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Saturday, November 16, 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)
Why is Jesus so irritable? I’m not convinced Jesus is talking to the father or to the son in regards to a “faithless and perverse generation.” I think Jesus is looking at the crowd and, by default the reader, who lack faith. The faith the crowd lacks isn’t necessarily about healing (though it might include it), but a faith in a God who is merciful such that brokenness is restored, healing is offered, and relationship is strengthened. Perhaps the crowd dismissed this man and his son, or looked down on the son as “poor thing, bless his heart,” or worse, “he must have done something wrong that brought him all this,” a theology that continues to plague us into our own day.
Jesus’ words are directed at us each time we pity others rather than show compassion, or impart judgment and condemnation rather than advocacy and grace, or when we don’t partner with God, who is uninterested in seeking retribution against us but instead refuses to accept the world and leave it as is—in a radical acceptance, God seeks to change the world for the better.
One side note: I’m always struck by the characters that approach Jesus, especially the nameless ones. Perhaps it’s because I can more easily fill in the blank name with my own. I can’t help but to think that the man who brings his son is a lot like some of us. We don’t come to faith out of some noble act but out of desperation. Jesus welcomes us too.
Grant us faith, O Lord, even a desperate one, that we might see the world not as it is, but as it could be, and that we might act into that new, gracious reality, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident
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