“When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly, for he often falls into the fire and into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they were not able to heal him.’ Jesus answered, ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him here to me.’ Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed from that moment.” —Matthew 17:14–18
In these verses we see a daddy humbly approaching the Lord Jesus and pleading for relief of his son’s suffering. The child’s condition is urgent. The father draws near to the Healer empty handed and begging for mercy. Indeed, the word translated “mercy” is from the Greek word eleeo meaning “to relieve affliction, alleviate suffering or distress, ease misery. It is the concrete expression of pity and compassion for the destitute or those in misery which undertakes to mollify or remove their suffering. It is used specifically to signify God’s salvation in which He acts to reverse the adverse effects of sin and to relieve sinners of their moral and spiritual wretchedness, all that He accomplishes in delivering them from the miserable and pitiful (though deserved) condition of sin, guilt, and death” (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible–New Testament Lexical Aids).
What parent can’t relate to the father’s predicament? When our children are in trouble of any kind we cry out on their behalf, pleading for the Maker to move His merciful hand. This incident occurs immediately upon the Lord’s return from His mountaintop glory transfiguration, yet we discover Jesus’ glories do not make Him unmindful of our sufferings and needs! As Satan would have it, the effects of this child’s disease were deplorable, casting him into the fire or the water. Mark tells us in his Gospel that this child would also foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, and become rigid—a frightening sight for any parent to behold.
Jesus had previously granted His power to His disciples to cast out demons and they had been successful.
“Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness.” —Matthew 10:1
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” —Matthew 10:8
And yet, here they failed, and there were nine of them present! The other three had been with the Lord Jesus. Thankfully, the failure of humans does not hinder the operation of Christ’s grace! We see Jesus reprimanding those around Him for their unbelief. Our Lord’s reprimand was not to His disciples, rather to the people and perhaps the teachers of the law in His hearing. Christ himself could not do many mighty miracles among those with whom unbelief reigned. The blessings were withheld because of their faithlessness.
“And so they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own house.’ And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” —Matthew 13:57–58
However, we still see Jesus break the power of Satan with a simple rebuke. All power in heaven and on earth and under the earth belongs to Him. He is the One with all authority.
“The foundational principle of grace is that God’s kingdom priorities are completely inverted from those of the world. God’s plan is to magnify His saving mercy and grace not through human strength but rather through its weakness … The gospel of grace would remind us that we can’t be used until we operate not out of our own strength but in weakness, as we depend on Christ’s Spirit to show the reality of the cross.” —Paul Kooistra
“Throw your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you.” —Psalm 55:22
“God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.” —1 Peter 5:6–7
“If my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14