Matthew 17:14-20 (verse 21 excluded, it doesn’t fit the context)
And when they came to the multitude, a man came up to Him, falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. “And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
Verse 21 reads, “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Most early manuscripts of Matthew do not contain this verse. Plus, it doesn’t fit the context. Not only does it seem out of place, it contradicts the previous statement of Jesus as to why the disciples couldn’t cast out the demon; “Because of the littleness of your faith.” We’ll get to that. Nevertheless, it is another example of why context is king. We don’t know why or how it was added but Jesus said something similar in Mark, 9, which has very similar situations and timing but could be a different demon. So someone thought the saying was important enough to slip it in somewhere in Matthew. -My opinion.
What Matthew did write is; “And when they came to the multitude, a man came up to Him, falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.’”
It seems that while Jesus was on the mountain top, fully revealing himself in glory to Peter, James and John, that the remaining balance of the disciples attempted and failed to heal this man’s son. Now the man’s son was described by his father as being a lunatic- how very un-PC of him. The man also says that he is very ill, which translated literally from the Greek means, “suffers greatly.” He would fall into the water or into the fire. The man’s son, would at times, lose control of his functions. Some translations refer to it as having seizures, or: epilepsy. We don’t know whether or not the man understood that his son was demon possessed.
What we are told is that the man brought his son to the disciples, sans Peter, James and John, based on the context, but they were unable to cure him. A side note of context being king and the sublime string that is woven throughout the Bible; “I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him,” the father of the posesed man states. We know that, “by two or three witnesses shall everything be confirmed.” Matthew records the disciples as asking; “Why could we not cast it out?” Their question confirms the man’s claim. Even in the miniscule, the Bible proves that it is God’s Word. We often lose our Joy over the smallest of insolvable stuff, yet we miss tiny little gems that keep the content cohesive.
And Jesus answered and said, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” To whom was Jesus speaking; the man, the multitude or the disciples? I believe the answer is, yes. Remember where this story takes place, right after the Transfiguration. One thing that we have learned from Peter in the past few missives is to not think earthly. And Matthew could have omitted this story, but he chose to write it, prompted by the Spirit. Much of this story, based on the context, happened while Jesus was in his glorified body. Jesus was not thinking earthly nor was he still in his glorified body. It seems Jesus was being rude to everyone by saying, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Jesus is the master of speaking volumes with just a few words and those few words meant different things to different people. Remember, Jesus had just finished speaking to the glorified Moses and Elijah about his death, burial, resurection and ascension–it is almost imminent. We tend to forget that when Jesus asked the question, which is rhetorical yet very true and on point, he was serious. “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” We should never think like this but sometimes I can’t help myself; picture for a moment, that Jesus was never crucified. Being a sinless man, he’d still be alive today, teaching, preaching and healing the multitudes. He would have healed multitudes upon multitudes. Millions upon millions would be healed. Forget cancer, we would buy Jesus his own jet and he could fly anywhere at any time at eradicate that devastating disease.
Any time there was an Ebola outbreak, we could fly Jesus there within hours. The AIDS epidemic could be erased. Jesus would no doubt have more discples that could help him heal the easier cases. Good bye to vaccinations and shots, no need of needles. The heroin addict would be no more because Jesus could take away their pain. Diabetes, Shingles, Alzheimer’s, you name it, Jesus would heal them all in a matter of months because of his ability and modern travel technology.
And most important to me, he could restore my brother. Jesus could take away his paralysis. We could finally arm-wrestle left-handed because few are those that can beat him right-handed. My brother would be able to tie his own shoes, cut his own meat, scratch his right arm (actually he is incredibly able for being disabled). Can you imagine the joy that my family would expirence seeing my brother made whole again? He could run fast, clap his hands, jump rope, the list goes on and on. What great and incredible joy it would be if Jesus had continued to live and healed my brother!
Problem: my brother would still be dead in his sins. And so would I and so would you.
To the disciples Jesus is saying, I have given you the authority, where is your faith? To the masses he is saying, I didn’t come to heal everyone, I came to die in your place. To the man he is saying, let it be done as you wish.
Nevertheless, Jesus is increasingly focusing on the eternal life, and zooming in on that.