There is no more helpless feeling than that of parent by the bedside of their ill child. It’s been called “a deep and hollowing pain.” Jesus, who often ministered to the sick and their families, certainly knew this. That’s what makes His reaction to the father in today’s passage so surprising.
Jesus and the disciples had just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus’ face shone like the sun as Moses and Elijah appeared beside Him. God the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5). The sight that greeted them upon their return was less glorious. A crowd surrounded the disciples, and the Scribes were arguing with them (Mark 9:14). “Lord, have mercy on my son,” a man from the crowd 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” (Matt. 17:15, 16).
Why does Jesus react to this man’s plea with a rebuke? Is Jesus’ reproof aimed at the father or the disciples? It seems likely that both are in view. When the disciples asked why they had been unable to heal the boy, Jesus pointed to their weak faith (v. 20). The disciples’ question shows they were surprised by their failure. They had cast out demons before. Confidence and faith are not the same. Mark’s account of this miracle provides added detail: the father’s faith was weak as well (Mark 9:21–24).
Jesus’ surprising rebuke underscores the importance of faith. Faith is trust. It is the assurance of a child who relies on a parent to provide what is needed.
>> When you are struggling, pray this prayer: “Lord, I believe but help me with my unbelief!” Faith is a trust convinced that God ultimately knows what is best and that He will do what is right. Faith is reliance upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.