12 June 2021

Luke 9:37-45

Jesus answered, ‘You faithfulness and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?’ (v. 40a).

Psalm 142


Following the Transfiguration, and after the descent from the mountain, Jesus meets a large crowd (v.37). A man from the crowd shouts to Jesus to help his son, his only child, who – possessed by a spirit – experiences convulsions and falls to the ground (vs 38-39). This seems to be a case of epilepsy (as in Matthew 17:15), and such a story raises questions for many readers over Luke’s (and the early Christian) interpretation of this event. The gospel writers can, however, distinguish between epilepsy and possession (Matthew 4:24), and in this case attribute the condition to an evil spirit.

The man explains to Jesus that the disciples had been unable to cast out the demon, and so turns to Jesus himself for help (v. 40). It is at this point that Jesus – seemingly in exasperation – wonders how long he must bear with such a ‘faithless and perverse generation’ (v. 41). Jesus’ words here are probably directed against the lack of faith shown by the disciples. They had earlier been equipped with Jesus’ authority and power (Luke 9:1), and had healed by the authority of Jesus (9:6). Their inability to help the child here showed their need for greater faith.

Jesus then demonstrates his authority by exorcising the unclean spirit and healing the child. As Jesus returns the child to his father (vs 41-42), we can imagine the father’s relief. The passage ends by highlighting that the crowd was astounded at the greatness of God demonstrated through this act of Jesus (v. 43a).

Earlier in Luke 9, Jesus had revealed his glory (9:28-36) but also the path of suffering that he would undertake (9:21-23), which is again emphasised immediately after this text (9:43-45). Jesus, the one who suffers, is also the one who heals and restores, and the miracles again points to his authority as God’s chosen one.

To Ponder:

  • What does this story demonstrate about Jesus and his mission?
  • Put yourself in the father’s shoes. What do you think he would have felt and thought as he approached Jesus for help?
  • How do you react to Jesus’ exasperation at the failure of his disciples’ faith?


Bible notes author

Dr Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Lecturer in Biblical Theology and Mission at Cliff College, and previously worked as a Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.

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