Matt 17:14-21 The Trouble with Healing CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
To study this passage, we need to compare the cross references to this passage in Mk 9:14-29 and Lk 9:37-43. They include some details that are helpful in understanding what was going on here.
The disciples were given power to heal (Matt 10:7-8). The disease or sickness that they had to deal with here was lunacy. The boy was a lunatic; he was insane. Lunacy can be strictly a mental disorder or it can be caused by devils. Notice in Matt 4:24 that there are those who were possessed with devils and then there were those who were lunatic. This boy was lunatic because of the devil.
His lunacy was manifested by phases of insanity, in the same way that the moon goes through phases (compare lunar and lunacy). In v. 15, the boy’s father said, “ofttimes” it cast him in the fire and water (the devil is headed to a LAKE of FIRE). In addition to these, the evidence of his lunacy was that he was vexed (agitated or tormented), dumb, deaf, gnashing with his teeth, foaming at the mouth and torn by the spirit. It was like a violent seizure but it wasn’t a seizure at all.
In v. 16, the disciples could not heal him although they were given the power to heal the sick and to cast out devils. This power was even given to the 70 additional disciples in Lk 10:1, 9, 17-20 (see also Matt 12:27). So what went wrong?
In v. 17, the Lord said that the trouble was with this “faithless and perverse” generation. They had a hard time believing. We see even in Lk 24:25, following the resurrection, with the testimony of eyewitnesses, some of the disciples were “slow of heart to believe.” They were perverse because they were obstinate in the wrong, stubborn and self-willed.
So Jesus had to heal the boy (v. 18). When he rebuked the devil, the boy was immediately cured, but Mk 9:26 says that he was “as one dead.” According to Dr. Ruckman, when he was in India, he prayed over two ladies and they fell over like they were dead. The local pastor said that was common in India, for the people are so full of devils that when the devils leave them, they collapse for a while.
In v. 19-20, we find that the disciples’ failure to heal was the fault of the disciples, not the fault of the boy’s father or the boy. Look at Mk 9:24, the father said, “Lord, I believe” before he said, “help thou my unbelief.” The shysters today who can’t heal EVERYBODY that comes to them blame the sick for not having enough faith. If they have enough faith to come for the healing like this boy’s father did, they have enough faith to be healed. Never forget, the failure to heal is with the healer not the sick.
The Lord told his disciples they only needed as much faith as the grain of a mustard seed and they could move a mountain. That statement alerts us to something far greater than just a missed healing opportunity. The whole chapter up to now has dealt with the Lord coming in his kingdom. Thus, the Lord is giving them some instructions that they will need in the tribulation.
You see, Paul had a lot of faith (2 Tim 4:7; Acts 19:12) but he never moved a mountain. However, during the tribulation a mountain is going to be cast into the sea (Rev 8:8). And according to Rev 10:10-11, it appears that John is going to return during the tribulation to preach again. Is it not possible, according to Matt 10:23, that the disciples will all return to finish their work before the Lord returns? After all, the power Jesus gave the disciples in Lk 10:17-19 was power to tread on scorpions and serpents. That’s something they never had to do before, but it is something they will have to do in the tribulation (Rev 6:8; 9:4, 10, 19). Pretty wild!!
Verse 21 has been removed in modern bibles. Wouldn’t you know it? The thing they needed was prayer and fasting to increase their faith and modern bibles removed the key. Look, the church followed this instruction in Acts 13:2 and so should we!
The reason you don’t see this kind of healing by healers today is that God is not dealing with Israel during the church age the way he did when Jesus was here (Matt 15:24; Acts 28:25-29). Healing is a sign gift for those who require a sign (1 Cor 1:22; Ex 4:8). Make no mistake about it, God still heals but don’t be deceived into thinking that he uses modern healers to do his work.