Matthew 17:14-20 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. (15) “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. (16) I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
The father fully expected the disciples of Jesus to heal his son, and was clearly disappointed when they failed. Afterwards he even went to Jesus to relate their failure to him. In the Church today such a scenario would never take place. Christians today do not expect disciples of Jesus or their leaders to heal the sick. Such a thing would be absolutely preposterous. All they can do of course is to pray and ask God to heal the sick, and then leave the results up to Him. Why is there such a huge chasm between what we see in the gospels and the “reality” today?
Part of the reason is likely the impact of the teaching of cessationism and dispensationalism over the Church, a teaching which affects even those who do not subscribe to it, albeit at an unconscious level. There is also the thinking that “only God can heal the sick…who do we think we are?” As reasonable as that may sound, in Matthew’s account above the father clearly expected the disciples to heal his son.
Was the father terribly mistaken or deceived in his expectation? To answer this let’s examine whether or not Jesus himself expected his disciples to heal the boy.
(17) “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”
In this verse Jesus is clearly speaking to his disciples, and not to the father. For one thing “you” in the Greek text is plural and not singular. Verses 19 & 20 below make it clear that Jesus is harshly rebuking his disciples—astonishingly by today’s Church standards—for failing to heal the boy. The Church today and her leaders most certainly do not expect disciples to heal the sick, for of course “only God can heal the sick.” It would, as also in verses 15 & 16 above, be totally preposterous and not in line with our thinking and “reality.”
But Jesus clearly expected his disciples to heal the boy. Judged by today’s thinking Jesus would of course be considered unreasonable. And anyone today who expects us disciples to heal the sick would likewise be living in an unrealistic world.
“How the mighty have fallen!” How times have changed since the era of the New Testament.
But are we followers of contemporary church thinking, or of our Lord Jesus as presented in Scripture?
(18) Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. (19) Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (20) He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith 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.”
According to Jesus the disciples could not drive out the demon because they lacked faith as a mustard seed—or mountain-moving faith. If we study the gospels and Acts we can learn much about mountain-moving faith. And when we apply that faith to heal the sick with authority and power especially in the context of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to the world, we can see the sick miraculously healed and set free today—just as Jesus expected of his disciples in the gospels. He indeed is the same—yesterday, today, and forever.