Red Letter Year: 5/1

Matthew 17:14-27

14 They came to the crowd and a man came up to him, knelt and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into fire or into water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they did not have the power to heal him.”

17 Jesus answered, “What an unbelieving and misguided generation. How long am I going to be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, it came out of him, and the boy was healed right then.

19 Then the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?”

20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. I am telling you the truth, if you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

22 They gathered in Galilee and Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be handed over to the people. 23 They will kill him and he will be raised on the third day.” And the disciples were very upset.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-coin tax came to Peter and asked him, “Does your teacher not pay the two-coin tax?”

25 He said, “Yes.” As he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first: “What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, who do they take tolls and taxes from? From their sons or from others?”

26 When he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 But, so as not to offend them, go to the sea, cast a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth and you will find a four-coin piece. Take and give that to them for me and you.”


We have all heard revivalists and faith healers pass off blame for a lack of healing on the sick person for not having enough faith. Some pastors go so far as to do little else besides drumming up positive thinking among people, all in an effort to raise a person’s faith to a level that will overcome their hardships. But this is not quite what Jesus says here and the difference is important. He does cite a lack of faith, not on the part of the boy or even his dad, but a lack of faith among his own disciples, the ones trying to cast out the demon. When was the last time you heard a pastor or speaker take the blame for a lack of healing: “Sorry folks, I just don’t have it tonight. My faith is down.” I don’t think that happens very often. But that is the clear implication here. The dad says in v.16 they did not have the power – the word there comes from dunamis (where we get dynamic, dynamo) and is also used for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. That power comes to the one who believes in the Spirit’s power, the one who trusts that God will really do things like heal people and deliver them from demons. It’s not up to the sick or demonized person to believe, it’s up to those who would bring in the kingdom of God in power. Thankfully, God often gives us little exercises to grow us in faith and trust. They often involve something we are proficient at (Peter was a fisherman) used in a new way that reveals the “random” miraculous power of God. Be ready for those moments. Take the risk they bring and see what happens. Pretty soon you will be moving mountains.

Red Letter Year: 4/25

Matthew 15:21-39

21 Jesus left there and went away into the area of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from there came out shouting and begging, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is badly demonized.”

23 But he did not answer her, not a word. His disciples came and urged him, “Tell her to go away. She keeps shouting at us.”

24 Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 He answered, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs will eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith. As you wish.” Her daughter was healed that same hour.

29 Leaving there, Jesus went around by the Sea of Galilee, went up a mountain, and sat down there. 30 Many groups came and brought with them people who were lame, blind, maimed, mute, and many others. They laid them at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them. 31 The crowd was amazed seeing the mute speaking, the maimed healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd. They have stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, they may faint along the way.”

33 The disciples said to him, “Where would we get enough bread out here in the middle of nowhere to satisfy such a huge crowd?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

35 Jesus told the crowd to relax on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, who gave to the crowd.

37 They all ate and were filled, and they picked up seven large baskets of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men were fed that day, plus women and children. 39 Then Jesus dismissed the crowd, got into a boat, and went to the region of Magadan.


We have a lot of funny ideas about what the word “faith” means. Sometimes we think it relates to a set of ideas, doctrines, beliefs – certain statements that we can choose to agree are true. Making such a choice is having faith in this sense. Other times we think it relates to some quality in us whereby we acquire the things we need or want in life. Faith healers and television preachers often encourage people to have “more faith,” to work up enough psychological moxie to gain the upper hand in life’s struggles.

Neither of these have anything to do with what is going on in this passage. This Canaanite woman (amazing that some survived the ancient genocide) does not have a set of beliefs or care anything for such. She is not interested in positive thinking or talk herself into a miracle. She has a daughter who is being tormented by evil spiritual forces. The only thing she knows is that she is in over her head and that this guy Jesus can – and will – help. She begs in a loud voice and keeps on shouting her plea. The disciples quickly grow tired of her expression of faith and make their own plea to Jesus – get rid of her. Jesus plays along and says the awful things his disciples are thinking, but the woman is used to racial slurs and is undaunted. She knows Jesus can help. Even a crumb from him will be enough. She has no pride. No shame. No pretension. Just a desperate case and a guy named Jesus. This is what Jesus calls great faith.