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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 17:14–21

When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and 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. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus 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.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He 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.” (NRSV)


I think we always get a bit of a jolt when we encounter Jesus in the Gospels acting in a way that contradicts comfortable, childhood images of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” However, as Paul would later write, we must “put an end to childish ways.”

There are a number of places in the Gospel narratives where Jesus’ words or actions might seem born of anger. One commentator describes this particular response of Jesus as “one of his harshest words of protest!”

What is it that elicits such responses from Jesus? It would seem here that there is a general inveighing against faithlessness (of the generation) and a particular challenge to the disciples as to the strength of their faith. It is worth remembering that this event takes place immediately after the high mystical experience of the Transfiguration on the mountain. It is as if Jesus is despairing of the broken ways of the world and the inability of the disciples and wider society to heed his message of healing, transforming love.

In that sense, the boy with the demon is a kind of metaphor for a broken world, challenging us with the question, Do we disciples have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, to be agents of healing and transformation in our world?


We bring our broken selves,
confused and closed and tired,
then through your gift of healing grace
new purpose is inspired.
(From the hymn text by Anna Briggs)

Reflection written by Calum I. MacLeod, Executive Associate Pastor
   and Head of Staff

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