Tenth Sunday of Matthew - 17:14-23
By St. John Chrysostom
(From Homily 57 and 58 on Matthew)
"And when they had come to the multitude, there came to Him a man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is lunatic, and sore vexed; for ofttimes he falls into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him unto Your disciples, and they could not cure him." Matthew 17:14-16
This man the Scripture signifies to be exceedingly weak in faith; and this is many ways evident; from Christ's saying, "All things are possible to him that believes;" Mark 9:23 from the saying of the man himself that approached, "Help my unbelief:" Mark 9:24 from Christ's commanding the devil to "enter no more into him;" Mark 9:25 and from the man's saying again to Christ, "If You can." Mark 9:22 "Yet if his unbelief was the cause," it may be said, "that the devil went not out, why does He blame the disciples?" Signifying, that even without persons to bring the sick in faith, they might in many instances work a cure. For as the faith of the person presenting oftentimes availed for receiving the cure, even from inferior ministers; so the power of the doers oftentimes sufficed, even without belief in those who came to work the miracle.
And both these things are signified in the Scripture. For both they of the company of Cornelius by their faith drew unto themselves the grace of the Spirit; and in the case of Eliseus 2 Kings 13:21 again, when none had believed, a dead man rose again. For as to those that cast him down, not for faith but for cowardice did they cast him, unintentionally and by chance, for fear of the band of robbers, and so they fled: while the person himself that was cast in was dead, yet by the mere virtue of the holy body the dead man arose.
Whence it is clear in this case, that even the disciples were weak; but not all; for the pillars Galatians 2:9 were not present there. And see this man's want of consideration, from another circumstance again, how before the multitude he pleads to Jesus against His disciples, saying, "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him."
But He, acquitting them of the charges before the people, imputes the greater part to him. For, "O faithless and perverse generation," these are His words, "how long shall I be with you?" Matthew 17:17 not aiming at his person only, lest He should confound the man, but also at all the Jews. For indeed many of those present might probably be offended, and have undue thoughts of them.
But when He said, "How long shall I be with you," He indicates again death to be welcome to Him, and the thing an object of desire, and His departure longed for, and that not crucifixion, but being with them, is grievous.
He stopped not however at the accusations; but what says He? "Bring him hither to me." Mark 9:21 And Himself moreover asks him, "how long time he is thus;" both making a plea for His disciples, and leading the other to a good hope, and that he might believe in his attaining deliverance from the evil.
And He suffers him to be torn, not for display (accordingly, when a crowd began to gather, He proceeded to rebuke him), but for the father's own sake, that when he should see the evil spirit disturbed at Christ's mere call, so at least, if in no other way, he might be led to believe the coming miracle.
And because he had said, "Of a child," and, "If you can help me," Christ says, "To him that believes, all things are possible," Mark 9:23 again giving the complaint a turn against him. And whereas when the leper said, "If You will, You can make me clean," Matthew 8:2 bearing witness to His authority Christ commending him, and confirming His words, said, "I will, be thou clean;" in this man's case, upon his uttering a speech in no way worthy of His power —"If You can, help me,"— see how He corrects it, as not rightly spoken. For what says He? "If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes." What He says is like this: "Such abundance of power is with me, that I can even make others work these miracles. So that if you believe as one ought, even you yourself art able," says He, "to heal both this one, and many others." And having thus said, He set free the possessed of the devil....
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."
That is, to hinder their saying, "wherefore do we abide here continually," He speaks to them again of the passion; on hearing which they had no wish so much as to see Jerusalem. And it is remarkable how, when both Peter had been rebuked, and Moses and Elias had discoursed concerning it, and had called the thing glory, and the Father had uttered a voice from above, and so many miracles had been done, and the resurrection was at the doors (for He said, He should by no means abide any long time in death, but should be raised the third day); not even so did they endure it, but were sorry; and not merely sorry, but exceeding sorry.