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Jesus Isn’t Pleased With The Disciples

Father and Epileptic Son Matthew 17:14-21 Mark 9:17-29 Luke 9:37-42

In the above three passages, we read about a father coming up to Jesus asking for mercy for his son. There has been much discussion about the boy’s actual condition or problem. Luke’s version of this healing event describes the symptoms the boy was experiencing [Luke 9:39]. Both Luke and Mark attribute the boy’s problem to a demonic spirit [Mark 9:17]. In Matthew 17:15, the actual Greek word the father used to describe his son’s condition was σεληνιαζομαι selēniazomai. This word is translated in English as “moonstruck”.

The ancient Greeks believed that a person who had epilepsy or a mental illness was under the influence of the moon. The King James Version of the Bible written in 1611, translates this Greek word as “lunatic”, due to the Latin influences on the English language. Note that “luna” is Latin for moon.

The father also reports to Jesus that his disciples were unable to cure his son [Matthew 17:16]. When the father told Jesus about the disciples inability to heal the boy, he wasn’t pleased. In response to the father’s statement Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me” [Matthew 17:17]. The Message Bible reads, “how many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?” Jesus was speaking these strong words to his disciples, not the great multitude standing by [Mark 9:14, Luke 9:37].

It is obvious that the boy’s condition was a difficult situation [see “Speak to the Mountain”]. The father tells Jesus, “wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid” [Mark 9:18]. In Matthew 17:15, the father says, “he often falls into the fire and often into the water”. Jesus asked, “how long has this been happening to him?” The father replies, from childhood [Mark 9:21-22].

The father was struggling to have faith due to the longevity and severity of the boy’s affliction. The father asked Jesus, if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” [Mark 9:22]. Jesus could have been merciful and simply healed the boy. He did this in other cases [see Chart of Merciful Healings].

In Mark’s Gospel, we see that Jesus required a statement of faith from the father “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” [Mark 9:23]. The father states, “I believe”. The English word believe in this passage is the Greek word πιστενω pisteuō. According to Thayer’s Lexicon of Greek Words, pisteuō means to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, and to place confidence in.

“Help my Unbelief”

Then the father says, “help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24]. That is a legitimate request for anyone. You can ask God to assist you in becoming more confident in Him. This father had faith but he also had unbelief. The father at least recognized his unbelief. The disciples didn’t [Matthew 17:19-20].

Some would say that the disciple failed to heal the boy because their usual methods of healing weren’t working. Actually their usual methods of healing were working well. The disciples had been having great success in casting out devils and healing people [see Mark 6:13, Luke 9:6, and Luke 10:17]. But they needed to have faith [confidence] to remove the mountain or problem for the boy to receive his healing.

Praying and fasting will not move a mountain. Praying is about your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Praying will increase your confidence about your relationship with God. Praying is how you receive from God [Matthew 7:8, Matthew 21:22].

Fasting food doesn’t move God, it moves you. Faith moves God [Hebrews 11:6]. Fasting food takes you out of the natural realm and helps you to be sensitive to the spiritual realm of God. Fasting forces your flesh to submit to your spirit man. God becomes your total source. You live by the Word of God alone. Fasting makes you body listen to your spirit man. You tell your body to line up with the Word of God and it obeys you. Your spirit man dominates your body or fallen flesh. Pray does the same thing. Prayer disciplines your flesh to submit to your spiritual man. You pray to God, who you can not see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Prayer trains your flesh to submit to your spiritual man. Pray and fasting are spiritual disciplines.

Pray and fasting [Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29] will move you into a more confident [faithful] position to speak to the mountain [Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23].

Mountain or Problem

Jesus recognized and dealt the mountain or problem. In this case, the problem was a demonic spirit. Jesus did not cast out demonic spirits every time he healed someone. But, in this case, Jesus recognize the demonic component to the boy’s illness. The demonic spirit was being a barrier or hindrance to the boy receiving his healing. The demonic spirit even tried to distract Jesus by causing the boy to have a convulsion while Jesus tried to talk with the father [Mark 9:20].

Jesus wasn’t perplexed like the disciples were. He calmly talked to the father while the child had a seizure in front of them [Mark 9:20-22]. Jesus talked to the Father for awhile, then said, “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again” [Mark 9:25]! In Matthew 17:18 it says that, “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour”.

Jesus could have knelt down on the ground and prayed to the Heavenly Father to heal the boy. Jesus could have prayed something like this, “Father, is it really your will that this boy be healed? Does this boy and his father need to learn some more lessons?” Jesus could have had the disciples hold the boy on the ground while he attempted to anoint the boy with oil and lay his hands on him.

But the boy would not have been delivered and healed till Jesus spoke to the mountain or problem. In this case it was a demonic spirit.

In Matthew 17:19, the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out”? It is obvious from this statement that the disciples had some understanding of this principle. Jesus had been training the disciples for several years in the principles of healing and deliverance [Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:1, and Luke 10:9].

The disciples did not ask Jesus why they could not heal the boy, but why they could not cast out the devil. They lacked confidence in this area.

We know they lacked confidence because Jesus said their problem was “unbelief” in [Matthew 17:20]. The actual Greek word Jesus used was απιστα apistia. The “a” before the word pistos, means “without”. The disciples were literally without faith or confidence in this area. Faith failures are caused by doubt and unbelief [James 1:6, Matthew 21:21. Mark 11:23, Matthew 17:20].

Jesus gives instructions what to do when a mountain or problem hinders or stops the believer.

It is the believer’s responsibility to:

  1. to believe that you receive when you pray [Mark 11:24, Matthew 21:21]

  2. to speak to the mountain or problem you have; rebuke, give directions to the problem, and cast out the problem from you body, circumstances, or environment [Mark 11:23, Matthew 21:21, Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6, Mark 16:17, Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:28].

  3. to say what you want to come to pass, into existence [ginomai] [Mark 11:23]. It shall be done [ginomai], according to God’s Word [Matthew 21:21]. O woman, great is your faith! Let it be [ginomai] to you as you desire [Matthew 15:28]. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, be it done unto thee [ginomai] [Matthew 8:13].

Religious Traditions and Doctrines

If you listened to some religious folk, you might think that Jesus said something like this to his disciples in Matthew 17:20:

“Oh this special dispensation is starting to pass away. I always told you, that you had better make the most of this unique time in history because it will not last long. You are already seeing the diminishing effects of the supernatural authority and power to cast out devils, heal the sick, and do miracles. I guess I had better heal this one myself. Remember I am God and you’re just humans. The Heavenly Father doesn’t want you getting used to this supernatural power.

And it’s probably not the will of the Heavenly Father to heal this boy anyway. Look at all the lessons this earthly father has learned about life. He has learned to treat burn victims and rescue drowning person in water. He has learned many lessons on time management. He has learned to get along in life without sleep or rest to keep his son from harming himself.

I think the father is demonstrating selfishness to ask you or me to heal his son. He shouldn’t ask to get out of this situation because he is still learning so much. He doesn’t know that one day “in the sweet by and by”, he and his son will understand all the reasons they had to go through this suffering. Not to mention, I have reviewed the father’s and son’s record in heaven and they aren’t worthy of this healing.

I am also concerned that the father might think he can demand things and develop an “insolent attitude”. I believe his son’s affliction will keep him humble.

But I am going to heal this boy today, so that every one here will know that I am the Messiah and to fulfill prophesy. But don’t keep expecting to experience healings, deliverances, or miracles in the future. You need to realize that in about 20 centuries from now, I will raise up some special people who will discover how to control the symptoms of epilepsy with medicine. You need to look forward to that day”.

But this is NOT what Jesus said to his disciples.

Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you”




We read in Ephesians 1: 17-20 (NIV), both a prayer and a statement about that vast power that we, as Christians, hold within us:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.

Concerning verse 19, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, offers the following explanation:

  1. According to the working of his mighty power.—More correctly, the working of the might of His strength. The word “power” is a general word for force, which may be latent, and, in fact, often describes force which is latent, in contradistinction to the word here used for working or energy. St. Paul, therefore, adds that this power of God is not latent; it actually works “according to,” that is, up to the full measure of “the might of the strength” of God—of that strength which is a part of His nature. The whole phrase forms a glorious climax, in which the Apostle accumulates words ever stronger and stronger to approach to the description of the omnipotence of the Spirit. It is a “force of exceeding greatness;” it is an ever energetic force; its only measure is the immeasurable might of the divine nature.

It is this full might of God that we hold at our disposal to use in God’s will. In order to make that power fully available to us, we must be in tune with God. We must create an atmosphere of faith in our lives through prayer, fasting, reading His Word, and through worship. When our thoughts line up with God’s, we are in His will. It is when we are in His will and have grown in His wisdom and understanding that we may be able to use our faith – as small as a mustard seed – to say to this mountainous problem “In the name of Jesus, be removed” and it will happen.

We must believe that God will work through us and that this great power is available to us. Without that belief, like the disciples, we will not be able to accomplish all that God has for us to do. Unless…

Be like a child again and believe. Believe that the God of creation, the God who saved us, the God who raised Jesus from the dead will do as He promised and allow His full might to work through our faith in Him!

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