Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 9:37-45 – Awed By The Sovereignty of God

Grace For The Journey

If you are new to this blog post, I am glad we have got connected.  The purpose of my blog is to study through Books of the Bible.  I have a high view of Scripture and I believe the best way to learn the Bible is to preach or study through it, Book by Book, paragraph by paragraph, and verse by verse.  I believe this approach best honors the Word of God.  Our series of studies is in the Gospel of Luke and is entitled “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  I have titled it that because Luke says in the very beginning that his intention in writing his Gospel is so that we may be certain of the things concerning Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-4).

We left off on Wednesday in chapter 9, having read the wonderful account of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ.  Jesus and three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, are up on the mountain.  Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and Jesus’ appearance is transfigured before them – the disciples saw the light of His glory shining from within.  That happens on the mountain.  It truly was a “mountain top” experience in every way!  Now it is time to come down from the mountain.  And that is where we pick up in verse 37.

 If you are a Christian, then I am sure you take tremendous comfort in what we commonly call “the sovereignty of God.”  The sovereignty of God simply means that God is, in fact, sovereign.  He is ruling and reigning and therefore in absolute control of all things.  God says through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’”  God is bigger than our problems and He is in absolute control of everything. 

When I studied the text this week a song kept playing in my head.  It has been awhile since I have heard it because my girls are grown up now, but when they were small we had these videos we used to watch called “Veggie Tales.”  There is one song sung by Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato called, “God is bigger.”  The chorus goes . . .

God is bigger than the boogie man.
He’s bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on TV.
Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man,
And he’s watching out for you and me.

I also learned that in seminary.  But it is true, right?  God is bigger than the boogie man.   He is bigger than our problems.  And that encourages us because we live in a world of problems.  We live in a world of hurt.

Luke illustrates the reality of this truth in the transition from what has just happened on the top of the mountain, with the splendor and glory of Christ, to what is now happening at the bottom of the mountain and the harsh, cruel reality of it all.  Jesus and the three disciples are at once basking in the glory of God and all His goodness and then, having made their way down the mountain, they are submerged into a world of hurt and a world of problems, a crying man with a son demon-possessed, and the failure of Christ’s followers to do anything about it.

Most of us live at the bottom of the mountain.  Do you know what I mean?  We live in an imperfect world, a fallen world.  Problems are the norm in our world, not the exception.   When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden he fell and thus brought sin into this fallen world.  It is because of sin we live most of our lives at the bottom of the mountain.   Problems are the norm, not the exception.  The exception is the “mountain top” experience.  One of the challenges of living in a country as blessed as ours and doing ministry in a country as blessed as ours is that we may think “mountain top” experiences are the norm.  We enjoy freedom and pleasures and recreation and sports and food and fun.  When something bad happens we cry out, “Why is God doing this to me!”  But we need to remember that problems are the norm, not the exception.  The majority of the world lives in the reality of just trying to find enough food to live for another day, or burying yet another relative who has just died for lack of medical care.  But the reality is that we live in a fallen world and if we enjoy “mountain top” experiences at all, it is only because God in His grace has permitted them.  We should expect problems and then be surprised by the experiences of the mountain top.

Jesus, Peter, James and John make their way down the mountain and immediately encounter a problem.  Verse 37 tells us, “Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.”  Picture a crowd at the foot of the mountain.  They are loud and there is pushing and shoving and even someone running.  And Jesus and the three disciples with Him no doubt see all of this as they make their way down the mountain and get closer to the crowd.  Verse 38 and 39 say, “Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, ‘Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.’” 

Here is the reality of living

In an imperfect world,

A world full of hurt and problems.

We are not surprised by this.  It is the norm, not the exception.  Demon possession was a reality in Jesus’ day, and it remains a reality in our day, especially as witnessed by missionaries in third-world countries.  We do have demon possession in our country, but not to the same degree largely, I think, because Satan gets at us more through our prosperity and love for pleasure.  Why work through demon possession if Satan keeps us from Christ through our money and material things?

Now, while it is not the main point of this text, we have to pause and appreciate the love of a father who brings his son to Jesus.  Here is a dad heart-broken for his son and he cries out to Jesus for help.  Many of you have cried out to Jesus for help for your son or your daughter.  It is the right thing to do.  Never stop bringing your children to Jesus.   Never stop praying for their salvation.  Some of you have been praying for years for your wayward children.  You are clinging to Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” and you are praying that your son or daughter will turn back to the truth.  Keep praying.  J. C. Ryle says, “God’s time of conversion may not be ours” … “But so long as a child lives, and a parent prays, we have no right to despair about that child’s soul.”

The man brings his son to Jesus.  He cries out to Jesus for help.  The man explains that while Jesus was up on the mountain, he had asked for help from Jesus’ disciples.  He says in verse 40, “So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”   The disciples could not cast the demon out of this man’s son.  We picture them each taking turns trying, but failing.  This is what prompts this statement of our Lord Jesus in verse 41, “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’” 

Who is Jesus addressing when He says, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?”  Literally He is saying, “How long shall I put up with you?!”  He is not addressing the father, of course.  The father is doing what he could; he is bringing his son to Jesus.  He is not faithless.  He believes Jesus is going to take care of this situation.  Jesus could hardly have the crowd in mind.  They were not talking with Him, they were just watching everything. 

I picture Jesus shaking His head at the disciples as He then asks the man to bring his son to Him.  Verse 42 says, “And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.”  Why were the disciples unable to cast out the unclean spirit?   After all, Jesus had given them this authority.  Look back to the first verse of chapter 9 and verse 1 where the Bible says, “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.”

The answer lies in the rebuke of Jesus.  In verse 41, Jesus calls the disciples “faithless,” literally, “unbelieving,” or “untrusting.”  These disciples had replaced their trust in God with a trust in something else, whether it was a trust in their ability, or a trust in the process, or a trust in themselves.  It was a recurring problem.  Jesus had asked them as far back as after He had calmed the sea and He asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).

They had replaced their faith and trust in God with something else.  This happens as a result of our sin nature, which helps us understand the other word Jesus uses to describe the faithless disciples.  He says they are also “perverse,” a word meaning “warped,”” crooked,” or “twisted.”  In a word: “sinful.”  It is because of their sin that the disciples stop trusting in God and start trusting in something else.  It is because of their sin that the disciples stop trusting in God and become powerless.

 Right there we see an implication from this text.  It goes like this . . .

 I. Trust In God To Live In His Power.

This incident teaches us about the peril of unbelief.  Do you really believe that God is in control of your problems?  Do you really believe that this sovereign God who rules and reigns over everything knows what He is doing in your life?  Do you?  Do you believe that God is bigger than your problems?  Or might you hear the rebuke of the Lord Jesus who says to you, “O faithless one!  O man or woman with that twisted sin nature that leads you away from total trust in Me!”  Trust in God to live in His power.

It is trust in God that gives you power to live when all else is against you.  It is trust in God that gives you power to live when you are not sure how the next bill will be paid.  It is trust in God that gives you power to live when you receive the terrible diagnosis.  Trust in God and live in His power when the marriage is on the rocks.  He will get you through it.  Trust God and live in His power when you face that challenge at work.  He’ll get you through it.  Trust God and live in His power when you’re having trouble at school.  He will get you through it.

Most of us feel like we’re on the mountain top on Sunday, but Monday is coming!  I’m telling you to move from the Sunday of the mountain top to the Monday of the valley by trusting in God.  In the words of the hymn-writer . . .

Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely.
He sees and knows all the way you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.

Trust in God to live in His power.

Now we might think that that would be the end of the text, but it is not.  Luke keeps going and makes a connection with the incident here with what Jesus says next.  Verse 43 says, “And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, ‘Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.’” 

Everyone is amazed at what they had just seen: Jesus casts the demon out of this boy and heals him and everyone is praising God and jumping up and down and high-fiving one another and then Jesus turns to His disciples and makes this rather puzzling statement in verse 44, “Let these words sink down into your ears.”  Literally, “You set into your ears these words.”  What words?  Jesus says, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

 Again, we see that the impending death of the Lord Jesus Christ is part of a divine plan.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death to save all who would believe in Him is part of God’s sovereign plan.  Moses and Elijah were talking about it on the mountain top.  The Bible says in verse 31 that they, “spoke of His decease (His exodus) which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

The death of Christ was not an accident.  Jesus tells His disciples that it is going to happen.  The Son of Man is going to be turned over to the hands of men.  He is going to die and, as Jesus said earlier (Luke 9:22), He will rise the third day.  And in making the connection to Jesus’ casting out the demon that the disciples were unable to cast out because of their lack of faith and trust in God, it is as though Jesus is saying, “You think you have got problems trusting Me and believing Me in this smaller problem of trying to cast out a demon, you’ve got bigger problems ahead.  You’ve got problems ahead trusting Me and believing Me with the problem of my crucifixion and death.  So set into your ears these words: I am going to die.” 

Verse 45 tells us, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”  Why did they not understand what Jesus had said?  They would understand it later.  They would understand it after the resurrection, but why not now?  The answer is the same as before, without the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and teaching us the truth in God’s Word they simply could not believe that this would be so.

The idea of a suffering and dying Christ, Messiah, was more than they could bear.  Peter does not even get it in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he cuts off the ear of the soldier to keep him from taking Jesus away to the cross.  How in the world could a dying Messiah be in harmony with the sovereign purposes of God?  How could God be in control of that?!

And they were afraid to reveal their ignorance.  They could have asked Jesus about it, but they didn’t.  It says in the latter part of verse 45, “and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying,” probably for the same reason we were afraid to raise our hand in school when we did not understand something!  We think, “I do not understand that pi equals 3.14 and I have no idea how it will help me balance my checkbook, but I am not raising my hand.  That teacher is going to think I am an idiot!”  But Jesus does not treat us that way.  He is a great teacher.  He wants us to understand and has the ability to lead us to understand (James 1:5).

But the disciples are afraid to ask Him about the saying so they live in ignorance and fear.  They cannot reconcile the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah with the sovereign purposes of God, they cannot imagine how God could possibly be in control of that, so they live in fear without peace.  Here is the second of two implications that surface from this event.  Trust God to live in His power and . . .

II. Trust In God To Live In His Peace.

There are many things we will not understand, but God tells us to believe in Him.  Trust in Him.  You want peace in life?  Stop trying so hard to figure everything out.  There is much we will never understand this side of heaven.  We will understand it later.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

  • I cannot explain why you suffered that tragedy.  But God is in control and one day you will see how your tragedy fit within God’s perfect purposes.
  • I cannot explain why you lost your job, but God is in control and one day you will see how your job loss fit within God’s perfect plan.
  • I cannot explain why you suffered such pain and rejection, but God is in control and one day you will see how your pain and rejection fit within God’s perfect purposes.

And Jesus would say, “You may not understand why I am going to die, but one day you will see how My death fits within God’s perfect purposes.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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