Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Matthew 17:14-20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Cures a Boy with a Demon
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[a] and it[b] came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a[c] mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”[d]
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Honestly, I have never liked this passage of scripture and there are several reasons why. First of all, the boy in the story has epilepsy and we know that epilepsy has a medical explanation and is not caused by demons. People with epilepsy suffer enough already without the added stigma of demon possession that was attached to it until science began to have a better understanding of the brain. Unfortunately, that stigma continues in some parts of the world.
The second problem here is the idea that epilepsy or some other disease can be cured if only one has enough faith. Much suffering has only been made worse by that belief. As a pastor, I have had too many conversations through the years with people of deep faith who have prayed for healing—for themselves or for others—and when that healing didn’t come, their suffering was compounded by a sense of guilt and inadequacy. They blamed themselves because they felt that their faith was lacking—not even the size of a mustard seed.
The third problem is the with taking literally the idea of moving mountains and the idea that “nothing will be impossible for you.” As a child, I remember trying very hard just to move a toy truck with my faith and it didn’t budge an inch.
So, what do we do with this? I think we take a step back and think about these realities:
- The state of scientific understanding in the first century was quite different and the cause of epilepsy was therefore attributed to an external force.
- Faith is powerful and so is medicine and, for that matter, so is disease.
- What is always true, even if a cure isn’t forthcoming, is that we are surrounded by God’s grace and love and how we support one another makes a great difference.
- “Faith so as to remove mountains” is an important concept that reminds us that some of the greatest accomplishments come from strong faith—for individuals, churches, communities, and even nations.
As you meditate on this passage, what do you think? How does it speak to you?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster