Matthew 17:14-27

Gospel Readings:

Matthew 17:14-21
Matthew 17:22-23
Matthew 17:24-27

Devotion 1

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, allowing space for God’s voice to be heard.

Read: Matthew 17:14-21

This episode shows the disciples’ powerlessness to bring transformation because of their faltering allegiance to the reign of God. A boy is brought to Jesus by his father suffering what some translations name as “epilepsy”. It’s unlikely, though, that our modern understanding of epilepsy is what Matthew was meaning.1 It is more likely that Matthew understood the boy’s condition as demon possession which, we might be reminded, could be said to be a manifestation of the effects of domination and subjugation: “Demons are powers that grab control of people and render them helpless. In that sense they are a perfect symbol for the empire.”2

Perhaps then, we might see that in Jesus’ exasperated words, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” he is not only castigating the disciples’ for their lack of faith, but lamenting the current power arrangements. Calling those subject to Roman rule “faithless” and “perverse” is an ironic statement, as the greatest requirement of the empire from its subjects was “faith”—that is, loyalty expressed through compliance to their rule.3 Jesus here turns the tables: transformation will come not through compliance to the empire but through loyalty to the reign of God.

In discussing this episode, Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb says,

“The most dangerous thing for the oppressed and occupied is that at some point they lose faith in themselves, in their ability to change the status quo. Faith is the key to dismantling the empire… Faith is nothing less than developing the bold vision of a new reality and mobilizing the needed resources to make it happen.”4

For if Jesus’ disciples, or those displaced, struggling and battered members of Matthew’s community, have faith in God only the size of a mustard seed, then nothing, not even moving the mountain of imperial power, would be impossible.

Reflect:

  • Who or what do you think Jesus was addressing with the words, “You faithless and perverse generation”?
  • Are there challenges in your life or your world which seem to you like an immovable mountain?
  • In what ways in God’s Spirit inviting you to live out this story?

Pray

Share Communion 

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

 1. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 660.

 2. Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes, (Maryknoll, Orbis, 2014), 100.

3. Additionally, “perverted” (diestrammenē) was a term used to deride those not faithful to the empire (cf. Lk 23:2).

 4. Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire, 101-102.

Devotion 2

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, aware of God’s presence in a broken world.

Read: Matthew 17:22-24

As he had begun to do in the imperial city of Caesarea Philippi, here now in Galilee Jesus speaks to his disciples about his death: “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” Here, it seems, the disciples “get it”. Their “grief” shows that they can now see that there is no other way that things can go—The course that Jesus is taking will inevitably end in death at the hands of those whose power he is challenging.

And for the second time, the disciples cannot hear the end of the story—that “on the third day he will be raised.” In their grief at Jesus’ dreadfully impending elimination, it seems they cannot hear that life may come after.

Reflect:

  • Can you relate to the disciples’ grief at hearing Jesus speak of his death? Are there ways in which you have experienced impending loss or fear?
  • Are there ways in which you have experienced life coming from death, or loss, or fear?
  • Are there ways in which the experience of Jesus and the disciples approaching Jesus’ death might help us face times of challenge?

Pray for one another.

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

Devotion 3

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of repentance together, aware of our inadequacy and God’s grace.

Read: Matthew 17:24-27

Reflect:

  • How do you think Matthew’s community might have heard this story?
  • Where do you see acts like Jesus’ in this story in the world around you?
  • How is God’s Spirit inviting you to live out this story?

Pray. for one another

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

Devotion 4

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of gratitude together, giving thanks for the ways you’ve experienced God’s loving kindness.

This week’s Common Value: Incarnational Presence

Read: Isaiah 9:1-7

Ask: In what ways have you experienced God’s presence this week?

Pray

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer