Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 29-
Unnamed Mountain
(50) Epileptic Healed
Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-42


And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him” (Matt. 17:14-16).

Peter, James and John had witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, and following that great event Jesus and His disciples descended the mountain and joined the other disciples who had been waiting for them to return.  What happens next is a sad situation because the disciples were impotent.  And this is probably the worse case that had been brought to the attention of Jesus.  This is a picture of the church today in a world that is demon possessed and has gone crazy.  Why is the church impotent in this crazy world?  Is it because it doesn’t have enough psychology or enough methods or enough money?  It has all these things, but they are not what the church really needs.  The church needs to preach all the Word of God and build all their programs on the one foundation of Jesus Christ.  It is His church, because God has made Him the head of the church.

There was a multitude of people waiting for Jesus to return, as there always was.  Mark will add a little more detail about what had been happening while they were away.  He said that there was a dispute going on between the crowd and disciples because of their inability to heal a young boy.  The boy’s father brought him to Jesus.  This man had to say to Jesus, “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”  The man knelt before Jesus and begged Him to help his son.  A sense of need will bring people to their knees.  The devil by divine permission had caused the condition in the boy, and he tormented the boy constantly.  The father told Jesus that the boy was an epileptic, but when Jesus cured the boy, it was by casting out a troublesome demon.
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me” (Matt. 17:17).

Jesus scolded those about Him; “O faithless and perverse generation!”  He was not speaking to the disciples only, but to the people, and especially to the scribes, who insulted the disciples because they had finally encountered a case which they couldn’t cure.  He scolds them for two things: first, because they lack maturity, “How long shall I be with you?; second, because of their faithlessness and unreasonableness, “How long shall I bear with you?  “O faithless and perverse generation.” This would be His word to the church in our day and probably individually to you and me. But even though Christ is angry, He is never unkind or lacking in compassion for the afflicted.  He said, “Bring him here to Me.”  Jesus is the Great Physician.  Take your case to Him.

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour (Matt.17:18).

 Jesus rebuked the people and then He rebuked the demon.  Christ’s victories over Satan are by the power of His word.  Satan cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ.  The child was cured the moment that the demon left.  Christ’s cure was immediate and complete.  This should encourage parents to bring their children to Christ, because He is able to heal them of Satan’s power, and He is as willing as he is able.  Bring them to Christ by prayer and by bringing them to the Word of Christ.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as 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.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:19-21).

They asked why they couldn’t cast out the demon.  Jesus gave them two reasons why they failed.
1. It was because of their unbelief.  When he spoke to the father of the child and to the people He said that it was because of their unbelief.  And now He tells the disciples that it was because of their unbelief.  The truth is that they were all at fault.  They had faith, but it was weak and impotent. 
2. There was something in the boy’s condition that made the cure especially difficult.  Jesus said, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”  Even though we wrestle against powers and principalities, some are stronger than others.

Jesus used this opportunity to illustrate the power of faith.  He said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed.”  The type of faith He is talking about is faith in a particular revelation by which Christ gave His disciples the power to do miracles.  Christ had given His disciples the power to do miracles in His name, and that was to be their credential for preaching the gospel.  But their faith in their commission was defective and they doubted the validity of their commission.  Perhaps their faith was weakened because their Master was gone along with the three chief disciples. 

Jesus reminded them that they had the type of power committed to them that could move mountains.  They needed to truly rely upon that power, and then they could cast out demons without exception.  

Jesus said, “Nothing will be impossible for you”-that is, nothing that is according to the will of God for you.  It was God’s will that this boy be delivered from demon possession. 


And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them.  Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him.  And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”  Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.  And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not” (Mark 9:14-18).

Mark gives a few more details than Matthew.  Evidentially, the crowds were unaware that Jesus was near because when they saw Him they were surprised.  Some translations say that they were surprised and afraid.  There could have been something unusual about his countenance remaining from the transfiguration.  Remember, Moses’ face shown when he came down from the mountain and they were afraid to come near him (Ex. 34:30).  Jesus could see that the scribes were teasing the disciples, so He asked, “What are you discussing with them?”  The boy’s father appears to be desperate; because when Jesus asked the scribes this question he boldly interrupted and gave Him an explanation.  He addressed Jesus with respect by calling Him “Teacher.”  He said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.  And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”  The boy’s problems were more than his inability to speak.  The demon that possessed him persistently gave him convulsions.  Jesus had given His disciples, among other things, the power to cast out demons, but the boy’s father erupted angrily and declared that they could not; they didn’t have the power.

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me” (Mark 9:19).

These strong words by our Lord are for the disciples and the scribes.  The word “generation” refers to a whole race, so we could even include the people in His displeasure.  He was upset with the disciples for not exerting the power He had given them and because they didn’t pray and fast as He had sometimes directed them to do.  He was angry with the scribes for glorying in the disappointment that the disciples met with and for ridiculing them over their failure to cure the boy.  The disciple’s failure to deliver the boy supported His enemy’s false claims about Him and robbed God of glory.  The nine disciples left behind had neglected their spiritual disciplines and lost their power.  When you find yourself defeated turn to Christ for victory and discover where you went wrong. 

Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.  So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.  And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:20-22).

This case is a bad case.  It may not have been quite as bad as the case of the man among the tombs over in Gadara because he was a grown man and had been demon-possessed for a long time.  This was a boy but had he gone on in this state he would probably have been as bad, if not worse, than the other case.  So this father just casts himself upon the Lord Jesus on behalf of his tortured son.  When we do that, he’ll do something to help.

A full description is given of the boy’s condition.  The length and severity are clearly expressed to dismiss any superficial conclusions that the ailment may have been only temporary.  The devil would kill those whom he possesses if he could, because like a roaring lion he seeks those he may devour.  We see from how the father makes his request that he had some doubts about Jesus’ ability, because he said, “But if You can do anything.”  It’s human nature for many to approach Christ today with doubts, and when there are doubts, just like the disciples our efforts to live the Christian life are ineffective.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

Here is something that is very important for us to understand.  The thought here is that Christ turned to the father and asked him to believe.  It’s not a question of “if thou can do anything,”-the Lord Jesus can do everything.  The question is “if you can believe.”  Jesus had checked the man’s faith and found a weak faith.  So Jesus encouraged the man; He told him, “All things are possible.”  All things are possible to the one who believes in the almighty power of God, to which all things are possible.  All things are possible if they line up with the will of Almighty God.  When we bring our petitions to God very much depends upon our believing.  We must be willing to put all in the hands of Christ.  The prerequisite for healing is never doubtful on God’s part, only on man’s.  “If you can believe, all things are possible.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The man recognized the burden that was placed upon him.  He must have faith in Christ, before his son is healed.  His son could not participate in his own healing because he was being controlled by a demon.  The man confessed his lack of faith.  He said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  He asked the right person for help.  He longed for faith, and God granted his request.

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”  Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.”  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (Mark 9:25-27).

The crowd congregated around Jesus in hope of seeing a miracle.  He didn’t keep them in suspense for long.  He ordered the unclean spirit out of the boy, calling it a “Deaf and dumb spirit.”  The spirit hurt the boy one more time before he came out by causing a convulsion and casting him to the ground.  There he lay so quietly that it appeared that he was dead.  Satan’s power was broken; the demon that treated him so terribly was gone.   Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet so everyone could see that the child had recovered and that all was well. 

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”  So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29).

Christ could cast out the demon with nothing more than a word, but the disciples could not.  This was a difficult case for them, perhaps because the child was possessed from such an early age.  It was a good lesson for the disciples, because they must not think that they will always be able to do their work with ease.  Sometimes their work will take more than ordinary effort; it will require fasting and a lot of prayer.  It may be a good lesson for you and me also, because if we have a weak witness, it is probably because our prayers are weak.  And today, it may be that the church is weak because prayer is weak.


Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”   Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”  And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father (Luke 9:37-43).

This entire scene is a picture of today.  Jesus has returned to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God.  The disciples are with Him.  We are down here in this world where there is confusion, compromise and impotence.  The world today acts like a demon-possessed man, and the church is helpless in the presence of the world’s needs.  When Jesus spoke to the crowd, He rebuked them for their lack of faith concerning this boy, and apparently the scribes and disciples were included. 

The condition of this boy was pitiful.  Jesus turned to the father and asked him to believe.  The other gospel writers tell us that the father made a desperate plea for faith, .  The disciples were puzzled because they had cast out demons before but could not cast out this one.  Our Lord confirms that this case was difficult because of its seriousness.  The Lord rebuked the demon, healed the child, and delivered him to his father. 


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