Matthew 17:14-20 So Little Faith

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

So Little Faith

Those who are in the crowds Jesus is talking to have no faith.  His disciples have little faith.  Jesus has much faith.  The amount of miraculous and world-changing work a person is able to do is directly related to their amount of faith.  If a person has no faith, their perception will be that the physical realm is all that there is.  They will look to technology and scientific discoveries for hope.  Although disciples trust that science can be used for good, they do not look to it primarily.  There are those who think that faith is anti-science and limits thinking.  Faithful thinking encompasses science and is broader in its thinking because it allows for more holistic approaches to life.  As well as the scientific, the emotional and spiritual can be fully explored.  Science tends to reduce emotional and spiritual phenomena to synaptic impulses or electrical flow.  This is the means by which signals are transmitted in many cases, but it is not the whole story.  Those who have bought into the limited perspective of scientific naturalism tend to accuse people of faith as being stupid.  People of faith they say just stop the discussion with statements of faith.  How does lightning form?  God does it!  What is the internal fluid of the eye?  Whatever God put there.  There is a faith community that embraces shallow thinking and stupidity, however, there are those who go deeper and ask, “If God forms the lightning, how does he do it?”  They believe that God reveals himself and not all that we experience is divine mystery.  So when we deal with illness, troubles and trials we can engage with science, but it must be done with an holistic perspective that develops faith.


  1. What are Jesus’ disciples not able to do?
  2. Why can’t they do it?
  3. How are faith and healing related?
  4. How do you approach mental illness, sickness, and trials?
  5. How could your faith be increased in your approach to life’s problems?

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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3 Responses to Matthew 17:14-20 So Little Faith

  1. Kelli says:

    1. Drive out this demon.
    2. Their faith is not great enough.
    3. Jesus consistently rewards faith with his healing. Over and over again he says to people, “Because of your faith, I will do this.”
    4. I don’t tend to look to God for healing, when it comes to physical disease. I haven’t seen miracles of this sort. And when I have prayed for healing, the answer has been, “No.” So I assume the same answer. I have seen his spiritual and emotional healing though. I have a much easier time believing him for that.
    5. First of all, I have a hard time with the language that seems to measure faith. In other words, how do I get “more” of it? I also struggle with knowing if I should have faith that Jesus could heal or if I should have faith that Jesus will heal. Cognitively, I think I have faith that Jesus could heal. But to have faith that he WILL heal seems presumptuous. And I am afraid of being disappointed. Or is the object of my faith simply Jesus himself? Does having “more faith” mean beleiving and trusting that He will do what he deems best and that he will be glorified?

  2. Jonna Leshock says:

    Kelli – just adding some thoughts in response to your comments!

    4. I tend to look towards Jesus first in times of extreme illness because this is the area where I believe I have witnessed miraculous recoveries, and I attribute these times in large part to prayer. I can think of 3 specific instances in my family where God has done a miracle (a fight against breast cancer, a young girl making a full recovery after attempted suicide and her organs had literally begun to shut down – even the doctors couldn’t explain it, and an older man currently fighting spinal/bone cancer who is alive and well, living with cancer (feeling better than ever) after his doctors have said he should not have made it beyond last May. His doctors are also baffled by his test results and sending these tests to clinics around the US in hopes of a new discovery that may help others fighting this type of terminal cancer. In all three of these situations, I felt literally helpless, out of control, and prayed, prayed, prayed for healing. I feel God responded in mighty and miraculous ways, which makes it easier for me to trust him with physical illness. Where I don’t always look to God for healing is for the more common, everyday type illnesses – my first response is to seek medical attention, and then if things aren’t going well, to pray. I know this is where I need to grow!

    5. I also struggle with “how do I get more faith?”. For me, being very performanced-based and programmed to think this way for most of life, I tend to go with the more I “do” the “better” I will look to Jesus, and therefore, the more faith I will have or be seen to have. I know in my head that this is a lie – that it doesn’t matter how much I “do” – but not sure how that then translates to “acquiring” more faith. For me I have to walk that fine line of checking my heart in all matters and seeking God from my heart, rather than checking God off my to-do list or patting myself on the back for doing more Bible study, service projects, etc. This is definitely a big part of my growth journey!

    • Plymothian says:

      Hopefully the talk last night helped move these thoughts along. It is a lifelong journey to cultivate faith and I think that we can sometimes even have less faith over time when we do not act on the faith that God has given us.

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