15 November 2011

Matthew 17:14-21

"Jesus answered, 'You faithless and perverse generation, how long must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?'" (v. 17)


Just before this story of Jesus healing a boy with epilepsy we read about his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) - a stunning moment where heaven opens and God's voice affirms Jesus as God's son. We might expect Jesus to come down from the mountain following this experience looking serene and holy, with a beatific smile glowing from his encounter. Instead he seems to be irritable and frustrated.

A man emerges from the crowd and falls to his knees begging Jesus to cure his son, who is suffering so terribly. Some of the disciples have already tried and failed to help, and this seems to be the trigger for Jesus' outburst of frustration. Nevertheless he doesn't allow his frustration to get in the way of compassion, healing the boy as requested.

And then his friends come to him privately, perhaps embarrassed or curious as to why Jesus could do what they could not. And they are told, quite bluntly, that it is because of their "little faith" (v. 20).

Up on the mountain top Jesus, along with Peter, James and John experienced at firsthand how close heaven and earth really are: the kingdom of God is present - breaking through into the here and now. And yet in this moment Jesus realises the gap between the reality of the presence of the kingdom and how poorly even his closest followers understand the implications that this has.

There is room in the gaps in the text to experience Jesus in different ways here. Perhaps:

  • He whispers the words of frustration with tears in his eyes, grieving because his followers fail to see the potential in the kingdom breaking through
  • He shouts with rage, rebuking them for being so slow witted and lacking insight after all that they have seen and heard whilst they have been with him
  • He says these words with a sigh and a wry smile, shaking his head fondly as he is well aware of the weaknesses and failings of his friends who he loves so much.


To Ponder

How do you think Jesus says these words to his disciples?

What does this tell you about the person Jesus is and how he deals with people and with you?


Bible notes author

The Revd Ric Stott

Ric Stott is a Methodist minister and works for the Sheffield Methodist District as a Venture FX pioneer exploring new ways of being church, based around the creative arts. He is an artist and art psychotherapist, and is particularly interested in how creativity can help us to explore and develop spirituality, identity and community.