Sermon title:  HELP ME OVERCOME MY UNBELIEF!  Luke 9:27-42    

            

                Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, September 9, 2018

 

 

 

As we continue to go through the Gospels

in the order that events occurred

in the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus,

we can’t help but notice one thing:

 

Even those who stood in Jesus’ presence,

and saw his miracles,

were troubled by a lack of faith. 

 

So, we who read about these things two thousand years later,

and who don’t see Jesus in the flesh—

we, too, can be expected to struggle with faith. 

 

If you struggle with your faith,

don’t be ashamed,

and don’t condemn yourself.

Everyone has that same struggle.

 

Jesus knows that we need more faith,

and he is more than happy to answer our prayer,

when we call out to him,

and ask him to give us more faith.

 

Our Lord knows our struggle with faith,

and so he had examples recorded in the Bible

to encourage us

by showing us that we are not alone in that struggle.

 

Luke 17:5 tells us that the Apostles asked Jesus

to give them more faith.

 

And in the episode we’re looking at this morning,

Mark 9:24 tells us that the man

who brought his son for healing

said to Jesus,

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

 

========================

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke all report on

these next events in Jesus’ ministry.

 

But critics of the Bible often point to Matthew’s account,

where Jesus says in Matthew 16:28,

 

“I  tell you the truth,

some who are standing here

will not taste death

before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

 

And that’s the end of Chapter 16.

 

So, critics say Jesus’ words were not true.

 

They say, “All of those who were standing there died,

and the Son of Man still has not come in his kingdom.

So, the Bible is false.”

 

But these critics fail to notice

that the very next verse—Matthew 17, Verse 1—

introduces the transfiguration,

where three of the disciples

who were ‘standing there’

did see a vision of Jesus in his Kingdom.

 

And they saw it just a few days later—

long before they ‘tasted death.’

 

In fact, all 3 Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—

all show Jesus’ words

about ‘some of those standing there’

are followed immediately by the transfiguration

in the very next verse.

 

So, that’s what Jesus was talking about:

He was not saying that some of his disciples would survive

until the return of Christ,

but rather that some of those standing there

would see Christ transfigured

in Kingdom power and glory.

---------------------------------

So, let’s look at Luke, Chapter 9, to see that account

of the transfiguration,

as we read it in our Responsive Reading

this morning.

 

It begins in Luke 9:27, where Jesus says,

 

27 I tell you the truth,

some who are standing here

will not taste death

before they see the kingdom of God."

 

28 About eight days after Jesus said this,

he took Peter, John and James with him

and went up onto a mountain to pray.

 

29 As he was praying,

the appearance of his face changed,

and his clothes became as bright

as a flash of lightning.

 

30 Two men, Moses and Elijah,

31 appeared in glorious splendor,

talking with Jesus.

 

They spoke about his departure,

which he was about to bring to fulfillment

at Jerusalem.

 

32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy,

but when they became fully awake,

they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

 

So, Peter, James and John saw this vision

of Christ as if he had already come in his Kingdom.

 

His appearance was transfigured, or changed.

 

Matthew says, “His face shone like the sun.”

 

And Luke says here that

his clothes became as bright

as a flash of lightning.

 

The men speaking with Jesus in the vision

were Moses and Elijah—

Old Testament prophets

who had died centuries earlier.

 

Moses and Elijah were alive,

and they were talking with Jesus

about “his departure,

which he was about to bring to fulfillment

at Jerusalem.”

 

They were discussing Jesus’ coming crucifixion

and departure from this earth.

 

So, seeing Moses and Elijah alive, “in glorious splendor,”

talking with Jesus,

also shows that this was a vision

of Christ in his Kingdom.

 

Those critics were wrong.

Jesus’ words DID come true.

 

When he said,

some who are standing here

will not taste death

before they see the kingdom of God."

he was talking about

this vision of the Kingdom

where Peter, James and John got to see the Kingdom.

 

So, we shouldn’t allow such critics

to undermine our belief.

 

When we struggle with faith

our struggle may be caused, in part,

by critics who attack the Bible’s credibility.

 

If we hear such criticism—

like the claim that Jesus’ words here

failed to come true—

and if we don’t seek out the truth of the matter,

like we did this morning,

that criticism can eat away at our faith.

 

It can linger in the back of our minds

like gnawing doubts.

 

If you have such gnawing doubts,

it’s best to pray for God’s answer,

and then bring them up after church

or at a Bible study

or in a private conversation

with someone who knows the Bible

and can answer your question.

 

Here we saw that Jesus’ words that critics reject

were actually fulfilled

in the very next verse.

============================

 

Some other false teachers misuse Jesus’ words

just before the transfiguration

to teach a false doctrine called “preterism.”

 

That is the teaching

that all Bible prophecies

have already been fulfilled in the past

and that the Bible has nothing to say

about the days that lie ahead of us.

 

Preterists claim Jesus’ words meant

his Second Coming occurred back in the First Century,

so there is no future return of Christ

to look forward to—

that Jesus is not coming again.

 

But this, too, ignores the context.

 

Jesus was talking about his transfiguration

not about his actual Second Coming.

 

He was not saying that the Apostles standing there would see

his Second Coming

 before they died.

 

Jesus was talking about ‘those standing there’

seeing his transfiguration.

 

=====================

 

Now, returning to the account in Luke 9:33,

we read,

33 As the men were leaving Jesus,

Peter said to him,

"Master, it is good for us to be here.

Let us put up three shelters—

one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

(He did not know what he was saying.)

 

34 While he was speaking,

a cloud appeared and enveloped them,

and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

 

35 A voice came from the cloud, saying,

"This is my Son, whom I have chosen;

listen to him."

 

36 When the voice had spoken,

they found that Jesus was alone.

 

The disciples kept this to themselves,

and told no one at that time what they had seen.

 

This was one of the rare occasions in the Bible

when God the Father spoke directly from heaven.

 

And Peter, James and John

had the precious privilege of hearing those words.

 

God the Father personally affirmed

who Jesus was.

 

And that was the end of the transfiguration vision.

 

==========================================

 

Now I’d like to switch to Mark Chapter 9,

where the parallel account of these same events

occurs in Mark’s Gospel.

 

Mark gives us a little more detail than Matthew and Luke

on what happens next.

 

We find it at Mark 9, beginning with Verse 14:

 

14 When they came to the other disciples,

they saw a large crowd around them

and the teachers of the law arguing with them.

 

15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus,

they were overwhelmed with wonder

and ran to greet him.

 

16 "What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.

 

Now, notice that the disciples hesitated

to answer Jesus question.

I think they were embarrassed.

 

So, when the disciples didn’t answer,

we read,

 

17 A man in the crowd answered,

"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."

 

That must be why the disciples didn’t answer

when Jesus asked them

what was going on.

They had failed to help this boy.

 

19 "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied,

"how long shall I stay with you?

How long shall I put up with you?

Bring the boy to me."

 

20 So they brought him.

 

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.

 

21 Jesus asked the boy's father,

"How long has he been like this?"

 

22"From childhood," he answered.

"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."

 

23" 'If you can'?" said Jesus.

"Everything is possible for him who believes."

 

24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed,

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

 

This is where the man admitted

that he needed more faith.

He said,

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

 

Jesus didn’t scold him for this.

And he doesn’t scold us

when we ask him for help

to overcome our unbelief.

 

Just by turning to Jesus in prayer,

we show that we—like that man—we “do believe.”

 

And we can pray to Him,

“Lord Jesus,help me overcome my unbelief!"

 

He will do that.

He will help you overcome your unbelief.

 

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd

was running to the scene,

he rebuked the evil spirit.

 

"You deaf and mute spirit," he said,

"I command you, come out of him

and never enter him again."

 

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently

and came out.

 

The boy looked so much like a corpse

that many said, "He's dead."

 

27 But Jesus took him by the hand

and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

 

So, Jesus healed that man’s son

despite the man’s admission

that he needed more faith—

he needed help

to overcome his unbelief.

 

That miraculous healing

was the evidence and proof he needed

to help him believe.

 

But Jesus still had to work with his disciples

to help them grow in faith.

 

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."

 

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were,

31 because he was teaching his disciples.

 

So, Jesus wanted his disciples

to spend time with him privately, alone,

without any crowds around.

 

And he wants us to do the same.

 

If your only time with Jesus

is here at church

in the midst of a congregation of people,

you’ll never get very far

in growing your faith.

 

Like the disciples,

you need to spend time with Jesus alone,

in a more private setting.

 

If you’re a husband or parent,

spend time with your family

praying together—perhaps at meals and at bedtime.

Spend time reading

and discussing the Scriptures together.

 

And take time to be with Jesus alone,

praying and prayerfully reading the Bible,

so you can listen to his voice through the Scriptures.

 

Jesus spent more than three years

teaching the disciples.

 

And he had to keep telling them

the same things over and over again,

because they just didn’t get it.

 

He said to them,

"The Son of Man is going to be betrayed

into the hands of men.

They will kill him,

and after three days he will rise."

 

32 But they did not understand what he meant

and were afraid to ask him about it.

 

We are like that, too.

 

We hear Jesus’ words, but we don’t get it.

 

So, we have to keep praying, and keep listening.

====================

 

I’d like to switch back to Matthew Chapter 17 now

to look at a brief episode

that happened next in Jesus’ ministry—

an event only Matthew tells us about.

 

It’s just a few verses, beginning at Matthew 17:24.

 

24 After Jesus and his disciples

arrived in Capernaum,

the collectors of the two-drachma tax

came to Peter and asked,

"Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"

 

25 "Yes, he does," he replied.

 

Peter was always quick to speak—

sometimes too quick.

 

And, in this case, he answered the tax collectors for Jesus

without checking with Jesus.

 

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 sons or from others?"

 

26 "From others," Peter answered.

 

27 "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him.

 

So, Jesus was really exempt from this tax.

It was a Temple tax,

collected for support of God’s temple in Jerusalem.

 

As the Son of God,

Jesus was really exempt from paying that tax.

 

But, he let Peter’s answer stand.

 

And, while the tax collectors were waiting

at the door of this house by the lake,

Jesus told Peter

 

"But so that we may not offend them,

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."

 

Even though Peter said the wrong thing to the tax collectors,

and even though Jesus really did not owe this tax,

he was willing to work with Peter on it.

And he was willing to do what the tax collectors expected.

 

So, these incidents all show us

that Jesus is willing to work with us

even when we need help with our unbelief

like that father of the troubled boy.

 

Jesus is willing to work with us

even when we are like his disciples

and lack faith

and even when we hear his words

and don’t get it.

 

Jesus is willing to work with us

even when we give the wrong answer

like Peter did with the tax collectors.

 

But the whole key to it

is to keep praying

and to keep listening to the word of God.

 

Eventually we will get it.

 

And eventually our faith

will be as strong as

the Apostles’ faith

grew to be

when they took the Gospel

to the whole world.

 

We need to keep saying to Him,

 

“Lord Jesus, I do believe;

help me overcome my unbelief!"