Mustard Seeds and Palaces: Matthew 17:20

Many of us have heard the phrase, “with faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains.” It is one of the often-quoted statements made by Jesus discussing faith. The idea is simple, if you simply have a little bit of faith, God can do great things.

But what if there was another way to read it?

From the Mount of Olives it is about 8 miles to the Herodium. The Herodium is essentially a mountain. That mountain had a fortress on top of it. And in the center of that fortress was a palace. And that palace was one of the residences of Herod the great. The architectural work would have been known far and wide because of its scope. There is a smaller hill next to Herodium that was cut in half, the top half was place on top of another hill to make it even larger. Herod the great literally moved mountains to create a massive structure of power and authority.

Now in Matthew 17 the disciples were about 8 miles away near the Mount of Olives. A man approached Jesus and asked him to heal his son. The man had asked the disciples to heal his son but the disciples were unable to. Jesus reprimands the disciples and says that it is because of their little faith. He then says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt. 17:20)

The disciples were Jewish, and the Jews lived under Roman rule, and the roman ruler who was over Judea when Jesus was born was named Herod the Great. He was a great builder, a great conqueror, and a ruthless leader. Herod was the epitome of power in the region. Herod was someone who literally moved mountains. And yet Jesus reminds his disciples that with even a small faith in him, that they can not only move mountains but that nothing is impossible for them. A faith as small as a tiny seed yielded greater potential than the shadow of the oppressors who lived over them.

When the disciples looked at the Herodium they likely saw what someone could do when they led by power, and fear, and violence. What Jesus wanted to show them is with God the power is so much greater.

1.     In what areas of your life have you settled to have small faith?

2.     What is the difference between a small faith and great faith?

What's in your stomach?: Matthew 15:1-20 (Impact 7.12.17)

     One of our goals at impact has always been to do things a bit differently than other church gatherings in our area. That philosophy comes from a statement by Pastor Craig Groschel, “to reach people no one is reaching, you must do things that no one is doing."

It is simple really, if we are different, we will reach different people, people that are not drawn into a typical way of doing church. 

This idea isn’t actually unique to Pastor Groschel. In Matthew 15, Jesus was approached by some Pharisees and teachers. They were in Jerusalem, religious center for people who were followers of God. They accused Jesus of not following the, “traditions of the elders,” (Mt.15.2). Their complaint was simple: your disciples don’t act like disciples always act. We have had these ways of doing things for hundreds of years, what gives you the right to do anything different?

But Jesus was reaching people in a different way.

The “tradition of the elders” they referred to was an oral tradition that originated hundreds of years before Jesus. Rabbis formed numerous rules and rituals stemming from the laws of the Old Testament. The reason they had these was because if they could justify every behavior, they would know if God was pleased or displeased with the. Break a tradition, God would be angry. Keep a tradition, God would reward your faithfulness. Many of these rituals surrounded what a person could or could not eat, and when they ate, how that food should be prepared, and when the food was prepared, how the dishes should be cleaned, and so on. 

Jesus took this opportunity to challenge, how things are done.  After correcting their perspective, he gives them an example, “what goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them but what comes out of their mouth that is what defiles them.” (Mt. 15:11)

He goes on to explain to his disciples that the content of our hearts, where we speak from, is far more important than the content of our stomach. God is more concerned about character than food.

Simple, right?

Or is it?

How often are we more focused on looking religious than actually pursuing God? Is it more important that people think everything is alright, or that we come to confess and turn away from the sin in our life? Is it our faith, or just the appearance of our faith that is more important?

People can only see the exterior. But God knows our heart. Are we more concerned with what others see or what God sees?

Might we be a community of people who are defined by the content of our heart, not the things that we do to look the part. 

 

Your best player: Matthew 14:13-21 (Impact 7.5.12)

Matthew 14:13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

I remember walking into a room of guys I didn’t know well. It was the first time I would ever speak in front of them and, since I usually teach to kids and teenagers, I was a bit intimidated by the fact that these were grown men, many of them older than I was. They were successful, established parents, and many of them brought in both failures and victories well beyond my spectrum of life experience. I walked to the bathroom because it was the only place I could go to simply take a moment, breath,. and collect myself before my message. It was there, looking into the mirror that something hit me that I had not fully grasped before: God wan’t me to succeed.

How do we see God? Is he looking down on us waiting to be called in to rescue us? Is he distant, off doing something else? Is he looking at us on the sidelines cheering us on or is he looking at us on the sidelines waiting to say, “I told you so,” when we fail?

There is a group of people, about 5,000, sitting in a remote place just after a church service. It will be a decent walk with all people, old, young, kids, and since it is getting dark, the walk seems dangerous. The problem is, people are getting hungry. The disciples see the clear answer: send them back. They can’t feed the full 5,000. People have a long journey ahead but they don’t have nearly enough food. They have given people some good religious teaching, but that is all they can offer. Jesus sees another way because he sees God in another way. 

If you followed the NBA in 2017 you know that the Golden State warriors created what is called a “super team”. They have multiple all stars on the court at the same team. Most other teams don’t stand a chance. They only lost 1 playoff game en route to winning the NBA championship. 

What would you think if the warriors started every game with all of their best players on the bench. What if the players sat there as the opposing team built of a lead or 40 or 50 or 60 points. Finally, the Warrior’s coach might put the great players in. They would try to catch up, but they would be digging out of a hole.

“Why would they do that?!?! Put the best players in right away!” you might think.

And that is the point. 

The disciples see the problem, they can’t solve it, they want to send people back. God is the last resort, if he is even a resort at all. 

Jesus sees a problem, knows the disciples can’t solve it, so he gives it to God. God is the first option, not the last. God is the starter, the best player, the one who must be on the court. 

How often is God our secondary plan? How often do we assume hen doesn’t care about solving our problems and since we can’t we assume he wont. How often do we forget that God wants us to succeed?

For the 5000 it was just lunch.

For the disciples it was a reminder that God can and will do things we cannot if we only ask

For Jesus it was another opportunity to show truly how much God cares about us. 

What would our lives looked like if we approached our problems not with the mind set that God might want to help me but the mind set that God wants to help me succeed. 

Questions:

  1. Is there a place you have forgotten that God wants you to succeed and believe its all on you?
  2. What is something you dream of doing but don’t think you could do it on your own. What might a bold prayer to God look like, asking him to turn what you have into something so much greater?

Turn up the volume:Matthew 13:53-58 (Impact 6.28.17)

Matthew 13:53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”57 And they took offense at him.But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Has anyone ever been surprised by a change you made in your life? Maybe is was a new diet or exercise regiment. Perhaps it was a new fashion or style or haircut. Maybe it was deeper conviction  or a change in motivation or morality. 

Just before our particular passage, we know that Jesus has just spent all of Matthew 13 explaining to the crowds what it feels like to truly understand the Kingdom of God. He tells them It is like someone who bought a field for pennies on the dollar because the knew there was 2 million dollars buried right under the surface. Or, it is like seed, when it is planted in good soil that then flourishes and thrives, becoming the best plant it can be in appearance and vegetation. 

Jesus reminds his disciples that when we understand the Kingdom of God, we get that God is transforming all of creation. He is bringing all things, beginning with us, to the best possible way of being. And when people get that, everything else becomes secondary. 

So at the end of Matthew 13 he has an interaction in his hometown where people are surprised at his way of speaking and teaching. They are surprise that this was the same kid who they grew up with. They know his brothers and sisters. He lived down the street. “who is he?” they wonder, “to say things such as this.” And scripture says they took offense to him. They could not accept that the not time carpenter is now someone who is bringing in the Kingdom of God. They see him as kid not kingdom leader, and carpenter, not creator. 

Jesus did not do many things there because of their response. I love this, Jesus didn’t break out into fist fights. He simply continued to bring in the Kingdom of God where people would accept it. the voices of doubt didn’t hinder the voice of what God was doing. 

The truth is, sometimes people are not going to understand fully, if at all, what God is doing in our lives. They don't understand why we have changed, and perhaps they bring up things form our past. They don’t understand how something could be this important to us, and they question our sincerity.

Ultimately what we need to decide to do is choose to hear the voice of what God is doing in our lives over the voices in the world that will convince us otherwise. 

I like to work at Starbucks. People ask how i can focus. The trick is all in the headphones. I put my headphones on and choose to listen to what I want to listen to. I can see what is happening around me, people getting coffee, conversations, people reading books, but I control what I hear. I think that is what it means to be in the world and not of the world. We need to turn up the volume on what God is saying, even as we remain in the world around us. It becomes a lot harder to follow God when his voice gets lost in the other voices we hear. 

God has given us something more valuable that anything else the world has to offer. Lets remember that and turn up the volume as we mute out hearing doubts and opposition. 

Welcome!

Hey parents, students, and everyone else!

We are going to do our best to keep you updated on what we talk about at Impact and Elevate. Following our meetings we will post a quick synopsis of the messages. Hopefully you find this helpful for discussion, or just to simply keep up! We would love your feedback if this is helpful and what else we can do to support you. We may from time to time post useful articles and thoughts that we don't cover in student ministries but that we feel you might find helpful. Don't forget to follow us on Instargam and Twitter and like our pages on Facebook too for all of the updates regarding WCHstudents!

Thanks for checking it out!

-The Student Ministries Team