Little Faith Little Ministry

Matthew 17:14-27

Jerry A Collins




²                 What does it mean to have little faith?

²                 What is the capacity of little faith?

²                 Is it ever right to offend someone why or why not?


Many of us would be pleased if God’s leadership in our lives would eliminate the need to walk by faith. But without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6) says. Faith is commitment without knowing whether the object of your faith will meet your expectations. God does not want you to know. He wants you to walk by faith. What you know does not require faith. For instance, you do not know that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Bible is the Word of God, and that there is a heaven and a hell. If you knew these things, you would not need to walk by faith. You may know them in the sense that you have read Scripture and know that the Bible asserts these truths as well as know them in the sense that you are firmly convinced they are true. Do you seek to please God by insisting that you know what God does not want you to know or by freely confessing that in such matters you walk by faith? The disciples are going to be instructed once again about the necessity of walking and serving God by faith—a  lesson God is much more interested in us learning than we are. The story of a lunatic being healed is the backdrop to this lesson on faith.

Setting: Jesus and his inner circle return to the rest of the disciples and a crowd waiting for Him gathers together. A man comes up to Jesus, falls on his knees and begs Jesus. What he begs for and why he begs for it is recorded in vs 15-16.

What he begs for 15 That Jesus would have mercy on his son. He is demanding that Jesus take up his son’s case—begging for it. Have you ever been desperate enough to beg God for mercy? This reminds me of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican or tax-collector. The tax-gatherer beating his breast was saying ‘God be merciful to me the sinner’ Lk 18:13. There he wanted it for himself and here the father wants it for his son. But both requests are legitimate because their desperation took them to God. God is a God of the desperate. Christianity is a religion of rescue, designed for the desperate. His son’s case is desperate (1) He is a lunatic. Literally he is moonstruck—mentally deranged or possibly epileptic. (2) This condition has made him very ill placing the son in physical danger often falling into fire and water. These are all conditions associated with demon-possession as vs 18 attributes. Mark adds in 9:18-20 the boy’s foaming at the mouth.

Why he begs for mercy 16 The man said He brought his son to Jesus’ disciples while Jesus was up on the Mount but the disciples could not heal him. So he asks Jesus to do what His disciples could not. This now serves as the basis for instruction about faith. Jesus used real life situations to convey truth.

What Jesus says and does 17-18 Jesus response heightens the issue of faith by calling the disciples an unbelieving or faithless and a perverted or distorted, twisted in two generation. He seems to be upset with the disciples because of this. So Jesus tells them to bring the boy to Him and at Jesus command He casts out the demon vs 18. The boy is healed immediately. God places a high premium upon faith. Here the father has greater faith than the disciples. He has no problem believing that Jesus can heal His son. Apparently the disciples did. And they had much more information and demonstration of God’s power. Your problem and mine is believing God’s Word even though we study it know more of it today than yesterday.

The disciples question and Jesus response 19-21 The disciples have a private session with Jesus—possibly motivated in light of the rebuke He had given them in public vs 19. Jesus answer because of the littleness of your faith. This is a problem they have had all along 6:30; 8:26; 14:31. On two occasions Jesus contrasted the disciples little faith with the Great Faith of the Roman Centurion 8:10 and the Canaanite woman 15:28—Gentiles not Jews. Their little faith seems to be the disease of the disciple—trusting God for some things some of the time. Or a wavering partial decision to only believe Christ to some extent some of the time. Even a small amount of faith—as small as a  mustard seed—is adequate to move a huge mountain if that is God’s will. Nothing would be impossible.


Don’t waver or stagger in unbelief when faith in God is required. The validity of your faith is not in it’s quantity but in the object of your faith—the Person of Jesus Christ. The closer you are to the Lord the less you need the miraculous. Our greatest problem will be little faith. Setting: There are two incidents that follow. First, is instruction Jesus gives concerning His death 22-23. In Galilee, before traveling that final time to Jerusalem, (1) Jesus will be handed over to the authority. (2) They will kill Him. (3) He will be raised the third day. Jesus death never took Him by surprise. He is in control of even the very timing of it and we know that noone took His life but He gave it Jn 10:11, 15, 17-18. Unlike before, 16:21-23, this announcement was not met with opposition from the disciples. Instead, these words caused them pain. They became distressed at this reminder vs 23. That means they must have fixated on only part of the message—His death and ignored the other—His resurrection. This, too, will require faith on the part of the disciples. God is relentless about His sons and daughters living by faith. It can be distressing to do so but required nonetheless. So teach your disciples of the necessity to take God’s Word by faith. Adopting God’s way of thinking—here in the case of Jesus’ death—will always provoke our own. Faith is putting God’s thinking to work in my life.

Second, is instruction concerning taxes vss 24-27. Now in Capernaum tax collectors approach Peter about Christ paying a temple tax. This was a government approved tax that the Romans allowed the Jewish leaders to collect for the operation of the Jerusalem Temple. It was originally instituted in the wilderness journey Ex 30:11-16 for the Tabernacle. It was for every male over 20yrs and with the Temple built, the tax continued—very similar to taxes today, never revoked but perpetuated. Jesus uses this situation to teach  a lesson.

What do you think vs 25-26 In response to Jesus question Peter’s answer indicated that both Peter and Jesus did not legally owe any tax—consequently the sons are exempt. Kings do not collect taxes from family members and Jesus as King is exempt since it is His Temple in the first place and so His disciples are exempt.

Give no offense 27 However they would pay it anyway in order to not offend the tax collectors. That the religious leadership was offended did not bother Jesus 13:57; 15:12 but offending sinners did.


Contrast Nicodemas with the woman at the well too. Following Christ will inevitably lead to offending people who already think they have figured God out. You offend them when their paradigms and prejudices are exposed as false. People without understanding still can learn, grow, and change.