And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:14-21 ESV)
In today’s passage Jesus, Peter, James, and John have come down from the mountain where the three disciples witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. The other nine disciples had apparently been left behind and while the four were gone, a man had brought his son, who was suffering greatly from seizures, to the nine but they could not heal him.
The man approached Jesus and knelt before Him, pleading with Jesus to have mercy on His son. The Greek language here is very strong. Not only was the boy suffering but his father was suffering too. It broke his heart that his son was in constant danger. So the man turns to Jesus. This was a wise thing to do. When we have problems that are too much for us and that overwhelm us we need to bring them to Jesus rather than relying on human beings.
Jesus, of course, heals the boy in an instant by rebuking the demon that was possessing the boy. No problem is too big for Jesus. No problem is too small. He cares enough about us to help us with the mundane problems we face and He’s powerful enough to overcome our strongest obstacles.
Notice, though, that the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him why they couldn’t drive the demon out. This was a very wise thing to do. They had failed but they wanted to understand why.
There is a saying that goes “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. The times that we don’t triumph cannot be considered loses if we use the experience to understand how to do better next time and if we actually put what we learn to use next time. An experience is only a loss if we learn nothing from it.
When Christians find their efforts ineffectual they should pray and ask God to inform them as to why they were unsuccessful. Just like Jesus (who was God) does in this passage, God will tell us. His goal is for us to become like Jesus. Therefore He will not withhold any information from those who truly seek it. He will teach us if we simply ask Him.
Jesus teaches the disciples that the reason they couldn’t cast out the demon was they had so little faith. It’s doubtful Jesus is talking about literally moving a mountain. That would be a pointless miracle that even He declined to perform [Matthew 12:38-39]. Rather He is speaking metaphorically.
Great things cannot be accomplished without great faith. With even faith like a grain of mustard seed (i.e. just a small amount of faith), nothing would be impossible.
We could eliminate those things in our life that are causing us to suffer if, like the father in this story, we have faith in Jesus and we bring our problems to Him.
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