The rebukes of Jesus to his disciples constantly challenge me. I am especially challenged when he points out their “little faith” or “no faith.”
In Matthew 17, after Jesus has come down from the transfiguration event, the disciples have been confronted with a situation they can’t handle. The trouble they have is they experienced the spiritual battle with demons before and had cast out demons, but now this particular situation wasn’t working out the same.
Jesus rebuked the disciples, cast out the demon, and then gave the disciples a lesson on faith… again.
The disciples are still bothered as to WHY they had been able to cast out demons before, but not this time.
In the King James Bible there is a verse that seems to be “missing” in newer translations. It is often footnoted, but the most accurate Greek manuscripts don’t have v. 21:
“But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.”
N.T. Wright in his commentary on Matthew actually addresses this verse to challenge us in our walk with God:
Jesus knows from the disciples’ failure that they are still not in tune with the true God who is calling them, as well as him, to obedience and to the way of the cross. In the last verse of the passage (which some of the best Greek manuscripts miss out; that’s why some of the English versions don’t have it) he challenges them, and us, to a further exercise of faith. Once you are looking at the moon through the right window, maybe you should get out your telescope and study it in more detail. Once you are getting to know the one true God, maybe it’s time for some more concentrated prayer, perhaps even with the discipline of fasting to concentrate your mind and heart. If Jesus himself needed these disciplines, who are we to think we can manage without them? (Wright, T. (2004). Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (pp. 22–23). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.)
We need our hearts tuned to God. We don’t set our hearts one day and then forget it. Our hearts need recalibration day after day. When our hearts are tuned to him, the impossible becomes possible day after day.
There is also the issue we should face of spiritual discipline. Jesus DID model prayer and fasting, even if this particular verse isn’t in the most accurate Greek manuscripts. They saw him pray. They saw the power the flowed from him after he prayed. Walking in spiritual disciplines put Jesus’s heart in tune with the Father in a way that seemed to be moment by moment.
Our hearts need constant tuning. Kingdom life is powerful, but it is not easy. Kingdom life is powerful, but not just for us. It is about the world around us in need of healing and deliverance. When our hearts are tuned, healing and deliverance can flow through us to the world.