Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 117 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Matthew 17 today and our focus is on what casts out demons: prayer or faith? We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Taiwan, Haryana, India, Omaha, Nebraska, Indianapolis, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, St. Paul Minnesota and Roanoke, Virginia . Thanks for listening!  Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\

Let’s open with a comment from OG from yesterday’s episode on Matthew 16:

A side point: I have heard people challenge the divinity of Jesus based upon v.28, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” where Jesus promises that some of those present would not taste death until they had seen Him in His Glory. In one broad sense, this verse is fulfilled in the resurrection, as the disciples saw the Glorified Christ, to whom all authority had been given. But the verse is also fulfilled in the very next chapter, in which Jesus takes Peter and the sons of Zebedee to a mountain-top and shows them His Glory. Whenever you are confronted by a challenging passage… keep reading.

Today we are talking about deliverance or exorcism – the casting out of demons – but the way we will be talking about that could apply to other areas of faith as well. Here’s the situation – a desperate father brings his son to Jesus, and asks for healing. What is the problem? The son has seizures, according to the CSB. The Greek text doesn’t actually say seizures, however. Interestingly, it says, “selēniázomai,” and this is a pretty fascinating word. If you look up this passage in the KJV, it says the boy is a lunatick, and the literal Greek word means “moon-struck,” which is where the word lunatic comes from – lunar meaning moon. We aren’t entirely sure what moonstruck means, but it does seem reasonable that some sort of seizures are involved, based on the father’s testimony, who says, “He often falls into the fire and often into the water. ” Let me be clear about something: if somebody has seizures, it does not mean that they are demonized. The Bible does not use the word ‘seizure’ here (in the original language) and epilepsy was unknown to the Greeks and Hebrews. Jesus does NOT ascribe seizures to the demonic. In this particular case, with this particular boy, he was greatly suffering and being tossed into fire and water – not by a medical condition that science would treat today with anti-seizure medication, but by some sort of unclean spirit, as Mark 9 makes clear:

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Come out of him and never enter him again.” Mark 9:25

Let’s pause our discussion for a moment, read our passage, and then finish our discussion.

As you heard, this man initially brings his boy to the disciples of Jesus for healing, but they are unable to help, which leads them to ask Jesus why not? His answer is quite interesting:

20 “Because of your little faith,” he told them. “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 

So then, faith is a key to driving out unclean spirits – and also many things in the Christian walk…but we might have a problem here, because in Mark 9, which is a parallel account of this incident, written by a different author at a different time in a different place….it says Jesus told the disciples a seemingly different answer to their question!

28 After he had gone into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 And he told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.” Mark 9:28-29

So, which is it? Does exorcism and other great acts of deliverance happen by PRAYER or FAITH? Is this a Bible contradiction?

I think we are dealing with the exact nature of eyewitness testimony and true history here – rather than this being a sign of contradiction, this is actually a sign of authenticity. This, and many other texts like it, demonstrate that there was no massive and systematic conspiracy in the early days of the church to ‘sanitize’ and harmonize the text of the four gospels to make them agree exactly with each other. If you’ve ever studied eyewitness testimony, you will know that it is very suspicious when several different testimonies exactly corroborate in every detail.

My belief here is that we aren’t dealing with a contradiction (because neither Mark nor Matthew contradicts each other), but rather, this is a puzzle – I think it is a divine puzzle, actually – one that has been orchestrated to appear in Scripture exactly as it does and is meant to teach a profound truth. Jesus probably did say both things: the reason the disciples couldn’t cast out the demon was because of prayer AND faith. In a very real sense, as Jesus will show us – both of these things are inextricably bound. He said the same thing, essentially.

To see the deep connection between prayer and faith, see Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 18. His message, which is all focused on prayer, can be summed up in one sentence: “Always pray, never give up.” Top illustrate this, Jesus teaches a parable on prayer, and then concludes that parable this way:

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:8

What kind of faith is Jesus talking about here? And I believe the crystal clear contextual answer is the kind of faith that results in persisting and persevering prayer that never gives up! Jesus is telling us here that faith looks like a lifestyle of persistent prayer – always praying; never giving up. Persisting prayer and faith are inextricably bound in the theology of Jesus, and therefore the disciples could not cast the unclean spirit out because they were not walking in the faith that is expressed by a lifestyle of unrelenting prayer. We could phrase that the other way too: The disciples couldn’t deliver this dear young boy because they were not living a life marked by persistent prayer, and thus lacked the faith produced by such a lifestyle. How do we persist today when faced with the same sorts of spiritual obstacles? By faithful persisting prayer and by persisting prayer that demonstrates and produces great faith.

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for April  James 4:6 “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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