing too few powerful results to these requests.
To argue “the day of miracles is over” seems invalid. I admit I am not a systematic theologian. Intellectuals give entire careers to investigating these issues. I’m grateful for these scholars. I lean on them, but am not one of them.
I’m a Pastor who wants to help his sheep by feeding them from the Word. I haven’t seen convincing Bible-proof that miracles are to be expected no more.
I fear we have lost our identity. Vance Havner said believers have been subnormal so long that if we ever act normal, the world will think us abnormal.
The painful story of two counters of a large offering at church cuts to the chase. “The church no longer has to say silver and gold have I none,” said one. The other said, “But neither can we say in the name of Jesus rise up and walk.”
We probably need to use less subjective circumstances in deciding when we should definitely ask the question of the text. Maybe we should analyze how we are doing by focusing on situations we know 100% for sure are God’s will.
These give us objective standards to weigh ourselves by. These litmus tests remove our considerations from the subjective and make them objective.
A few examples might help. What do we know for sure is God’s will? We know holiness matters most. Throughout the journey of life we should be sinning less and loving God more. If you can remember a time when you were closer to God than you are right now, the question of our text may be in order.
How well are we doing with temptation? Struggling with a particular sin gives us an objective measuring stick, a sure way of knowing our true self, and should force us to take time to ask why. Don’t quit asking till we find answers.
We know 100% for sure we are to witness to the lost. When over 90% of us never give a verbal witness to a lost person, it’s time to ask the question.
We know we are to do mission and ministry outside our church walls. If an overwhelming majority of us don’t do this, it’s time for many of us to ask.
The nine thought they had adequate faith, but didn’t. We can easily fool ourselves. After Delilah cut his hair, Samson said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” He did not know that the Lord had left him (JG 16:20).
Embarrassing, flat-out failure forces us to admit our faith is coasting on autopilot. Sudden emergency, or failing a test of life, can throw us back on God.
What are we to do? Progress always begins with repentance and confession. We need to acknowledge our lack of power in areas we know for sure are God’s will. We have to pray, “Lord, I need a stronger faith to be holier, to overcome temptation, to witness, to do mission and ministry.”