Sermon: Struggling and Prayerless (Luke 9:37-45)

Luke 9.37-45 click for audio

Struggling and Prayerless

Introduction-

As we pick up Luke’s narrative for today we see that the transfiguration event has taken place and Jesus and His three disciples are descending the mountain.  Once they arrive at the bottom, the crowd is standing there waiting.

In our lives, we can be like the three apostles and have those mountain top experiences but sooner or later, we have to come back to reality.  Someday, we’ll live there but for now, we’ll need to be content with those moments up on the mountain and they will keep us going while we live in this fallen world.  For Jesus, His mission was at the bottom where the crowd stood waiting.

We’re told of two events going on simultaneously: the first is the transfiguration from the last two weeks.  The second is the event depicted here today.  While Jesus was on the mountain, the disciples were below failing miserably.  While heaven was happening on top the mountain, hell was below.

While Jesus was gone a man came for help.  He brought his only son to be cured of the evil spirit that had taken him over.  Sadly, the disciples were ineffective.  They were helpless in removing the spirit from the boy.  Why were they powerless in this situation?  I think as we answer the question concerning the disciples, we might get the reason why we are often powerless to overcome Satan and sin in our lives.

Please hear the Word of God…

Lk 9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Lk 9:38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.

Lk 9:39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.

Lk 9:40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

Lk 9:41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

Lk 9:42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Lk 9:43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples,

Lk 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Lk 9:45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

1. A Hopeless Situation (9:37-39)

Lk 9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Lk 9:38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.

Lk 9:39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.

The man’s situation is hopeless.  He has tried everything and the evil spirit still has control over his child.

If we pick up the story from Mark’s Gospel, we get some additional information.  While Jesus was descending the mountain there was an argument between His disciples and the Pharisees about whithertoos and the whyfores of demon exorcism.  It seems that probably the Pharisees had had a go of it themselves.  They have been known to try their hand at removing demons from individuals.  The argument was about technique and style and why neither was successful.

It was in the midst of this hopeless situation that the anxious father looks up and sees Jesus walking toward him.  He grabs his son and goes in the direction of Jesus.

It’s in this hopeless story we see exactly what a parent should do that is concerned about a child.

Notice what this father in distress does and says…first, he takes his child to the Master.  Why does he do this?  Why not let the disciples try again?  He takes the child to Jesus because he knows and believes Jesus has the power to heal his son and Jesus is a merciful and willing Savior.

I really like what the Bishop J C Ryle says about these verses…

There are many Christian fathers and mothers at this day who are just as miserable about their children as the man of whom we are reading.  The son who was once the desire of their eyes, and in whom their lives were bound up turns out a spendthrift, a profligate, and a companion of sinners.  The daughter who was once the flower of the family, and of whom they say, this same shall be the comfort in our old age, becomes self-willed, worldly-minded, and a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.  Their hearts are well nigh broken.  The iron seems to enter into their souls.  The devil appears to triumph over them, and rob them of their choicest jewels.  They are ready to cry, I shall go to the grave sorrowing.  What good shall my life be to me?

Now what should a father and mother do in a case like this?  They should do as the man before us did.  They should go to Jesus in prayer, and cry to Him about their child.  They should spread before the merciful Savior the tale of their sorrows, and entreat Him to help them.  Great is the power of prayer and intersession!  The child of many prayers shall seldom be cast away.  God’s time of conversion may not be our’s.  He may think fit to prove our faith by keeping us long waiting.  But so long as a child lives, and a parent prays, we have no right to despair about that child’s soul.

So this desperate father takes his child to the Savior and leaves the disciples and the Pharisees arguing.  Our world can seem very loud and crazy and distracting when we are trying to sort things out…leave it behind and seek out the Savior.  That’s exactly what the father does, he leaves the mess of the world behind and turns all his attention to Christ.

Notice what he says to Jesus… Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.

He calls Jesus Teacher or Master or Lord.  All three mean the same.  This shows the man understands sovereignty and authority.  At this moment, it seems this man understands more about who Jesus is than even His own disciples, but he’s not quite the role model we initially want to make him out to be.

He then begs Jesus to look at my son.  Literally, look upon my son with mercy and compassion.  Then, in the same sentence, he tells Jesus that this is his only son.  It’s in this son that the family line will continue or cease to exist.  All his hope lies in this son.

Jesus loves children and He has shown that already as He raised the widow’s only son and as He raised Jairus’ only daughter.

2. A Helpless Situation (9:40)

Lk 9:40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

There is something strange here in the helpless situation.  What is strange is that the disciples could not exorcise this demon.  It’s strange in light of a previous verse…

Lk 9:1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,    

Why were the disciples powerless to exorcise this demon?  Jesus will give us the answer from our text in Luke.  But before we turn there, let’s spend a minute in Mark’s account.

Mk 9:29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” 

Jesus tells His disciples that all the effort in the world by you and the Pharisees would have no impact whatsoever.  Their failure wasn’t because of a lack of effort.  Their failure wasn’t because of technique.  It wasn’t because the advice they received.  Their failure was because they didn’t believe that they needed God’s power to succeed.  The scene was one of frantic attempts and struggles to heal the boy.  They were trying to do what only God can do.

The scene reminds me of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus when Moses goes up onto the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.  While Moses is speaking with God, the Israelites are down below fashioning a golden calf to worship.  In their case Moses had been gone some weeks and they reverted back to their old pagan ways.

Here, Jesus had only been gone a day or two and already the disciples had forgotten most of what He taught them.

They were attempting, by human effort, to remove a foe that is much more powerful than they were.  When Jesus gave them authority to cast out demons, it wasn’t in their power but in God’s power.  Why did they forget to pray?

3. A Faithless Generation (9:41-45)

Lk 9:41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?    

Their lack of prayer was typical of their lack of faith.  In other words, if they would have believed Jesus’ words, they would not have forgotten to pray but they would have prayed first.  Before making any attempt at healing this boy, they should have sought out the Lord in prayer and relied on His power to heal, not their own power or their techniques.  Many times in this world we attempt what only God can do in our own power and then wonder why we fail.  We’ve even gotten upset with God because we failed.  We forget to rely on Him for strength but very quickly turn to Him with blame.

Our Lord calls everyone present that day, faithless.

The crowd was faithless because they were more interested in a miracle (magic) than anything else, and the Pharisees were faithless because they were gloating over the failure of the disciples, and the father was faithless because he didn’t really believe.

Mk 9:22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But [p] if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Mk 9:23 And Jesus said to him, [p] “‘If you can’! [q] All things are possible for one who believes.”

The disciples were called faithless because they didn’t believe Jesus’ words.  No one present had faith; they were truly a faithless and twisted generation, except one.  The demon knew what was getting ready to happen.

Lk 9:42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

This phrase is Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 32:5.  Here, Moses uses the phrase a faithless and twisted generation referring to the sinful Israelites.  In context, Moses is rebuking them in their covenant obligations as God’s people.  He basically says, Yahweh has treated you well and loved and cared for you and you respond in sin and disobedience.  He has kept His part of the covenant but you never keep yours.  Your are twisted, literally bent and unable to do what’s right.

Jesus says the same thing to everyone present including His disciples.

Jesus basically is saying, I have done everything for you.  I’ve healed, preached, saved, loved, taught, you and you still refuse to believe much of anything I say.  Basically that was their main problem, they didn’t believe.

After this event, again the crowd was astonished but their astonishment was not enough to produce lasting faith.  They were fickle.  They believed for a day or while Jesus was doing His thing but let Him leave and all was forgotten.

We aren’t much different.  Jesus has left us and is preparing us a place.  We are to remain faithful while He’s gone.  Are we living by faith?  Are we relying on the power of God everyday?  Or are we working very hard attempting things in our own power?  Do we confront life’s trials by prayer or by our best efforts?

Jesus is grieved when His people lack faith.  He was grieved then and He is grieved today when we lack faith.  They had no faith and no spiritual perception.

Lk 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Lk 9:45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

Pay close attention what I’m about to say.  Think it through.  Let it roll around in your mind.  Stop thinking about your glory in some imagined Davidic Kingdom and understand, I’m about to be killed.

Because of their lack of faith, Luke writes that the meaning was concealed.  This is at least the second time Jesus has tried to explain that His is going to die at the hands of sinful men.

The disciples were so obsessed with fame and power in the new Davidic kingdom that they thought Jesus was inaugurating that they could not understand what He was talking about.  He was predicting His death to pay for the sins of His people and they were thinking of a million other things and never understood.

It’s important for us to gain an understanding of just how important prayer is in the lives of Christians.  The amount we pray is directly proportional to our faith.  If we operate in the realm of unbelief we will attempt everything in our own power.  If we live in the realm of faith we will be people of prayer.

My prayer for Grace Church is that we are people who believe so strongly in the power of God that we’ll begin praying first, not after we’ve tried everything else first.  I pray that we believe so strongly in the words and promises of Christ that we understand our best strategy in this word is to seek out Christ first.

 

 

  

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