Matthew 17:19
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Why could not we cast him out?—The question came obviously from the disciples who had been left below when our Lord went apart with Peter, James, and John, to the Mount of the Transfiguration. They did not even now see the reason of their failure. They had dealt with this case as they had dealt with others. Why had they not met with a like issue? They did not as yet perceive that they came under our Lord’s language of rebuke, and did not look on themselves as belonging to the “faithless generation.”

Matthew 17:19-20. Then came the disciples to Jesus — Namely, the nine disciples, who had been left with the multitude, when Jesus and the three others went up to the mount. They were silent before the multitude, ashamed, it seems, that they could not cast out this evil spirit, and, perhaps, vexed lest through some fault of their own they had lost the power of working miracles, formerly conferred upon them. But when they came with Jesus to their lodging, they asked the reason why they could not cast out that particular demon? Jesus said, Because of your unbelief — Because in this particular you had not faith. You doubted whether I could or would enable you to cast out this evil spirit, and I permitted him to resist your efforts, to reprove the weakness of your faith. For if ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed — If ye have the least measure of the faith of miracles; ye shall say to this mountain, Remove, &c. — Ye shall, by that faith, be able to accomplish the most difficult things in all cases wherein the glory of God and the good of his church are concerned. It is certain that the faith here spoken of may subsist without saving faith: Judas had it, and so had many, who thereby cast out devils, and yet will, at last, have their portion with them. It is only a supernatural persuasion given a man, that God will work by him in an extraordinary and supernatural way, at that hour. Now, though I have all this faith, so as to remove mountains, yet if I have not the faith that worketh by love, I am nothing. To remove mountains, was a proverbial phrase among the Jews, and is still retained in their writings, to express a thing which is very difficult, and to appearance impossible.17:14-21 The case of afflicted children should be presented to God by faithful and fervent prayer. Christ cured the child. Though the people were perverse, and Christ was provoked, yet care was taken of the child. When all other helps and succours fail, we are welcome to Christ, may trust in him, and in his power and goodness. See here an emblem of Christ's undertaking as our Redeemer. It encourages parents to bring children to Christ, whose souls are under Satan's power; he is able to heal them, and as willing as he is able. Not only bring them to Christ by prayer, but bring them to the word of Christ; to means by which Satan's strong-holds in the soul are beaten down. It is good for us to distrust ourselves and our own strength; but it is displeasing to Christ when we distrust any power derived from him, or granted by him. There was also something in the malady which rendered the cure difficult. The extraordinary power of Satan must not discourage our faith, but quicken us to more earnestness in praying to God for the increase of it. Do we wonder to see Satan's bodily possession of this young man from a child, when we see his spiritual possession of every son of Adam from the fall!Then came the disciples ... - This inquiry was made in some house to which they retired near the place where the miracle was performed (Mark). Jesus told them, in reply, that it was because of their unbelief that they had not been able to cast him out. They were appalled by the difficulty of the case and the obstinacy of the disease. Their faith would not have made it more easy for God to work this miracle, but such was his will - such the way in which he worked miracles, that he required faith in those who were the instruments. Mt 17:14-23. Healing of a Demoniac Boy—Second Explicit Announcement by Our Lord of His Approaching Death and Resurrection. ( = Mr 9:14-32; Lu 9:37-45).

The time of this section is sufficiently denoted by the events which all the narratives show to have immediately preceded it—the first explicit announcement of His death, and the transfiguration—both being between His third and His fourth and last Passover.

Healing of the Demoniac and Lunatic Boy (Mt 17:14-21).

For the exposition of this portion, see on [1322]Mr 9:14-32.

Second Announcement of His Death (Mt 17:22, 23).

See Poole on "Matthew 17:21". Then came the disciples to Jesus apart,.... Or "secretly", as the Vulgate Latin, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel read; that is, privately, and when alone; and as Mark says, "when he was come into the house"; and was by himself, then came the nine disciples to him, to converse with him about this matter,

and said unto him, why could not we cast him out? That is, the devil, and so cure the lunatic; the Syriac and Persic versions render it, "why could not we heal him?" The lunatic; which only could be done by casting out the demon: they were concerned, fearing they had lost the power which Christ had bestowed on them, and wanted to know what they had done, which had deprived them of it; and what should be the cause of their late unsuccessful attempt, when they had so frequently triumphed over the unclean spirits, that were subject to them. Though they might have learned from the answer Christ gave to the father of the lunatic, and the general character of the Jewish nations in that answer, the true reason of their own inability; but this they took no notice of, imagining it belonged entirely to others, and not to them.

{3} Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

(3) Incredulity and distrust hinder and break the direction of God's benefits.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 17:19. κατʼ ἰδίαν: the disciples have some private talk with the Master as to what has just happened.—διατί οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν: the question implies that the experience was exceptional; in other words that on their Galilean mission, and, perhaps, at other times, they had possessed and exercised healing power.Matthew 17:19.[793] Καὶ εἶπον, κ.τ.λ., and said, etc.) A salutary submission, and enquiry as to the cause.—διατὶοὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν, why—were we unable?) They had been already in the habit of performing the miracle in question; see ch. Matthew 10:1.

[793] Οἱ μαθηταὶ, the disciples) Not even Peter, James, and John being excluded (excepted). Otherwise, one would think that the expulsion of the demon should have been committed to them on their return from the mountain.—V. g.Verse 19. - Apart (κατ ἰδίαν). Jesus had retired to a house (Mark) when the disciples came to him. The question which they desired to ask was one that could not he investigated in the presence of the sneering, unbelieving crowd. Why could not we (ἡμεῖς, emphatic) cast him (αὐρὸ, it) out? They had keenly felt their impotence and failure, so publicly and distressingly displayed, especially as they had received power to eject demons, and had successfully exercised this authority (Luke 10:17). The Lord's rebuke (ver. 17) had passed over their heads, and not been understood as applicable to themselves. So it was with some bitterness that they asked the question. The nine had not been permitted to witness the Transfiguration; they were not even to be made acquainted with this wondrous transaction at present. More preparation, greater receptivity, was required, before they were fit to be admitted to the full mysteries of the kingdom. They had still much to learn, were still only pupils, and their late failure was permitted in order to help them to attain to self-knowledge and more entire self-surrender.
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