Prepare to Listen. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 17:14-21
14When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ 17Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ 18And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 20He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’ [21But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]
This story is puzzling for many reasons. First, Jesus’ behavior. When the father explained about his son and the disciples’ inability to heal him, instead of showing sympathy, Jesus seems to have lost it: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” The disciples were so slow to learn, and Jesus sounds like he’s had enough. This isn’t the way we expect him to behave. But he did and Matthew faithfully records, without explanation, Jesus’ impatient response.
Second, Jesus’ answer to his disciples’ question about why they couldn’t heal the boy is even more puzzling. He accused them of having “little faith.” But then he said they only needed ‘little faith,’ in fact, the size of a mustard seed. It’s confusing. They couldn’t do it because they only had little faith, but all they needed was little faith. Some try to explain this by reminding us, as Wright does, “that the size of the faith isn’t important; what’s important is the God in whom you believe.” And that’s true. Was Jesus trying to tell the disciples that their faith was in the wrong thing? Perhaps.
Seeing perplexed expressions on the disciples’ faces, Jesus said: “But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting,” a verse omitted in some of the best ancient copies of Matthew. But it dispels some of the mystery about little faith. Some things need more than faith, big or little. They need prayer and fasting.
What puzzled or intrigued you this story today? In what/whom is your faith placed?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, keep me focused, not on the amount of faith I do or don’t have, but on you, in whom I have faith. Amen.
Live Obediently. Have faith in God.
 Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone Part 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 2004, p. 22.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.