The Disciples Could not Heal the Boy with the Demon
One day as Jesus and the disciples were out in the countryside preaching and healing a man rushed up and knelt down trembling in front of Jesus. He was desperate for Jesus to help him. “Lord, have mercy on my son.” He begged. “My boy has seizures and is suffering greatly: for he often falls into the fire and into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” (Matt.17:15-16)
Jesus was upset to hear that his disciples could not heal the boy and He asked the father to bring the boy to Him. And when the boy was standing in front of Jesus, Scripture says that, “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment on.” (Matthew 17: 18)
Shortly after this the disciples came to Jesus and asked him why they were not able to drive the demon out of the boy. And Jesus answered them: “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. However this kind (of demon) does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)
This short story of the boy being troubled with a demon may leave us with questions. Let’s go over the story and try to find some answers. Some people say that they don’t believe that demons or “evil spirits” can influence their lives. But we believe that the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and influences us. Scripture teaches us that when we believe in Christ that the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and empowers us and helps us and guides us into God’s ways. We can’t live the Christian life by ourselves. .
Unfortunately the opposite can happen. People can open themselves up to “help” from evil spirits when they allow hatred, murder, lying, drugs, violence, etc to take up residence in their lives. Evil spirits can harass people, make them physically or mentally ill or even hold them captive with addictions and such. Scripture teaches that the devil goes about like a lion “seeking whom he may devour or “eat up” (1 Peter 5:8) The devil is the “father of lies”(John 8:44). And he is a murderer. (John 8:44) He is out to do us harm if he can, so if he can harass or invade our lives he will. The Bible says: “Do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27)
Even though some people may open themselves to evil spirits by embracing an evil lifestyle, I believe that the little boy in our Bible story was innocent of any such wrong doing. His actions were not responsible for the evil spirit being there in his life making him miserable. Many times innocent people suffer terribly and we will not be able to understand all the reasons why. We will just have to leave some of these things to God.
Once when Jesus healed a blind man, his disciples asked him whose sin caused the man to be blind? His sin or the sin of his parents? And Jesus answered: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) When things don’t seem fair we have to trust God with the answers and know that someday (in heaven) “every valley will be lifted up and every mountain and hill made low and the rough places will be made plain.” (Isaiah 40:4) . .
From the description of the boy’s suffering in our Bible story, we believe that he was physically ill. He had spasms and fell into the fire and into the water. And this illness was due to a demon according to Scripture. (The boy was healed when Jesus cast the demon out!) So it would seem that demons can cause some physical illnesses. Probably today doctors could treat this child’s illness with medications. Again we don’t have all of the answers.
In this life Scripture says that we are fighting a spiritual war! When Jesus speaks about the boy’s demon He says: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Jesus must mean that some demons or mountains are stronger and more entrenched than others. Some of our mountains require more prayer than others and even fasting too in this spiritual war against evil.
When we think about a demon we may picture an ugly little man with a pitchfork or horns. But a demon is an evil or unclean spirit. And the bad news is that an unclean spirit can possibly show up in a person’s life as a stronghold or as an addiction.
But the good news is that there is a Deliverer – Jesus Christ! (Psalm.18:2) Jesus has come to set the captives free! Scripture says that He has come to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds. Jesus is the Truth and the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) (Gal 5:1)While He was on earth Jesus went about healing the sick and casting out demons. And Jesus has also given his followers (that’s us) the authority to heal and cast out demons in his Name. Jesus sends us into the world to do the work that He did and He gives us his authority to do that work. (John 14:12) Scripture says: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My Name they will cast out demons: and they will speak with new tongues:” (Mark 16:17)
Scripture says: “the seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your Name.’”. And Jesus replied “I see Satan fall from heaven like lightning. See, I give you the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10: 17-19)
Jesus had given the disciples his authority to move mountains (and we have been given this authority too). But Jesus told the disciples that they were not able to use his authority because they didn’t have enough “faith”. Jesus encouraged them (and us) by saying that we don’t need a lot of faith in order to move mountains. (a mountain is a trouble or demon or sickness) A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds and Jesus said we only needed a “mustard seed” amount of faith to move our mountains! So what is this thing called faith that is so important?
Scripture says that we have all been given a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3) God gives it to us, but I would guess that we need to take care of it. And the Bible also says that faith comes alive by “hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) So we need to feed our faith by reading God’s Word. And nurture our “measure” of faith and help it grow by studying the Bible
Of course we need to believe God’s Word. But faith is more. Scripture also says that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17) Faith is a whole lifestyle- a relationship with God. We need to commit everything (our lives) to God and try to let Him lead us. Scripture says: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:4-5)
Some of us think that if we work hard and just believe something hard enough or say the right words the right way that that is faith. But faith isn’t a formula. And it’s not just saying correct words. Faith is committing all your ways to God, and loving God with all your heart and your neighbor too. Faith is repenting and humbling yourself and asking God for forgiveness when you fail. It’s letting God clean you up again and again. Clean up your words and your attitudes too. And letting the Holy Spirit guide you along the way. And there is joy and freedom along the faith way. It’s letting go and letting God with your mustard seed sized faith. .