At one point of Jesus’ ministry, he found that his own disciples had acted without faith. They had attempted to heal a young man and failed (Matthew 17:14-20). Even though they had previously been given authority to do so (Matthew 10:8), Jesus expressed his grief in their failure by crying out, “O faithless and twisted generation.” Imagine being likened to the morally twisted unbelief of those who were rejecting the Messiah. When disciples act in a way that ignores Christ, they end up looking and sounding just like other unbelievers. When Jesus cries out in grief at the sight of faithlessness, it shows us how serious faithlessness, in whatever form, is.
This is not the only times we have heard these words in the Scriptures. In the same way that Jesus describes the generation before him, God had once before described Israel in the time of Moses. Even though God had brought Israel out of Egypt and sustained them through the wilderness, they did not believe that God would fight for them to bring them into his promised land. Deuteronomy 1:32, Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God. Because of their unbelief and wicked ways, a whole generation would not reach the promised land. Vs. 35 'Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers. Later in Deuteronomy this statement is echoed as Moses looks at the people before him and the word of God is pronounced. Deuteronomy 32:20-21 And he said, 'I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
It would seem very clear that God takes faithless living very seriously and these verses show us what faithless living is. It is putting faith in something other than God. It is idolatry. We see various examples of this faithless living in Israel. Sometimes as God’s chastises them, they turn back to God in repentance, but other times we see them act so callously that they spiral in their idolatry. Eventually our long-suffering God gives Israel over to the other nations. The prophets continually warned that if they continued in their faithlessness and wickedness that they would be handed over and given into the hands of their enemies. Ezekiel 23:28 "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust.”
What is most amazing to me is that when Jesus sees the faithless and twisted generation of his day, the judgment immediately expressed is not about this generation being handed over into the hands of its enemies, but that Jesus would be delivered into the hands of men. Matthew 17:22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”
God makes it clear to Israel that faithlessness and wickedness will be handed over for judgment. I do not believe that it is simply coincidental that immediately after hearing Jesus describe the generation before him as faithless and wicked, that he talks about himself being handed over for judgment. This is nothing other than absolute hope. Our wickedness and unbelief must be judged and will be judged, but Jesus shows that he has come to be delivered over on our behalf. He takes the judgment for us and our idolatry and wickedness are placed upon him and God has poured his righteous anger out upon his Son who has paid our price in full. The amazing twist in this is that the men to whom Jesus is handed over in facing judgment for us are the leaders of Israel.
When the disciples recognized the faithlessness in their life, in that moment and in hearing those words they didn’t realize the immense hope that Jesus was actually giving them. Matthew tells us that in hearing these words they were “distressed.” Later they would all know that anyone who puts their trust in Jesus would not be handed over for judgment but would trust in the One who came under judgment for us. Anyone not willing to abandon their faith in this world and trust in Christ will await the day that they are handed over for all eternity with the remainder of the faithless and wicked generation. The answer to the world’s faithlessness, and ours, is always the cross. The place where Jesus was handed over to men to come under the judgment of God for our sin. This is the only hope for a faithless and twisted generation.