It was their big chance but not their best moment. Jesus was up the mountain with Peter, James and John and, in His absence, a man brings his son to the other disciples for a healing. You can imagine how they might have felt. Perhaps they wanted to show they were just as important and effective as the three that went with Jesus. They undoubtedly remembered that Jesus had previously given them authority to do this kind of thing (Matthew 10:1). But when they tried to heal the boy, nothing happened. When Jesus came back, He drove out a demon and healed him.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “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.”” (Matthew 17:19-20)
Puzzling: Jesus said their faith was too “little” and then said if they had faith like a tiny mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.” If their faith wasn’t big enough, why did Jesus use a tiny seed to show them what they needed?
It wasn’t the size of their faith that was the issue, but the object of it. “Why can’t we drive it out,” they asked? We. They had faith that they could drive out the spirit, which meant their faith was too little on God. This is an important distinction, because you frequently hear people say, “If you had more faith,” or, “if you simply had stronger faith” you would be healed. Perhaps they mean well, but for them to imply it is your fault you are suffering (or worse) is cruel. It is not about you, trying hard to work up more faith. Because, as Jesus pointed out, if your faith is truly in God, in His power and sovereignty, even tiny faith, as small as a mustard seed would be enough.
A friend of mine seems to be able to fix any machine, no matter what is wrong with it. If I had such a problem, I would trust him to fix it. I might watch him do it, but probably wouldn’t say things like, “Don’t you think we ought to replace the Jimmy-ca-whatsis?” I’d trust him to know what to do. Trusting God is like that. Our prayer of faith lays out the problem before Him and acknowledges His supremacy to deal with it.
“Heavenly Father, this little boy has such terrible seizures and we don’t know if it is a medical problem or perhaps demonic possession. But You do, Lord. And we know You know what will be best. We thank You, Lord, that You have invited us to bring this situation to You. If there is any way in which You want us to serve in response to this, please show us and use us as You see fit.”
Jesus said, “…if you have faith… nothing will be impossible for you.” He also said,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
I’m guessing you may have questions about this – I certainly do. If you would like to send me some as a reply, I’ll try to address them. Until then, keep chewing on this “fresh bread.” It’s worth it…