Unavailable (Matthew 17:14-16)

Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Peter, James and John are walking back down from the Mount of  Transfiguration with  Jesus. While on the mountaintop, they had a unique and holy privilege. They had glimpsed the glory of the Son, heard the Father affirm the Son and were told by the Father to listen to the Son. Coming down from the mountain, they walk into a starkly different scene of a different father and son, “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “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. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.””  

The difference between the two scenes could not be more dramatic. Instead of a mountaintop experience, this is a valley low point. 

Prior, Jesus the Son had been shown as full of glory and honor. But this son is shown to be possessed and suffering greatly. Prior, the Father had spoken words of affirmation over Jesus the Son. But this father asks instead for needed mercy on his son. Jesus the Son had climbed the mountain, but this son falls often into fire or water. The Father above had said He was pleased with Jesus the Son. The demon within this son hated him, and was actively seeking to extinguish his life. These contrasts are noted in the Scripture not as simple coincidences, but that we might notice them. Each has something to teach us. 

The starkest contrast however, is merely implied. It is that the disciples – as honored by the Son as they were – could not heal this man’s son. 

That fact is remarkable, most notably because these same disciples had been given authority to do exactly this kind of ministry. Matthew had taken special note of this at the beginning of the 10th chapter of his Gospel, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” All twelve of the disciples – even Judas Iscariot – had that authority. They full well could heal this man’s son. But they had failed to do so. That could only be either because they had forgotten they had such authority, or they were afraid to use it for some reason. 

The follower of Christ is wise to pay heed to this episode in the Gospel account. We are Christ-followers and are also afforded the same authority each of the disciples had (see Matthew 28:19-20). Yet we often fail to use that authority. Why is that?

We either have forgotten the Scripture, or we are too timid to use it (which is really not believing that we truly have such authority). But Jesus expects us to know we have that authority (that’s why His impartation of it is in the Scripture for us to read to start with). And Jesus expects us to use it. John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

The real question is whether we will take up that authority and do what Jesus wants us to do, or whether we do as the disciples did in this case – which is to wait for Him to return to do it for us.  The former brings glory to Christ through us. The latter also brings glory to Christ, but not through us. Worse, it also cements the record of our unbelief in church history.

The limitation is never in God’s unwillingness to bestow, but in man’s incapacity or indifference to receive.

Eugene Russell Hendrix

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What ministry are you afraid of doing? Why?