Matthew 17:21
Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
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(21) This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.—The words imply degrees in the intensity of the forms of evil ascribed to demons amounting to a generic difference. Some might yield before the energy of a human will, and the power of the divine Name, and the prayers even of a weak faith. Some, like that which comes before us here, required a greater intensity of the spiritual life, to be gained by the “prayer and fasting” of which our Lord speaks. The circumstances of the case render it probable that our Lord himself had vouchsafed to fulfil both the conditions. The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer. The words are noticeable as testifying to the real ground and motive for “fasting,” and to the gain for the higher life to be obtained, when it was accompanied by true prayer, by this act of conquest over the lower nature. So St. Peter’s vision (Acts 10:9-10), and the appointment of Paul and Barnabas by the direct guidance of the Spirit (Acts 13:2), are both connected with fasting. And St. Paul, besides the “hunger and thirst” that came upon him as the incidents of his mission-work, speaks of himself as “in fastings often” (2Corinthians 11:27).

Matthew 17:21. This kind — Of devils, goeth not out but by prayer and fasting — Joined with an eminent degree of the faith he had been describing. He intended by this to excite them to intercede with God for his more abundant co-operation; and by such extraordinary devotions to endeavour to prepare their souls for his further influences. What a testimony have we here of the efficacy of fasting, when added to fervent prayer! Some kinds of devils the apostles had east out before this without fasting.

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!Howbeit, this kind ... - This kind means this kind of devils - this species of possession. Where they have had long possession where they produce such painful, fixed, and alarming effects, they can be expelled only in connection with prayer and fasting.

Goeth not out but by prayer and fasting - That is, in order to work miracles of this kind to cast out devils in cases so obstinate and dreadful as this, faith of the highest kind is necessary. That faith is produced and kept vigorous only by much prayer, and by such abstinence from food as fits the mind for the highest exercises of religion, and leaves it free to hold communion with God.

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).

Ver. 19-21. Mark repeats only what we have here Matthew 17:19,21. The reason assigned here by our Saviour why his disciples could not cast out this devil, was their unbelief; not their total want, but the weakness of their faith. Christ here again lets us see the power of faith, and the mischief of unbelief. I take the plain sense of the text to be this, That there is nothing which may tend to the glory of God, or to our good, but may be obtained of God by a firm exercise of faith in him. Whether our Saviour here speaketh of a faith of miracles, or no, I will not determine; I rather think that he speaketh here of any true faith: we must have the power and promise of God for its object. The promise of working miracles by a Divine power committed to them, was a particular promise made to the disciples, Matthew 10:1-42, and so was only the object of their faith. But I take our Saviour’s words to extend to a further latitude, though, as to miraculous operations, it was only applicable to them. There is nothing which God hath promised to give or bestow on any but faith will obtain from him, if attended by a fervent prayer, to which fasting is subservient, as preparing us to it. There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are. A mercy sometimes seem to us to come out of the hand of God with more difficulty, and wrestling for it; but there is nothing within the latitude of a promise, but is to be done and obtained by the vigorous exercise of faith, and by fervent and importunate prayer. The apostles had yet but a weak and imperfect faith, and they had not used such fervent and importunate prayer in this case as they ought to have done; thence did this work appear so difficult unto them.

Howbeit, this kind goeth not out,.... The Vulgate Latin renders it, "is not cast out"; and so do the Arabic version, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel; and which confirm the more commonly received sense of these words, that they are to be understood of that kind of devils, one of which was cast out of the lunatic, and was of the worst sort, of a fierce and obstinate kind; and having had long possession, was not easily ejected: and that there is a difference in devils, some are worse and more wicked than others, is clear from Matthew 12:45 and not of that kind of miracles, or kind of faith to the working of such miracles. Moreover, the above versions, as they fitly express the word here used; see Mark 9:17 compared with Matthew 15:17. So they pertinently set forth the dispossession of devils, who do not go out voluntarily, but by force; and this sort could not be ejected,

but by fasting and prayer: that is, in the exercise of a miraculous faith, expressed in solemn prayer to God, joined with fasting. It seems that Christ not only suggests, that faith was greatly wanting in his disciples; for which reason they could not cast out the devil, and heal the lunatic; but they had been wanting in prayer to God, to assist them in the exercise of their miraculous gifts; and that whilst Christ, and the other three disciples were on the mount, they had been feasting and indulging themselves with the people, and so were in a very undue disposition of mind, for such extraordinary service, for which our Lord tacitly rebukes them. This agrees with the notions of the Jews, who think that, by fasting, a divine soul (f) , "may obtain that which is sought for"; and that among other things, for which a private person may afflict himself with fasting, this is one, , "because of an evil spirit" (g); which they think may be got rid of this way.

(f) Jacchiades in Dan. x. 3.((g) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 22. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Taaniot, c. 1. sect. 6.

{4} Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by {h} prayer and fasting.

(4) The remedy against distrust.

(h) To help us to understand the watchfulness and diligence of earnest prayer, which cannot be without sobriety.

Matthew 17:21. Τοῦτο τὸ γένος] this species of demons to which the one just expelled belongs. Otherwise, Euth. Zigabenus: τὸ γένος τῶν δαιμόνων πάντων. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Elsner, Fritzsche, Bleek. But the τοῦτο, used with special reference to the fact of its being a case of epilepsy, must be intended to specify a kind of demons which it is peculiarly difficult to exorcise.

ἐν προσευχῇ κ. νηστείᾳ] inasmuch as the πίστις is thereby strengthened and elevated, and attains to that pitch which is necessary in order to the casting out of such demons. The climax in Matthew 17:20-21 may be represented thus: If you have only a slender amount of faith, you will, no doubt, be able to accomplish things of an extraordinary and seemingly impossible nature; but, in order to expel spirits of so stubborn a character as this, you require to have such a degree of faith as can only be reached by means of prayer and fasting. You have neglected the spiritual preparation that is necessary to the attainment of so lofty a faith. Comp. Acts 14:23. Prayer and fasting are here represented as means for promoting faith, not as good works, which are of themselves effectual in dealing with the demons (Schegg and the older Catholics). Paulus and Ammon incorrectly suppose that the prayer and fasting are required of the sick persons themselves, with a view to some dietetic and psychological effect or other being produced upon their bodies; while Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euth. Zigabenus are of opinion that they are demanded not merely from the healer, but also from the patient, as necessary weapons to be used against the demon. Inasmuch as ἐκπορεύεται is, according to the context, the correlative of ἐκβαλεῖν, Matthew 17:19 (comp. also ἐξῆλθεν, Matthew 17:18), we must likewise discard the view of Ewald, who thinks that in Matthew there is an allusion to a class of men whose character is such that they cannot be induced to set to work but with fasting and prayer. Comp. on the contrary, ἐκπορ., Acts 19:12 (and Mark 9:29 : ἐξελθεῖν).

Those who adopt the mythical view of the whole incident (Strauss) pretend to find the origin of the legend in 2 Kings 4:29 ff., which is no less unwarrantable than the interpretation, according to which it is treated as a symbolical narrative, intended to rebuke the want of faith on the part of the disciples (Scholten), or as a didactic figure as an admonition of the hidden Christ for an increase of faith amid the violent demoniacal excesses of the time (Volkmar). Moreover, the somewhat more circumstantial account of Mark is of a stamp so peculiar, is so clear and full of meaning, that it is not to be regarded as a later amplification, but the account in Matthew (and Luke) is rather to be looked upon as an abridgment of the former.

Matthew 17:21. ide on Mark 9:29.

21. this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting] Those only whose own spiritual life and faith are made strong by self-denial and by communion with God in prayer are able to cast forth this kind of evil spirit.

Matthew 17:21. Τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος, κ.τ.λ., but this kind, etc.) Our Lord does not in this passage speak of the whole race of devils, but of this particular kind or class of them; from whence it appears that there are more than one kind of devils. The disciples had before this cast out devils even without prayer and fasting;[795] but this kind of devils has a disposition especially opposed to, and reducible by, prayer and fasting. The disciples were not accustomed to fasting (see ch. Matthew 9:14); and they appear to have been somewhat sell-indulgent (sobrietatem … minus servare) during their Lord’s absence.

[795] Since by [prayers and] fastings faith is increased.—V. g.

Verse 21. - This verse is omitted in many good manuscripts and by the Revised Version, it being considered to have been introduced from the parallel passage of St. Mark. It gives the second reason for the failure of the nine. This kind... fasting. Though all things are possible to faith, some works are more difficult of accomplishment than others. This kind can mean only this kind of evil spirit, or demons generally. But the latter interpretation is excluded by the fact that the apostles had already exercised successfully their power over devils without special prayer or fasting. The words point to a truth in the spiritual world, that there are different degrees in the Satanic hierarchy (comp. Matthew 12:45); some demons are more malignant than others, and have greater power over the souls of men. In the present case the possession was of long standing; it revolved a terrible bodily malady; it was of an intense and unusual character. The mere word of exorcism, or the name of Jesus, spoken with little spiritual faith, could net overcome the mighty enemy. The exorcist needed special preparation; he must inspire and augment his faith by prayer and self-discipline. Prayer invokes the aid of God, and puts one's self unreservedly in his hands; fasting subdues the flesh, arouses the soul's energies, brings into exercise the higher parts of man's nature. Thus equipped, a man is open to receive power from on high, and can quell the assaults of the evil one. Matthew 17:21
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