FROM the mountaintop of transfiguration the Lord leads the disciples down the road to practical service. He finds the other disciples powerless to cast out a demon from a possessed youth. The desperate father pleads, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus answers, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” It reminds us of His word to the blind men, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29).
How poorly we have learned this lesson! Our faith is the measure of our blessing. Today faith is being extolled for its own sake as though it mattered not what we believe, just so we believe something with all our might. So we are told that prayer is valuable for its own reflex action upon the one who prays. But the value of faith depends upon the object of faith. All things are possible to him that believeth if he believes in Him with whom all things are possible!
But when the Lord is the object of faith, then the measure of blessing and achievement is in proportion to that faith. Truly we need to cry out today as did the father of this boy, “Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief.”
Our Lord reproves the faithless disciples and declares that such goes not out but by prayer and fasting. If we accept the consensus of scholars that this verse is not in the original, the fact remains that we do not have such power and such faith—and we still believe that it comes the way of prayer, and most of us would do well to change from feasting to fasting.
There are plenty of demons to be cast out today, demons entrenched in the soul and societies and men—but we lack the power. We speak not with authority. Christians and churches stand embarrassed and defeated before the modern demoniacs. When Thomas Aquinas visited the Vatican, the Pope said as they viewed the splendors: “No longer does the Church have to say, ‘Silver and gold have I none’.” “True,” answered Aquinas, “but neither can she say, ‘Rise and walk’!”
To this passage (Matt. 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-32; Luke 9:37-45) Matthew adds the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth. The tax was due, and our Lord could have claimed exemption as Son of God, but He was willing to forego His rights and pay it by a miracle. We Christians may learn a needed lesson here. There are many obligations from which we may feel exempt, but rather than offend others it is best to meet them. There are many little duties which often are irksome and which, strictly speaking, do not bind us, but we are still in the world and must forego personal privilege time and again, so long as no principle is involved. If the King of glory was willing to be bothered with so small a matter as temple tax, we should not grow too important to overlook such small items. Notice our Lord said to Peter, “Give unto them for Me and thee.” The Lord shares with His servant! If He is with us, He shares life’s ordinary cares, even our taxes!