Thesis:All legitimate "faith" begins with the answer to the "Who?" question.
Introduction:We have made the argument many times that "faith" absolutely requires a divinely given content in terms of a verbal commitment from God to him/her who is to "believe". This is simply non-negotiable. If God has not said anything that addresses a given situation, there is nothing to "believe" in that situation. In this regard, however, it is not that God has not addressed all of our situations with words of commitment; it is either that we do not know what He has said, or that we do not intend to allow what He has said to alter what we intend to do. Thus, "unbelief" is either a matter of ignorance or rebellion, not a matter of divine silence. As "believers" we can deal with these two problems: we can be diligent in growing in the knowledge of God and His revelation (Colossians 1:10); and we can humble ourselves under the hand of God so that rebellion dissipates (1 Peter 5:6).
The greater difficulty with "unbelief" is the identification of the commitments of God as opposed to faux "promises" that only "look like" they come from Him. Obviously, if "faith" requires divinely given content, it must also require a way to tell what is divine and what is deceit.
This greater difficulty is the focus of our consideration of Luke's record of Jesus' activity in Luke8:22-25 this morning.
I. Luke's "Focus" and Our "Problem".
A. There is little doubt that Luke's focus in this text is upon Jesus' question, "Where is your faith?", and its corollary found in the disciples' question, "Who, then, is this?".
1. The two are so interrelated that the one demands the other.
a. "Faith" requires a knowledge of the "Who?".
b. Ignorance of the "Who?" automatically leads to unbelief.
2. Luke's focus upon "unbelief" is intentional within the larger context where the disciples are being prepped for taking responsibility for the ministry: clearly "unbelief" won't "do" for that task.
B. The disciples' "problem" and our problem.
1. The disciples' problem was their lack of a grasp of what is for us a fundamental truth of the Gospel: the identity of Jesus as the Incarnate God.
a. Their problem was not that they did not know what Jesus had said: Let us go to the other side.
b. Their problem was that they did not know Who Jesus is as the Speaker of those words.
2. Our problem is the inverse: we know that Jesus is the Incarnate God, but we think that we do not have the specific "let us go to the other side" words by which to guide our own "faith".
II. The "Problem" in Our Generation.
A. Because of the pervasive ignorance of the meaning and implications of the words that we at least give lip service to "believing" are from God (the words of Holy Scripture), we often attempt to short circuit the problems of decision making by coming up with "words" from God that are extra-biblical.
B. In our predicament, we find that there are a host of "helpers" who are more than willing to give us a "word from God".
1. If we are "religious" our "helpers" often claim to be "apostles and prophets" or, at least, people who "have God's ear" on things.
2. If we are not so "religious" our "helpers" typically claim an impressive resume of education and/or experiences that are supposed to make them spokesmen for God for us.
III. Facing the Problem With Biblical Revelation.
A. The text before us tells us why the disciples had their "problem" with the identity of Jesus at this point in their experience.
1. They had already been exposed to enough evidence that any unprejudiced thinker would have automatically deduced that Jesus was "God in the flesh".
a. John's introduction of Jesus involved identifying Him as "The Mighty One" (3:16).
b. Luke's record of Jesus' "over the top" phenomenal acts of "might" only lead in one direction.
2. The problem was that they were not "unprejudiced thinkers".
a. On the more general side of things, "God in the flesh" was pretty much outside the boundaries even for Jews whose history with God was greater than any other peoples on the planet.
b. On the more specific side of things, the disciples had two very basic "blocks" to being believing.
1) The text tells us that they had a dominating "fear" problem.
a) On the one hand, they were afraid they were going to perish.
b) On the other hand, they were afraid they were being exposed to Someone to whom they did not wish to be that "close".
c) These "fears" were simply the expression of the presence of entrenched false values and beliefs.
2) The text tells us that they had a dominating pattern of thoughtlessness.
a) There is nothing inherently wrong with "marveling" or "wondering" as the natural reaction to an "out of my categories" kind of thought (it is no sin to not know what to do with "stuff" that is beyond the categories of thought that have developed within us over time).
b) But the disciples' reaction was clearly not caused by a lack of experiences: the text tells us that their "fears" were driving their thoughtlessness.
B. The text tells us that because the disciples did not know the answer to the identity question, they could not take His "words" as a controlling divine utterance in which His people are to "believe".
1. The issue for these disciples was this: until Jesus became for them a legitimate courier of words from God, they were not going to be "believing".
2. The issue for us is this: until we come to grips with the way God gives His "words", we are not going to be "believing".
a. The established words of God are the words of God for us.
1) There is no indication in the established words that other words are going to be given until the coming of Elijah.
2) There is no process for validating "other words" as to their source.
b. There are a host of promises in the established words of benefit to those who make those established words the focus of their attention and no promises of any benefit for those who are willing to listen to unestablished words.
c. There is no indication in the established words that we are to be looking for guidance outside of the established words.
d. By the ministry of the Spirit, prayer, and thoughtful consideration of God's words, the people of God know what to do.
1) The issue here, however, is not "the big picture" (which God has not revealed to His people); it is "the little picture" (the words of God guide us through the details of life so that His Life takes care of itself).
2) It is the Spirit's desire and task to show us how the words of God apply to our present circumstances.
A. Getting Jesus down as the Revelation of God is the first step and Luke knew how difficult that is.
B. But, having that down, we must understand that Jesus' "revelation of God" is an established "revelation" (God does not expect us to fearlessly face life without "sure" words, nor does He expect us to "make up the words").