Jesus’ disappointment with His disciples’ inability to cast the demon out of the epileptic boy is readily felt in the words, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Matt. 17:17).
Later, in privacy the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?” (v. 19). When Christ sent the disciples out (Matt. 10:6–8), He explicitly commissioned them to do these kinds of miracles. Less than a year later, they failed where they had once succeeded. Christ’s explanation for their failure was that their faith was deficient (v. 20). The deficiency did not consist in a lack of confidence; they were surprised that they could not cast out this demon. The problem probably lay in a failure to make God—rather than their own gifts—the object of their confidence.
True faith, even “faith as a mustard seed” (v. 20), by Christ’s definition, always involves surrender to the will of God. What He was teaching here is nothing like positive-thinking psychology. He was saying that both the source and the object of all genuine faith—even the weak, mustard seed variety—is God. And “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Here, Christ assumes the qualifying thought that is explicitly added by 1 John 5:14: what we ask for must be “according to His will.”
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