Day 154: Matthew 17:17

How unbelieving and wrong you people are! How long must I stay with you? How long do I have to put up with you? Bring the boy here to me!

Here’s the whole story:

When they returned to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son! He is an epileptic and has such terrible attacks that he often falls in the fire or into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

Jesus answered, “How unbelieving and wrong you people are! How long must I stay with you? How long do I have to put up with you? Bring the boy here to me!” Jesus gave a command to the demon, and it went out of the boy, and at that very moment he was healed (Matthew 17:14-17).

This scripture makes me so sad.  Jesus is tired and annoyed.  He says, “How long do I have to put up with you?”  A woman is pestering him because his disciples were unable to help her son.  This is not the first time Jesus has expressed his annoyance frustration and annoyance because people can’t seem to do things for themselves.

Here are a few instances:

  • Day 70: “Why are you so frightened?  What little faith you have!”
  • Day 127: “This people will listen and listen, but not understand; they will look and look, but not see, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed.”
  • Day 133: “You yourselves give them something to eat!”
  • Day 134: “What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?”
  • Day 144: “What little faith you have! Don’t you understand yet?”

These are just some of the things Jesus has told the people they could do if they had more faith:

  • Heal others
  • Heal themselves
  • Forgive sins
  • Calm storms
  • Feed thousands with a little bit of food
  • Walk on water

I wonder if he really knew how special he was?  I mean, he kept calling himself the “Son of Man,” which means “ordinary guy.”  I don’t think he was ordinary.  I’ve never heard of anyone in all of history who could consistently heal people or perform miracles the way he did.  When it comes to performing miracles, most of us just kind of putter along without all of our cylinders firing. Our own faith, and our ability to stir up faith in others, kind of comes and goes.  Jesus, on the other hand, was roaring along like a Lamborghini.  He never misfired.  He is never left standing there looking like a fool wondering why someone didn’t get healed after he prayed for them.

Nowadays when our sputtering ministries start running smoothly it’s a huge event.  They call it “revival” or “renewal” or “a visitation” or whatever.  Word spreads and people start coming from all over the place to experience it and be in the midst of it.  But these events and visitations never seem to last very long, and not everyone experiences the blessing.  Not everyone gets healed. Not everyone is transformed.

It was all just so easy for Jesus.  It’s hard to be around people like that.  People who can do things so naturally.  When I was growing up there were a lot things I was pretty good at.  For example, I was good at school and I was pretty musical.  But my best friend Stevie and her sisters had a whole different skill set. Being around them was an exercise in inadequacy for me.  It seemed like they were always trying to get me to do something I was absolutely incapable of doing.  Like throwing a Frisbee.  I am probably the only person on the planet who can’t throw a bleeping Frisbee.  Or roller skating.  They tried so hard to teach me how to roller skate.  It was for my own good because the main social activity in Junior High was skating parties and I was a total disaster on skates.  It was ridiculous.   There they were, skating backwards and doing spins while I spent my time hanging on the railing or clutching my partners.  And then there was water skiing, or in my case face skiing.  They kept trying to teach me and it was hopeless.  I couldn’t jump on a trampoline either.  Those girls had really good balance.  And don’t forget diving.  They were like little fish.  I later learned to swim but I never got the hang of diving.  It was always painful for me – belly flops and water up my nose.  They thought I was just being neurotic or something.  I was not neurotic.  I was inept.  And I had really bad balance.

Later in life I realized that people often do not appreciate their own gifts and talents.  We think that just because something is easy for us, it’s easy for everyone.   We assume that others who lack proficiency in our particular skill are being lazy or not really trying.  We say, “What’s the problem?  Anyone can do that!  It’s easy!” Like cooking.  Or holding down a job.  Or getting places on time.  Or pubic speaking.  Or nursing sick people back to health.  Or taking criticism. Or singing.  Or throwing a Frisbee.  This is, of course, not the case.  Instead of being grateful for our special gifts we take them for granted.

I think Jesus was tired of repeating himself.  I guess he thought that after he gave us the Sermon on the Mount and then a few demonstrations of the power of faith, everyone would catch on and be able to do all of the things that he could do. It’s been 2000 years and we still haven’t caught up with him.  He would still be saying, “What little faith you have!”  This same thing is often true for young pastors who enter the ministry with great enthusiasm and optimism for changing the world, only to find the world is not that easy to change.  That TV commercial a few years back about herding cats is spot on when it comes to changing the world.  Ministry is a lot like herding cats.  It just doesn’t work that well.

I think that at this moment of Jesus’ apparent irritation and discouragement about the state of the humanity, it would have been nice if someone would have sung some good old Gospel music to him.  I think he would have been able to relate to the opening lyrics of “His Eye is On the Sparrow”:

Why should I feel discouraged / Why should the shadows come

Why should my heart feel lonely / And long for Heaven and home

I think he was discouraged.  I think the shadow of Jerusalem and his impending death were weighing on his soul.  I think he felt lonely and isolated, and I think he was longing to be with his Father in heaven.

Jesus, it’s been 2000 years and we still may not be able to do what you showed us how to do, but we are still trying.  We may not be able to figure it all out, and we understand how frustrating we are to work with.  But we do love you and we want to know, we want to understand, we want to make it all work. There are many of us here who aren’t going to give up. No, we are going to keep working on what you tried to teach us get it right and make you proud.  Jesus may have been a Lamborghini and I may be more like an old Ford Fiesta held together with duck tape, but I if just keep putting along I’ll get there eventually.

What does this scripture say to you?

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2 thoughts on “Day 154: Matthew 17:17

  1. Or keep to what Nemo taught in Finding Nemo, Just keep swimming!
    This reminded me of something that happened when my mom learned that she was going to have to get a heart transplant. Someone, I can’t remember who, wanted her to go to a healing service. I remember she was very torn and decided not to go. I wish I could talk to her about that now.

  2. I think the problem is that we dont always know how to do the prep work. So we are never really ready to take on the full responsibility and wonder of being a Christian. Getting your heart ready is the most difficult part. I think that Jesus” heart was always ready. That was his gift.

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