Ok, lots of weird stuff going on here. First of all, what’s up with Jesus? “You faithless generation, how much longer must I put with you?” He simply does not exude the gentle, meek and mild Jesus we so often think of. He seems impatient, frustrated and unsympathetic. There are many potential reasons for this, I suppose. His question here, though, makes me wonder if he’s becoming increasingly aware of the suffering that is imminent, and this is feeding some anxiety and impatience. “How much longer” may not be mere rhetoric, but might be a more honest question about how far off the suffering is.
In any case, here we are with another exorcism, but perhaps more than any other, our modern minds can see that this has all the marks not of an evil spirit, but epilepsy. Though, as we’ve said, in the first century they wouldn’t know this, and the only conclusion for them would be some evil force having taken over this boy. The trick here is that if it is epilepsy, Jesus still heals it via a command against an evil spirit along with the call for faith from the father of the boy. And it’s in this that broad interpretations of this healing can lead us to all kinds of dangerous paths. If Jesus heals this boy’s epilepsy, why not all those people who live with it today? We just don’t know. There is no sufficient answer to this question, except to say that we must be careful when interpreting texts such as these.
But what is going on here is, once again, a display of Jesus’ power as compared to anyone else. The disciples are impotent to healing this boy, but Jesus simply commands the spirit to leave and the boy is healed. Jesus says that “this kind can only come out through prayer”, but Jesus doesn’t use prayer to God to do it. He simply says, “go” and the spirit goes. He doesn’t need to pray to God because he is God. He doesn’t need to access the power of God because he is the embodiment of the power God.
This is a reminder to us that if we are to do anything of God’s work, we can only do it by the power of the Spirit of God. We must actively tap into the presence of God so as to align ourselves with who God is and what God is up to in this world if we are to do anything in the way of being the Body of Christ for the world. Anything is possible, but only when we align ourselves with the active work of the Spirit in the world today. And that takes discipline.
It is in a sense, then, the essence of what it means to be a disciple. A disciple is one who does the ongoing work of aligning themselves with the active work of the Spirit in the world today, in so doing we collectively become the Body of Christ for the world. So be it with us today.