Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: The Sin of Unbelief
At that time, Jesus got into a boat, and His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was covered by the waves; but He was asleep. So they came and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us! we are perishing! But He said to them, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the sea, and there came a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, What manner of Man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?
In the Gospel for today we read, that Jesus was traveling in a boat across the lake with His disciples, there were fierce gales from the storm and the waves were breaking into the boat. The boat was filling up and they were going to sink. While the disciples were scared and panicking, Jesus was peaceably asleep. At some point the disciple woke Him up and Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea and there was there was a great calm. They were afraid that they would perish. In the Gospel of Mark it says that they asked Him, "Master, doth it not concern thee that we perish?" And He said to them, "Why are you fearful? have you not faith yet?" (Mark. 4:38-40)
Whenever we look at Jesus rebuking His disciples, we find Him reserving His strongest rebukes for one specific sin and that was the sin of unbelief.
There were certain sins that Jesus hated the most; Hypocrisy, pride, impurity, indifference to human needs, and to the list we can add unbelief. Now unbelief is definitely not considered a sin by anybody in the world. The sad thing is, I think, the majority of those who call themselves Catholic, also do not consider unbelief as a sin. They think of it as a weakness. To say 'I don't have enough faith.' To them is like saying, 'Well, I am to weak to be able to lift a 50 pound box. I just don't have the strength to lift that. Now if it were a weakness, it is not serious. But, it is serious because it is a sin, and Jesus rebuked it as a sin. In fact, it is such a serious sin that in the book of Hebrews we are given a warning: "Take heed, brethren, lest perhaps there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief," (Hebrews 3:12). It is clear that the reference is to believers in Christ, not unbelievers.
How is an unbelieving heart described? It is described as EVIL! Now for an adulteress heart, we can understand, it being called an evil adulteress heart. Jesus spoke about an evil and adulteress generation in Matthew 16. We can understand how a murderer's heart would be called an EVIL murderer's heart. Even a selfish heart, could be said to be an EVIL heart or a proud heart is an EVIL heart. We could also say a hypocritical heart is also an EVIL heart. A heart full of hatred can also be said to be an EVIL heart. But how many people, who have light on all these sins, would also say that an unbelieving heart is an EVIL heart? But that is exactly what it says in Hebrews 3:12. In fact, it can make you fall away from the living God altogether. “Take heed, brethren, lest perhaps there be in any of you an EVIL heart of unbelief, to depart from the living God.”
That is how serious it is. An unbelieving heart can make you depart from the living God. And so, we see this is another sin that we need to take seriously. Seven times Jesus rebuked His disciples for unbelief, including even after His resurrection. He was rebuking them only for unbelief.
Now unbelief is a sin, because it is an insult to God. When God has said something and you don't believe it, it is an insult to God. Supposing you are a student in a college and your father sent you a letter saying, 'Son, I have deposited some money in your bank account for you to pay your fees.' But you say, 'Well, I am not so sure whether dad really has put it in my account. He may be just joking with me.' Don't you think that is an insult to your father? How much more then when God has said something and you don't believe it? Supposing you are one of those people who believe that that there is no book in the world which contains the word of God. They don't believe the Bible is the word of God, and that the Bible is written by certain people who were just expressing their ideas. Such people are not insulting God because they don't have any understanding of what God has said. But you, who are a Catholic, will say on one hand the Bible is the word of God and on the other hand, you don't believe what God has written there. You are the one who has an evil heart of unbelief, that is insulting God by saying, 'God said it, but I don't believe it.'
Do you believe when God says, in Hebrews 13:5-6, "I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee." that He really means it, that he never will fail you, never forsake you? Do you believe when it says in Romans 8:28, that every single thing that happens in your life; every single thing, big or small, God makes it all work together for your good? All the evil other people do to you; God will make it work together for your good. Do you believe that? If you believed it, it would change your whole attitude towards your life. You wouldn't hate that man for doing something evil to you because that evil works for your good. Everything depends on faith in God. If you have faith, you find that you can overcome many other sins.
I John 5:4 says, "this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith."
Understand, that faith and fear are opposite of each other. You cannot have faith and fear living in the same heart. You can only have one of the two. When faith comes in, fear goes out. It is like light. When you put on the light, the darkness goes out of the room. How can you have darkness and light co-existing anywhere? It is impossible. If you switch off the light, then the darkness takes over the room. In the same way, for fear to come in, faith has to go out. Why did the disciples get scared? They thought, 'Hey, we are dying, the boat is sinking now.' You may find yourself in situations where it looks as if you are really going to sink and it looks as if Jesus is asleep. And you wonder, 'Lord don't you care?' It is a question that can often come from the heart of many people. 'Lord don't you care for us? Don't you understand what we are going through?'
I am here today to tell you, that He certainly does.
In the book of Job, we read, "He knoweth my way,” or “He knows the way that I take" (Job 23:10) God knows the way it is with me. He knows every detail of what is happening to me. Do you believe that? Do you believe that all the minute details of the problems you are facing in your life, God knows it?
Jesus was trying to stir up faith in His own disciples when He said several times in Matthew 10, "Don't be afraid...fear not ...fear ye not" He further said, "better are you than many sparrows., and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father [knowing about it]" (Matthew 10:29-31). He also said that your heavenly Father knows the exact number of the hairs on your head.
When you don't trust Him, He is insulted. That is why unbelief is such a terrible sin. When you think that God will harm you instead of caring for you and protecting you, that is an insult to God. Supposing you went to your little 4-year old son's room in the middle of the night, to see if he was sleeping soundly. But he is sitting up in the bed scared and you ask him, 'Son what is wrong with you?' And he replies, 'Daddy, I was afraid that in the middle of the night you would come and kill me or something like that,' how would you feel as a father If your son thinks you will harm him when he is asleep? How does God feel, as a Father, when you think that He will harm you? That He won't protect you?
Unbelief is an insult to God. Faith honors God. The Bible says, "without faith it is impossible to please God." Unbelief is a sin. Jesus came to save us from sin. Let us remember that unbelief in what God says is a sin., and from this sin come many other sins, Go to Jesus with the same desire that the father of the demon possessed son had when he, “crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)