Matthew 17:14-23 (ESV)
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Jesus returned from the high mountain where Peter, James, and John witnessed his transfiguration, and they were immediately faced with the failure of the other disciples. As soon as they approached the crowd, a man who had a demon-possessed son came to Jesus and respectfully begged him to heal his boy. The man’s son suffered from epilepsy as a result of the possession, and he would fall into fire and water. This must have created tremendous stress on the family as they continually rescued the boy from great danger. Jesus not only rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith, but the crowd as well. Jesus cast the demon from the boy, and he was instantly restored to health. The nine disciples wondered why they were not able to cast the demon out like Jesus did. They clearly realized they needed something. Jesus let them know that their problem was a lack of faith. Their relationship with Jesus and faith in God and his word was enough to do whatever they were called to do, but they needed faith to boldly step out with confidence and trust that God could and would carry out his will through them.
The disciples had “little faith”, meaning a weak faith in Jesus’ ability to work through them. Even a small amount of genuine faith, like a grain of a mustard seed, in the power of God can move mountains. So did the disciples not even have a little bit of faith? What happened to them? It could be that they thought the power to heal the sick and cast out demons came from them rather than from Jesus. He wasn’t there with them, so maybe they began to rely on themselves to do God’s work. It’s easy to forget that God always wants us to look to him and call upon him in humility. What about you? Is God prompting you to do something for him that seems impossible? Do you feel you have had little success as you struggle to obey to his word? Ask him for faith and courage, and be willing to step out boldly and act on whatever he is calling you to do. Don’t shrink back from his promptings because of your weaknesses. Remember who he is, and trust that he is with you. Small faith in a great God can move mountains.