19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
At first glance, it looks like the boy had epilepsy. Ancient people sometimes attributed certain conditions to the work of demons. Did they get it wrong? There have been people that have credited the Devil with things that had natural explanation. Was this just a misdiagnosis?
If it were just epilepsy, why would seizures occur in such a way as to throw the boy into deadly environments like fire and water? The death correlation could be viewed as coincidental, but why did the boy immediately seizure when Jesus asked to see him? Did Jesus get it wrong? It’s easy for us to think that we know what really happened and have more intelligence than the superstitious people or even Jesus. To believe that it really was a demon requires that we believe Jesus was telling the truth and that the boy’s condition was healed.
Let’s give Jesus the benefit of our doubt and take this story as it is written. Are there impossible physical conditions, sicknesses and even demonic influences that require more than the available human cures? There most certainly are.
Had Jesus’ disciples effectively participated in healing, deliverance and miracles on prior occasions? The record says yes. So why is Jesus upset at this failure?
Who does Jesus call an unbelieving generation and question how long he will stay with them? Commentators suggest that it was either the disciples or the teachers of the law.
If he was troubled by the disciples, that is no surprise. As their rabbi it is important that he correct their errors. They were ineffective and did not need to be.
If Jesus were chiding the teachers of the Law, it would be for their unwillingness to believe. Perhaps the disciples thought Jesus was correcting these cynical teachers. The teachers probably thought he was talking to the disciples. For him that has ears to hear, let him hear.
After declaring a generational problem (faithlessness) Jesus asks for the boy to be brought to him. We see ‘do-it-yourself’ Jesus go to work. He was full of faith and knew God’s will for this boy.
When Jesus speaks to demons, he is not testing to see if they are there. He does not spit in a blind man’s eyes to see if they can be healed. He acts fully trusting that His Father will set things right. We cannot heal or deliver in our own authority, but we are authorized to do what He does.
The prayer of faith is not wishful thinking or mind over matter. Jesus’ certainty of faith came from long hours spent alone in prayer and fasting. Jesus does not experiment with solutions; nor should we. We need faith in God.