Commentary on Matthew 17:14-20
Today we have the story of a father distraught over the erratic behaviour of his son. As usually is the case, Mark’s telling of this story is much more dramatic. Nevertheless, Matthew keeps the main points.
There is the desperation of the father who feels helpless at the apparent uncontrollable behaviour of his son. The symptoms appear very similar to epilepsy, a condition which is quite well understood today and whose causes – at least in general – are known. But it must have been easy for people in those days to believe that some evil power had suddenly taken hold of an otherwise normal person to make them behave in such bizarre ways.
The man had at first approached the disciples who were of no help. Jesus expresses dismay and disappointment at the people’s lack of faith, presumably including that of his own disciples, in his criticism.
Jesus then drives out the demon plaguing the boy and he was made whole. The disciples, who had done their share of healing on their missionary excursions, wondered why they were not able to heal the boy. “Because you have so little trust/faith,” he told them. Even a tiny amount of real trust in God can move mountains, he said. “Nothing would be impossible for you.”
How strong is my faith and trust in God’s care of me? Jesus’ words, of course, are not a carte blanche just to ask for anything that comes into our heads. It is not an invitation to manipulate God; on the contrary, it is a call to put all our trust in God knowing that, whatever happens to us, he has our best interests at heart. Such a faith, accompanied by a deep love, is what brings happiness and peace into our lives.