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I. A Father’s Concern Unveils A Problem (17:14-18)

(14-15) Coming down from the mountain top

- Jesus and the disciples are back among the crowds

And coming to the crowd a man approached him while kneeling before him.
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying,
15 καὶ λέγων· Κύριε, ἐλέησόν μου τὸν υἱόν, ὅτι σεληνιάζεται καὶ κακῶς πάσχει, πολλάκις γὰρ πίπτει εἰς τὸ πῦρ καὶ πολλάκις εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ.
And speaking, Lord have mercy on my son because he experiences seizures and suffers badly because he falls into the fire and many times into the water.
15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a alunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

- Jesus and the disciples are back among the crowds

All three of the Gospels with this account place the event after the transfiguration of Jesus.
This may bring to mind the similarities of Moses experience on top of Mt. Sinai and coming down the mountain to Israel’s apostasy. Although, here the theme is spiritual conflict.
In this particular case, Jesus was with the three disciples coming back to the rest of the disciples whom are somewhere among the crowd.

- A man approaches Jesus pleading for help

He is respectful and humble as noticed by the posture and reference to Jesus as “Lord”. The Gospel of Mark adds the detail that he also referred to him as “teacher”, which is a sign of respect but not fully understanding Jesus’ position.
The Gospel of Mark adds the detail that he also referred to him as “teacher”, which is a sign of respect but not fully understanding Jesus’ position.
The boy is spoken of here as displaying the features of a “lunatic”, which seems like a harsh translation used in the New American Standard translation. The literal meaning of the word is “suffers epilepsy”. The symptoms would mimic one who has epilepsy but the other details of falling into fire and water point to lunacy.
As we will see, the reason for all of this is found in demonic possession. We must make sure that we understand that epilepsy isn’t demonic of itself but demonic control can create symptoms that look like epileptic seizures.
Consider the more descriptive picture from "“and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out."

(16-17) This man is looking for help for his son

- A secondary problem is also mentioned.

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἔσομαι; ἕως πότε ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; φέρετέ μοι αὐτὸν ὧδε.
And I brought him to your disciples and they were not able to heal him.
16 “I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἔσομαι; ἕως πότε ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; φέρετέ μοι αὐτὸν ὧδε.
And Jesus answering said: the unbelieving and perverted generation, until when will I be with you? Until when will I put up with you? Carry him to me here.
17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”

- A secondary problem is also mentioned.

When Jesus was on the mountain with the three disciples, the other disciples were approached with this problem. Obviously, the father knew that these were Jesus’ disciples so he went to them.
Just as a reminder, in Jesus had already given them authority “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”
The rest of the disciples that were approached couldn’t bring healing to the boy. This is a failure to achieve something that was under the authority given to the disciples. This is also noted by Matthew as a problem.

- Jesus’ response tells us the problem

Notice that Jesus responds by addressing the current generation that is present. However, we know Jesus’ response is connected with the disciples not being able to heal.
Yet,
The issue at hand is unbelief and the disciples were reflecting the weakness found in that generation of Jews. The Jews didn’t embrace Jesus as Messiah as witnessed in when the scribes and Pharisees demanded more signs to believe. The disciples demonstrate unbelief in being unable to perform this healing.
The two rhetorical questions bring to mind similar words spoken in the Old Testament: Consider “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. 6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10 But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? ”
11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? ”

- Jesus calls for the child to be brought to Him.

(18) The cure

- Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was healed

And Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out from him and the boy was healed from that hour.
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

- Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was healed

The account laid out from Matthew is rather succinct in how Jesus healed the boy. In reality, there were more details that showed the nature of this demonic possession.
“And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.”
The final suffering is the most intense and the boy lies there in a comatose state that appears to make him dead.
The picture ends with the boy getting up which is quite a contrast to the number of times the demon was throwing him down and trying to destroy him. This ends the account by showing a picture of restoration.
* The boy lies there in a comatose state that appears to make him dead.
> this is quite a contrast to the number of times the demon was throwing him down and trying to destroy him.

- One detail of importance in the healing is a thread that has been revealed in the previous sections.

> this ends the account by showing a picture of restoration.
Notice the action of rebuke as detailed in Mark, who is rebuked? What does the rebuke emphasize?
Jesus rebukes the Demon that is causing this problem in the boy and the response to the rebuke demonstrates Jesus’ authority and the demons submission to it.
The thread of Jesus’ authority runs through the last chapter and a half:
The issue of spiritual authority is challenged by the Pharisees and the disciples forget that the one with authority over physical things like bread is the one who has spiritual authority over all things.
Peter is rebuked and told to get behind Jesus. (don’t be a stumbling block and submit to Jesus’ authority)
the disciples are given the picture of discipleship with the cross (focus on the cross symbolism of submission to authority and not punishment)
God the Father redirects the attention to Jesus and proclaims His authority. (The Son and “listen to Him”)

II. The Lesson of Faith (17:19-23)

wsei - a word of comparison “like, or appearance of”

(19) The disciples seek answers

- The disciples and Jesus are in a private location.

> the people think that he has died
when leaving the disciples privately spoke with Jesus why on account we not able to cast this one?
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”

- The disciples and Jesus are in a private location.

The Gospel of Mark points out that they were in a house when this private conversation occured.
The disciples’ failure was on display publically and they were bothered by it.
I also think that the nature of this question tells us that the remark about the unbelieving and perverted generation didn’t connect the dots with them.

- Why were they bothered?

Go back to “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Jesus not only had this divine power but He had the authority to impart to His disciples in “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”
They had cast out demons before and been given the authority over these things but they had failed here. Something needed to change but they didn’t understand what.

(20) Faith is the issue

- Their problem was the littleness of faith

20 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν· ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ· Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται, καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν.
And he said to them on account of your poverty of faith. For truly I say to you, whomever you have the faith like mustard seed. You will say to this mountain to move from here and be moved to there. And nothing will be impossible to you.
20 And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]

- Their problem was the littleness of faith

The word that is found in this verse is speaking of a small amount or to a small degree in relationship to faith. It isn’t that there exists no faith but it is very limited.
The disciples’ little faith is indicative of a low quality type of faith. Dr. Tom Constable notes “It was not the quantity of their faith that was deficient but its quality (strength). In spite of the revelation of Jesus that they had received, the disciples had not responded to it with trust as they should have done. They had some faith in Jesus, but it should have been stronger.”
In light of the comparison with a seed, their faith was too small because of its focus.

- The quality of faith is emphasized in the mustard seed.

The mustard is a very small seed and it is used to emphasize that the faith doesn’t have to be large in the sense of legendary to have an effect.

The moving of mountains was proverbial among the Jews for accomplishing something of very great difficulty (e.g., it was said that Rabbah was “an uprooter of mountains,” Ber. 64a; one who saw Resh Lakish in debate “would think that he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,” Sanh. 24a). The expression should, of course, be understood metaphorically

The reason that the disciples were bothered was due to a confidence that expected it to happen and it didn’t. The problem was that their confidence wasn’t placed so much in Christ to work through them but in themselves.
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary iv. The Power of Faith (17:14–20)

It is a striking illustration of the fact that faith is, for Jesus, not a matter of intellectual assent, but of a practical reliance on a living God. It is important to observe here that it is not the ‘amount’ of faith which brings the impossible within reach, but the power of God, which is available to even the ‘smallest’ faith.

- Most translations don’t have verse 21 in this Gospel but Mark did record similar words.

According to the manuscript evidence, it was later copies that included verse 21 but it wasn’t in the earliest ones. (not part of the original)
However, Mark did record something that Jesus said that is similar to verse 21. “When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
Even though faith isn’t used in these two verses, it is implied by the reality of prayer. (also Mark goes into further discussion about faith with the father of the demon possessed son)
At first glance, we see that Jesus points out the incredible difficulty in casting out this demon. It takes incredible power to cast out these demons (the power of God).
> There is a hierarchy of angels that are fallen as well
- “this kind” a particular type of demon.
> Certain types of demons are more resistant to being cast out
- It takes incredible power to cast out these demons
A closer look, tells us that the disciples weren’t exercising their faith. Clearly, they hadn’t prayed or Jesus wouldn’t have needed to cast this demon out.
> The only means of casting out this demon is by prayer
- clearly, they hadn’t prayed or Jesus wouldn’t have needed to cast this demon out.
Their lack of prayer demonstrated their self reliance. (poverty of faith)
- Their lack of prayer demonstrated their self reliance.
- Self reliance is another from of not trusting in God.
22 Συστρεφομένων δὲ αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Μέλλει ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων,
And when they gathered in Galilee Jesus said to them. The son of man is about to be handed over to the hands of men.
22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men;
23 καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθήσεται. καὶ ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα. [1]
And they will kill him and he will be raised on the third day and they became extremely sorrowful.
23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
[1] Holmes, M. W. (2011–2013). The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (). Lexham Press; Society of Biblical Literature.
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