Matthew doesn’t mention that the boy with epilepsy has a demon until Jesus casts it out and heals the boy. I suppose there is a relation between the demon and the illness in this case, but we must not extrapolate to every case.
The man expresses his faith in Jesus in three ways: he comes to Jesus, he addresses him as Lord, and he kneels before him.
Yet Jesus uses the occasion for a harsh denouncement of his generation. Jesus is on earth at a time when Israel is reverting to the faithlessness of the people of the Exodus. They are not trusting God. They are trusting politics and rebellions and movements instead. (Sound familiar?)
The generation of Jesus has a distorted view of the world. They do not bow before God. This is one of the harshest moments in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus is ticked.
But he returns to the job at hand, rebukes the demon, heals the boy immediately.
Jesus uses this episode to give the disciples a lesson in faith. It seems that faith has a qualitative and a quantitative component. I’m not sure how that works. I tend to think of the quality of faith, that is, to whom is my faith directed. Jesus likes to use the term oligopistos (here oligopistian), little-faith.
On the other hand, it seems to not take a lot of faith to accomplish things for God. A little dab will do you.
Two points need special emphasis.
- The faith itself is not powerful. It is God who is powerful and it is toward him that our faith (loyalty, commitment) must be directed.
- Throughout this gospel and throughout the Bible, the true measure of faith is in what we do, how we act, how we treat others. It’s in our ethics and our activity, not in the ability to work miracles.
This passage should challenge our faith, not condemn us. We need to surpass the generation Jesus ministered to.