Matthew 17:14-27 Part 2

I read an intense and potent article the other day, and it has really penetrated my thought during the last couple of weeks – especially with regard to the text this morning.

It seems that a Church member was vigorously questioning the pastor concerning his responsibilities in chastening and teaching Church members who were lax in their Christian duties.

And this particular pastor, like so many (it seems) today, defended his inaction with regard to this matter.  He responded to the barrage of questions by pointing out to this Church member that there were certain “boundaries” beyond which he would not go; and that chastening his membership might be considered brutal and abusive!  In other words, he didn’t want to be accused of “religion abuse” or “pastoral brutality”!  The consequences being, of course, that these certain members would be left in their corrupt activities and impieties without being faced with what God says.

Well, the one who was questioning this pastor was quick to point out that the greatest abuse of pastoral responsibility – and the most abhorrent brutality – is to permit and indulge perversions of the truth among members of the body!  A good Biblical example of that is the lamb which has gotten off on its own and is about to be ripped apart by wild beasts:  And in the act of gross brutality the shepherd runs, or turns his face, and permits it to happen!

Another good Biblical example is the watchman on the wall who cares so little that he leaves his watch, or falls asleep; and, with no alarm sounded, the city is ravaged, the men killed, the women abused and the children impaled on swords.

This pastor who was being questioned did not wish to sound the trumpet of the Voice of Christ as an alarm; he didn’t want to face the rush of the wilderness beasts as they attacked.  And the pastoral abuse that occurred wasn’t due to his confronting the members with sin – it was due to the fact that he didn’t confront them; he left them in it without the Truth!  That’s brutal!  And not only that, but it was confirmation that the ungodliness was okay!  And that’s a perversion of God’s Truth!

And let me say, before we come to the text this morning and before the connection between this introduction and the text becomes clear, that this same responsibility that is the duty of Church leaders is also incumbent upon heads of households and upon government officials!  All of those who are in authority are commanded to submit and obey God.  And they are also responsible for those who are under their watch care!  And if they pervert the Truth (either by word, or by deed, or by negligence) then they are held to a higher standard of judgment!

And that’s exactly the situation as we enter the text for this morning.  The leadership of Israel has led the entire nation into faithlessness and perversion.  And as a result the whole people were under the covenantal judgment of God.  The people – in and around Israel – were so ravaged and blinded and corrupted and demon-possessed that the race was under the ban (except for the remnant of the house of Israel).

Soon the King of Glory would “come-in-the-clouds-of-heaven” and begin the slaughter – because the watchmen didn’t sound the trumpet alarm; the shepherds were actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, so not only did they not protect the sheep, but they were those who ravaged them!

Now, last Lord’s Day we were able to see some of the results of the leadership of the alien shepherds of Israel.  A boy, moonstruck and demon-possessed, was brought to Jesus just as our Lord was coming down from the “High Mountain”.  And everything that happened on that Mountain – the “transformation” of Jesus to the “form” of glory, the appearance of Moses and Elijah – all of it had to do with the coming “Day of the Lord” in which the “old” Israel would be judged and terminated and a “New Heavens and a New Earth” would be created.

And having reviewed the Biblical data concerning the moon and the imagery it presents in the whole picture of eschatology, there should be no doubt that the nation of Israel is fast reaching the “fullness” of its sin at the leadership of the elders, priests and scribes.  They, as “lesser lights” were to reflect the glorious Light of God to the people and the surrounding nations.  But the “light” that they shone upon the people was darkness and death.  It was perverted!

As we’ve seen on a number of occasions, by Word and by deed Jesus had passed judgment on this whole people; and He has laid down blistering verbal condemnations of the “blind guides” of Israel (the heat of His anger is especially seen in chapter twenty-three, as the whole chapter is taken up in the pronouncement of “woes” against them).

But as we come to the text again where Jesus has cast out a demon (in or around the city of Paneus), it would be worthwhile to review, very quickly, the nature of Christ’s “mighty deeds” among the people.  While His healings reflect great compassion for the sad state of the people, that’s not the primary focus of His miracles.  The fact of their lameness and dumbness and deafness and blindness and leprosy-covered and blood-caked bodies and their demon-possession and idolatry was an indictment, in and of itself, on the nation’s leaders; and Jesus’ reversals of the death and darkness which permeated the entire race were events of litigation in God’s law-suit against them!  They were damning accusations and convictions of their guilt!  And, at the same time, His healings were representations of the (soon to come) re-creation of Heaven and Earth!

Jesus was the Son of God, the Logos of God, without Whom nothing was made that was made.  By the Word of His Power the heavens and the earth were brought into being.  But death reigned through Adam, and He destroyed the earth and made it all new!  And He created a covenant people which He called “heaven and earth”.  But even these rebelled against Him.  So a New Covenant was cut between God the Father and God the Son for the salvation of the world by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And by His sacrificial, substitutionary atonement, behold! all things are made new!  An eternal New Heavens and New Earth are created in which Christ is the Light thereof!  And the “lesser” lights who ravaged the people with blindness and sickness and death would be destroyed.

The healings of Jesus, and the rebuking of the demons in the Gentile areas across the sea and in Paneus, were all indications of what would shortly come to pass when He went into Jerusalem and put Himself in the hands of the elders and priest and scribes – to suffer many things under them and to be killed, and on the third day to be raised.  He was soon to re-create Heaven and Earth.

As we begin to look at verse sixteen, Jesus has come down from the “High Mountain” and is met with the man who has the “moonstruck” boy, and who says that Jesus’ disciples were not able to heal him.  And Jesus answers with these words:


“O generation faithless and having been perverted, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I endure you?...”


A faithless and perverted generation….

How long had Jesus been with them?  Nearly three years.  How long would He endure them?  Not much longer.  Rhetorical questions.  Obvious answers.  For three years Jesus had been demonstrating the coming judgment as God’s Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.  But He came in the darkness and the people knew Him not.  From Moses to Malachi the nation had been warned by the prophets.  And Jesus came as the fullness of the Law and the prophets, and they knew Him not.  And He would endure their faithlessness and perversion not much longer.

Listen to Mark in chapter thirteen:


“False anointed ones and false prophets shall rise and shall show signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.  But take heed; lo, I have foretold you all things!  But in those days, after the tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.  And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven….  So when you see all these things come to pass, know that it is near – even at the doors.  Truly I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, til all these things be done!”


“This generation.”

What of that generation?  Listen to Jesus as recorded by Mark in chapter eight:


“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”


“This generation” is adulterous and sinful.

Matthew records Jesus’ words in chapter thirteen:


“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall be no sign given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah….  The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it….”


“This generation” shall be judged by a Gentile city/state because it is evil and adulterous.

Luke records the words of the apostle Peter in the sermon at Pentecost – Acts chapter two:


“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’”


“This generation” is crooked (perverted).

And, then, listen to Paul as he writes to a Church that was plagued by Judaizers – Philippians chapter two:


“Do all things without murmurings and disputings, in order that you may be blameless and harmless, children of God faultless in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine as luminaries in the world!”


This generation is crooked and perverted.

And our Lord was very specific with His language here in the text, verse seventeen, where He says, “O generation, faithless and perverted….”  Where did that language come from, being used so frequently in the New Testament – by Jesus and Peter and Paul?  Many of the Old Testament prophets decried the perverted justice that the poor and the weak received at the hands of Israel’s kings and leaders, but only one used this specific language that Jesus has used here in verse seventeen.

Listen to it.  This is the song of Moses.  After four chapters detailing the blessings of obedience to God’s covenant and the curse of disobedience, Moses then writes a song about what is to happen in the Messianic age to come.  First he writes in the first person – as God speaks; then he drops down into the second person to write of God; then he moves back to the first person to prophesy with the word of God:


“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of My mouth.  My doctrine shall drop as the rain, My speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass; because I will proclaim the name of the Lord….  He is the Rock, His work perfect; for all His ways are judgment; and God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.

“He is not corrupt; they are blemished sons, a crooked and perverse generation….

“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you – your elders, and they will tell you.  When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.  For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.  He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.  (He sheltered him as an eagle over her young) so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.  He made him ride on the high places of the earth that he might eat the increase of the fields; and He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flint rock.

“But (Israel) waxed fat, and kicked… then he forsook God Who made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.  They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods… whom your fathers did not fear.  You are unmindful of the Rock Who begat you and have forgotten God Who formed you.  And when the Lord saw, He abhorred it, because of the provoking (provocation) of His sons and His daughters.

“And He said, ‘I will hide My face from them; I will see what their end is; for they are a very perverse generation, children of whom is no faith!”


Then the song goes on to describe God’s retribution to be exacted upon Israel – His arrows drunk with blood and His sword devouring their flesh, for their grapes are grapes of gall and their vine the vine of Sodom.

So, in our text the Lord Jesus is confirming that this is the Messianic age, and He is the Messiah, promised by God in Deuteronomy chapter thirty-two!  The language is specific and to the point that this generation was the one spoken of by Moses.  This is the faithless and perverted generation from whom God has hidden His gracious countenance.  As Jesus said, all these things will happen to this generation!

Jesus had been with them for nearly three years, stating that the Kingdom was at hand.  He and His disciples had searched Israel for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and the Pharisees had been warned of their hypocrisy repeatedly.  Time after time the Son of God had shaken heaven and earth and prophesied their destruction and performed mighty deeds in their very presence.

Yet when Jesus would later be brought before the Roman procurator, He was accused of being the one who was perverting the people – which was the accusation that was brought against Elijah and against John the Baptist!  God had truly turned His face away from this people – this generation – and there was no light in them.

And it was owing to this faithless and perverted generation that they were demon-possessed and would not be healed.  And Jesus’ own disciples were included in this reprimand (verse seventeen of our text), for they, themselves, did not yet faith in Him and His Kingdom; they were still holding on to the personal rule of the Messiah in Jerusalem!  But Jesus does not use the same word for them that He used for the faithless generation.  Israel was “apistos” – faithless.  But the disciples were oligopistos – scant of faith!  They believed Him, and they loved Him, and they followed Him – but they did not yet “know” Him; and they would not until His Spirit opened their eyes and made new creations of them by the blood of His sacrificial death and resurrection!

In verse nineteen it is the Word of Jesus Christ which cast out the demon.  Let me say very quickly that there are religious sects all over (and always have been, I guess) filled with people who are in a controlled panic about not having a strong enough faith to perform the mighty deeds mentioned here in this passage (casting out demons, healing, moving mountains, etc.); even to the point that in some cases, fake miracles are set up in order to “prime the pump” and get people’s faith to be stronger!  Some others have moderated that position somewhat and have limited their activities to “spiritual” things rather than mountains and sick bodies; but the basic idea remains the same – that, somehow, they must “generate within themselves” a stronger faith!  It’s much like learning to concentrate harder!  The more mental force behind it, the more likely wonderful things will happen!

Next Lord’s Day we’re going to spend all of our time on this issue of faith – the faith of a grain of mustard that will remove the mountain, as you see in verse twenty.  Needless to say, the usual interpretation of this verse is a misappropriation of Jesus’ words and a misuse of the truth!  Men cannot generate a “higher plane” of miraculous capability (eastern mysticism) by concentrating on “believing” harder!

It was the voice of Christ the King – Logos Incarnate – Who exorcised the demon in this pagan land.  And it is still the Voice of Jesus Christ which heals the nations and sends the demons into the deep.  By His Spirit – through His Word, He opens blind eyes so that men might see and become new creations in Him.  It was necessary that He go into Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders and priests and scribes, and to be killed, and on the third day to be raised.  And that He go to the Father in order that this Spirit might be sent to open the eyes of us Gentiles.

The resurrected Jesus Christ destroyed the nation of God’s chosen people and ripped the veil which separated us from the holy of holies so that we Gentiles could go into the Temple of God and worship Him!  He was sacrificed and rose up from death so that a people who knew not Abraham and a people who knew not Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, and a people who knew not David or his Greater Son Jesus could be cleansed of their depravity and have their demons exorcised and become members of His very body!  He received the stroke of God’s wrath in order to move the mountain of God’s house from here – to there, so that you, as an unwashed and unclean people, might have light and life!

That’s the Truth of the Gospel of God.  And that’s the truth in which you must live, and breathe and have your very being.  Jesus suffered the most horrible abuse and brutality that we Gentiles might have life!  But our government leaders, our Church leaders and heads of households will not speak the truth to those for whom they are responsible.  And the nation is sick; and the Churches are sick; and the family is sick! – tortured and blinded by perversion!  It’s brutal!  And it’s religion abuse!  I think it would be good for all of us to imagine ourselves in court on the Day of Judgment – being accused of religion abuse because we turned away and refused to speak the Gospel Truth to those around us.

Next Lord’s Day – Faith that moved a mountain from here – to there!`