After completing their pilgrimage of at least eight-days in Jerusalem, Jesus took his disciples and returned to Galilee. What occurs next is recorded in Matthew and Mark, and actually takes place after they reached Galilee (Luke 9:44-45; Matthew 17:22-23). Except for the minor setback with the little boy, the apostles were on a spiritual high! They were very enthusiastic and in awe over the events that transpired during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus had put down all of his enemies, and it seemed that no one would dare come against him! Nevertheless, Jesus arrived back in Galilee just like he left, in secret (Mark 9:30; cf. John 7:10).
The apostles were missing the overall thrust of what was happening all around them. The enemies of Christ deal in the outer elements of life, but Christ’s message of the Kingdom is for the inner man. If God does not rule in the inner man, he will never rule the outer man. Therefore, he taught them along the way that he would be turned over to his enemies and he would be slain (Luke 9:44-45; Mark 9:30-31).
After returning to Galilee, and while he was in “the house” at Capernaum (Mark 9:28), the disciples asked why they could not cast out the demon in the young child (Luke 9:40). Jesus told them again that it was because of their unbelief (Matthew 17:19-20; cf. Luke 9:41). Having the authority to cast out demons is not enough. We must believe God will back up the authority we are given. For example, a policeman has the authority to lay hands on a man committing a crime and put him in jail. Imagine how this same policeman would react to a criminal, if he didn’t believe his authority would be backed up by the courts. Would he risk his life to apprehend the man? Likewise, if a man cannot tell with confidence what the will of God is, how can he be effective? What the man of God needs to do is spend time with God in prayer and fellowship (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29). Then he will know God’s will (cf. Romans 12:1-2).
The Kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21), but the Apostles were looking at the victory Jesus gained in the outer realm. The hearts of the scribes and Pharisees remained untouched, so when these enemies of Christ would later lash out against him, Jesus would react in the inner man but not specifically in the outer realm. If the inner realm is to be proved stronger than the outer, the outer must be permitted to take its course unhindered. Then the inner realm could deliver the deathblow and bring the outer life into submission to the Kingdom of God in every man who casts his lot with Christ. Therefore, the Twelve needed to be told to let it sink down deep into their hearts that Jesus would die (Luke 9:44).
Jesus would, indeed, be betrayed and handed over to the Romans to be crucified. However, the disciples of Jesus were unable to believe what could not fit into the traditional doctrine that they had adopted from the scribes (Luke 9:43-45; cf. Mark 9:9-11). Therefore, since the disciples already believed erroneously about Messiah, they were unable to fit what Jesus was telling them into that framework. Yet, they were warned by Jesus to be careful what they hear (Mark 4:24), because what they listened to would increase more and more until it was fully embraced. They were also told to be careful how they hear (Luke 8:18), because the importance one gives a matter will affect what we believe about it. This is why the believer must approach the word of God as a little child (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:15), knowing nothing and ready to believe everything.
Jesus performed two great miracles during this time period, healing the man born blind (John 9) and healing the young boy born dumb and lunatic (Luke 9:42). The apostles mistakenly thought this carried weight in the outer realm, believing that Jesus would be held in high regard. The believer is called to good works (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10), but he must never presume this is what brings men to Christ. Unregenerate man may come to have a relationship with Jesus through good works, but it is not what any of us do in the outer realm that has power to take hold of the inner man. Rather, it is God who draws us to Christ (John 6:44). It is not what we say nor is it the good that we do that draws people to Jesus. Certainly, people will see our good works, and they may even conclude we are sincere, but it is only God that can touch the heart to a point of commitment and bring that man to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Confidence in methods is fleshy and not of the Spirit. Rather, it is faith that God will draw people to Christ through our ministry. I was once very disturbed over what was said during an outreach ministry by an otherwise holy man. If memory serves, the method used was successful in a larger church, and they wrote about it. Several of us were to remain at the church building, praying. Others went out into the nearby community two by two. They were told: “Knock on **x** number of doors, and **y** number of people will respond favorably!” That is nothing more than what we call the law of statistics. If God operated this way, why remain behind praying? Why pray at all? What need have we of the Spirit to move men’s hearts, if men respond to God according to what men refer to as the law of statistics? We must pray always for God to work in and through us anew each day, because prayer does make a difference. It is faith not ‘statistics’ that moves mountains.