I asked last week in the intro post if you might be blinded by your assumptions about God. Sometimes we can get stuck in spiritual rut, and in that rut we can’t see God for who he really is.
In the passage we studied this past Sunday, Luke 9:37-45, the disciples were stuck. The nine disciples who did not go up the mountain stayed behind and were unable to cast out what seems to be a powerful demon. Then after Jesus easily deals with the demon, he tells the disciples more about his coming troubles.
Jesus tells them about his coming betrayal. A change is taking place. We’re going to see it more fully starting next week. For three weeks in a row now, though, Jesus has mentioned something about his coming suffering. In Luke 9, he referred to it verse 22, in verse 31 and now in verse 44.
But the disciples do not understand. Its meaning was hidden from them, Luke tells us.
But why was this hidden from them? Is Jesus hiding something from them? No, he just told them three times. It is not so much that something is being hidden from them, as Jesus has been very forthright with them, but more that the understanding of the information, the meaning of the information is hidden from them by their own preconceived notions of what the Messiah should be. They are stuck in a rut, blinded by their assumptions about him.
They saw him as a superman, with untold power, and put him on a pedestal. Everything he was doing was fitting with their preconceived notion, so I don’t blame them.
As the Jimmy Kimmel trick showed us in the intro post last week, we could say that the disciples thought they were looking at an iPhone6s, when Jesus is saying “no your views are actually the old iPhone”.
They were thinking bigger and better, when Jesus was about to lead them toward smaller and harder. Our society is enthralled with bigger and better. The way of Jesus is often smaller and harder. We don’t like to hear that. The disciples would not have liked to hear that.
Maybe they had an inkling of something wrong, a premonition, because Luke tells us that they are afraid to ask.
I have to admit, it would be confusing to be the disciples. They have just totally failed at casting out a demon, but Jesus defeats the demon with ease. That would be embarrassing. Then Jesus has just said “unbelieving and perverse generation” to them. That would be hard to take. And yet he is still the same powerful Jesus, and everyone is amazed. If things keep going like this, the crowds should keep growing, and Jesus can eventually take the throne as Messiah.
But, no, he has some other plans. To grasp those other plans, they needed to check their assumptions at the door. They needed to have their preconceived notions changed. They needed to pray what the demon-possessed boy’s father said to Jesus “I believe, but help me in my unbelief.” The disciples thought they had Jesus figured out. They assumed he was going to be a Messiah who would conquer Rome and return their land to the glory of Kings David and Solomon. Jesus certainly demonstrated the power to do it. They felt their beliefs about Jesus were right on. And he is saying, “You’re wrong. You’re stuck in rut. You need to change what you believe.”
And that is where we need to examine our faith in Jesus.
We need to say prayerfully on a regular basis, “I believe, but help me in my unbelief…even when your plans might not be my plans.”
In this episode, I think it is important to see a correlation between the inability and lack of faith of the 9 disciples who could not exorcise the demons, and us! Those nine had seen the power of God evident so often in the life and ministry of Jesus, but why could they not access this power now?
We, too, know the power of God. We read about it in the Bible. We experience it in our lives. We know God is the one true power, and his power is limitless, but how often do we feel disconnected from this power?
Jesus says that those disciples were unbelieving, lacking faith, disconnected from the power of God. The demon they were up against, he says in Mark’s account of the story, “comes out by prayer and fasting.” To access the power of God, to get out of their rut, they needed to practice prayer and fasting.
As do we.
They go together. Fasting enhances prayer. Fasting without prayer might be a good self-sacrificial discipline in and of itself, but it can enliven prayer.
I encourage you to look at those two areas of your life. Prayer and fasting. Are you stuck in a rut of seeing God one way? Are you stuck in a rut in your spiritual life?
Will you increase your prayer and add fasting?
And, are you willing to do this – knowing that His plans might be different from your plans. His plans are better – but, might not seem to line up with what we are expecting always.