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January 27, 2021 Faith That Moves Mountains - Pastor Scott Thornton

The following portion of scripture comes from the reading plan that is available and on our webpage at https://www.evnaz.org/resources. On that site we have the following information:


2021 BIBLE READING PLAN

To read through the following it takes only:

Old Testament – approximately 63 verses per day

New Testament – approximately 21 verses per day

Psalms – approximately 6 verses per day


Today's passages: Jan. 27, 2021: Gen 49:13-50:26; Exo 1:1-14; Psa 16:7-11; Mat 17:14-18:14


Below is a portion of the New Testament passage and comments by N.T. Wright from his commentary, "N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides - Collection". I trust you'll enjoy his insights and writings as much as I and so many around the world today. (Make sure you read to the end to see what I have underlined)


Matthew 17:14-21 Faith that Moves Mountains

"When they came near the crowd, a man approached and knelt in front of him.


15 'Master,' he said, ‘take pity on my son! He suffers from awful fits which are frightful for him. He often falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't cure him.'


17 'You unbelieving and twisted generation!’ responded Jesus. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.'


18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him. The boy was cured from that moment.


19 The disciples came to Jesus in private. ‘Why couldn't we cast it out?’ they asked.


20 'Because of your lack of faith,' Jesus replied. ‘I'm telling you the truth: if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. 21 But this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.'"


She was a strong swimmer, and by now she was ready to tackle the challenge of swimming in the sea. A bathing pool is all right to begin with, but it's a bit tame compared with ocean rollers.


For a while it was simply exhilarating. She allowed the giant waves either to carry her off or to break right over her. She adored the feeling of energy as the swell and flow of salt water moved this way and that. She set off from one side of the long, curved bay and swam successfully to the other side, then back again. She could do it! She sat contentedly in the afternoon sunshine, drying off, feeling pleasantly tired, knowing she was up to the challenge of the ocean.


The next day, eager to repeat the experience, she was down on the beach earlier in the day. Again, the waves and the swell were dramatic and exciting. But this time, when she set off for the long haul across the mouth of the bay, she felt strangely tired. She didn't seem to be making so much headway. She was battling with the waves, but now, instead of being friendly monsters, they seemed threatening. She began to be nervous, then frightened, then panicky. She felt her strength ebbing away. Finally, she shouted for help, once, twice, and again. After what seemed like a thousand hours, in which she became thoroughly cold, frightened and exhausted, the lifeguard's boat arrived. Strong, kind hands helped her out of the water. Moments later she was back on the beach, with a mug of hot coffee, wrapped in a towel, recovering.


"What I don't understand", she said, her teeth chattering with the cold and exhaustion, "was why it was so easy yesterday and so impossible today."


"You're not the first person to ask that," said the lifeguard.


"Some days the tides and currents run differently. It looks the same, but there's a huge undertow. One day it's working with you, another day it's against you. That's why you need to be a doubly strong swimmer to come here every day. And actually we get quite cross with people who insist on trying to do it without realizing they're going to need help ..."


Jesus’ disciples must have been just as puzzled. Early on in his public career he had commissioned them to do, in pairs but without his own presence, what he had been doing. They were to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cast out demons ( 10:8) ... and they'd done it. It must have felt easy to them; deceptively easy, as it turned out. At that stage of Jesus’ work, cutting an initial swathe of kingdom-announcement through the Galilean countryside, it must have seemed as though nothing could stop them.


And now, with Jesus gone for a day or two up the mountain, they were faced with a new challenge, and they couldn't do anything with it. When Moses came down the mountain, he found that the people, weary with his absence, had already broken the law by making a golden calf; and he was naturally very angry. The disciples haven't exactly been rebellious in that sort of way, but Jesus is none the less angry. They should by now have had faith! They should have learnt some lessons! A real belief in the real God would have enabled them to deal with this problem as well! After Peter's rebuke, and after looking at their uncomprehending faces when he talked about where his vocation was now taking him, he must have wondered if he was ever going to get the message through to them. Like the swimmer on the second day, they had been faced with a stronger challenge than they had expected, and they hadn't been up to it. Such faith as they possessed had evaporated when they needed it. Maybe they thought they had had the power in themselves; maybe they thought they could do it without bothering God too much.


The severity of the problem is matched by the astonishing promise that Jesus then makes. It looks as though the boy in question was suffering from something like what we'd call epilepsy. There were and are, however, many different conditions that look similar, and the point is that in this case there was more than simply a proneness to fits. It seemed as though the illness was deliberately destructive, so that instead of the sufferer simply going into convulsions, he was being hurled into fire or water.


Whatever the precise diagnosis, Jesus’ comments, after healing the boy, are both encouraging and challenging. If you have faith, he says, even as small as a mustard seed (which, we recall from 13:31-32, is tiny but productive), then nothing will be impossible to you. What he said about the kingdom in the parable in chapter 13 he now says about individual faith.


The secret, of course, is that the size of the faith isn't important; what's important is the God in whom you believe. If you want to see the moon, the size of the window you're looking through isn't important; what matters is that it's facing in the right direction. A tiny slit in the wall will do if the moon is on that side of the house. A huge window facing in the wrong direction will be no good at all. That's what true faith is like. The smallest prayer to the one true God will produce great things; the most elaborate devotions to a ‘god’ of your own making, or indeed someone else's, will be useless, or worse.


Jesus knows from the disciples’ failure that they are still not in tune with the true God who is calling them, as well as him, to obedience and to the way of the cross. In the last verse of the passage (which some of the best Greek manuscripts miss out; that's why some of the English versions don't have it) he challenges them, and us, to a further exercise of faith. Once you are looking at the moon through the right window, maybe you should get out your telescope and study it in more detail. Once you are getting to know the one true God, maybe it's time for some more concentrated prayer, perhaps even with the discipline of fasting to concentrate your mind and heart. If Jesus himself needed these disciplines, who are we to think we can manage without them?


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