THE APOSTLES' LACK OF FAITH
Matt 17:14-17 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a certain man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you; how long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to Me. (Also See Matt. 17:18-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43a)
Having descended the mountain with His disciples, they returned to the multitude that had followed them into the country that lay east of the Jordan River near the city of Caesarea Philippi. Immediately a man came to Jesus, humbly fell to his knees before Him, and said, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatick. As described in verse 15 of the lesson text and in the corresponding account of Mark 9:18 and Luke 9:39, the condition, and its consequences, seems to resemble an epileptic disorder, which was a rare disease but one that can occur under natural conditions. However, we know the symptoms of this young son were not the result of lunacy, but were the devil in disguise. Why? Mark describes the condition of this man's son resulted from being possessed with a dumb spirit (9:17), and a dumb and deaf spirit (9:25). Also from Matthew 17:18 and from Luke 9:39, 42, this spirit is identified as the devil. A lesson can be taken from this, because life's experiences assure us that things appearing to be common and natural are often in reality the devil in disguise slowly and without notice, luring us away from obedience to God.
The son, reacting as if he was suffering from lunacy, the devil caused him to become sore vexed, and often falling into the fire, and ...water. Mark's account said the young man foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away (9:18), while Luke adds that the possessed son was often bruised because of the falling brought on by the demon that possessed his body (9:39). The father of this child added that he brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Nine of His apostles remained below while Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him as he ascended the mountain to be transfigured. It was probably at this time that the child was brought to these remaining apostles asking them to cure his son. It is also evident that they attempted to do so, but without success.
Jesus states the reason for their failure in verse 17 when He admonished them with this questioning statement: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you; how long shall I suffer you? Faith was lacking by all that heard this statement of reproof to all present on this occasion - the apostles that failed in their attempt to heal the son, the father of the son, and the entire multitude of Jews. All, in a broad general sense, were filled with skepticism and disbelief that Jesus was the Son of God. This state of unbelief was magnified by their varying degrees of perverseness - that is, their stubborn, obstinate, and contrary hearts, which made it almost impossible for God's truths to penetrate their minds and correct the religious misconceptions that had been planted by erring, self-righteous Jewish religious leaders.
During the last few years of His public ministry on earth, Jesus taught His apostles the gospel of eternal salvation, which God had given Him - the gospel that was to be delivered to the Jewish nation. And in doing so, He had established Himself as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, with miracles that could not be denied. Perplexed by their lack of faith, Jesus tells them in a questioning form, that He will not always be with them and able to forbear their unbelief by continuing to teach His gospel message and support it with His miracles of compassion. With that admonition, Jesus asked that the child be brought to Him. Speaking to the father, Jesus said to him that all things are possible to him that believeth. Immediately the father said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (See Mark 9:23-24). As the boy was being brought to Jesus, the devil took control of his body, threw him down, and tare him (Luke 9:42).
And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Turning to His disciples, Jesus told them that because of their unbelief, they were unable to cast out this demon. If they had such faith, even as small as a mustard seed, they could "move mountains" - that is do great things in His name. The strength of righteous prayer establishes the faith necessary for good works.