The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 17:14-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 1, 2015

14 And when he was come to the multitude, there came to him a man falling down on his knees before him saying: ‎15 Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

14. And when he was come to the multitude.] 4. Power of faith. Here we have first a prayer addressed to Jesus, then the answer to the prayer, and finally an instruction given to the disciples.

a. Prayer. “When he was come to the multitude,” i. e. the day after the transfiguration [cf. Lk. 9:37]. “Lord have pity,” first because I pray for “my son”; secondly, “he is a lunatic, and suffereth much.” It is evident from v. 17 that the boy was also possessed, and the second gospel [cf. Mk. 9:14–29] adds that he was dumb and suffered “from his infancy.” Jans, is of opinion that all his suffering was the effect of his possession, but Caj. Schanz, Knab. maintain that the possession was added to his natural infirmities, his epilepsy and dumbness. No doubt, the devil aggravated the natural affliction of the sufferer considerably, for the father testified “he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water.” “I brought him to thy disciples” shows that the father knew of the miracles wrought by them; “they could not cure him” states only the fact without implying blame of the apostles or doubt concerning the power of Jesus [cf. Cyr.]; according to Mk. 9:21, 22 the faith of the petitioner seems to have been very feeble, so that his lack of faith may have been the cause of the apostles’ failure [cf. Mt. 13:58].

16 Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. ‎17 And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour.

16. Then Jesus answered and said.] b. Grant of the petition. “O unbelieving and perverse generation” is addressed not to the whole human race [cf. Orig.], nor to the father alone [Jer. Euth. Theoph.], nor to the disciples alone [Hil. Meyer, Arn. Bisp.], but to all present [cf. Deut. 32:5; Phil. 2:15], including the people seduced by the suggestions of the scribes [Chrys. Cyr. Br. Thom. Jans. Mald. Lap. Bar. Schegg], the father showing such a weak faith [cf. Mk. 9:21; Chrys. Mald.], and the disciples who had failed in the cure of the sufferer [Pasch. Dion. Fab. Caj. Calm. Schanz, Fil. Knab. Keil]. “How long shall I be with you,” not as if our Lord had wished to suffer the death of the cross rather than remain with them [cf. Chrys. Cyr.]; but he complained of their slowness to comply with his ardent longing for their spiritual welfare [Jer. Jans. Mald.], manifesting at the same time his lovingkindness in the words, “Bring him hither to me.” “And Jesus rebuked him,” not the boy [cf. Theoph. Rab.], nor his sinfulness [cf. Bed. Pasch. Thom.], nor both the devil and the boy [cf. Euth.], nor the devil or the boy indiscriminately [cf. Jer. Bisp.]; but the rebuke was directed to the devil alone, as is distinctly stated in the second and third gospel [Mk. 9:24; Lk. 9:43; Cyr. Dion. Fab. Caj. Jans. Mald. Calm. Arn. Schanz, Fil. Knab.]. The miracle was both an exorcism and a miraculous cure of the boy’s natural infirmities.

‎18 Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? ‎19 Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible to you. 20 But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

18. Then came the disciples to Jesus.] c. Instruction of the disciples. When Jesus had entered a house [Mk. 9:2], the disciples inquired after the cause of their failure, having either not heard [cf. Schegg] or not fully understood [cf. Schanz] the foregoing words of the Master about their unbelief. “Because of your unbelief,” Jesus repeats in presence of the disciples; the devil may have given such striking signs of his power [cf. Mk. 9:19, 25] as to make the apostles hesitate in their faith [cf. James 1:6, 7]. “Faith as a grain of mustard seed” does not denote great and extraordinary faith [cf. Pasch. Jer. Thom. Bed. Sylv. Br.], though the kingdom of heaven is compared to a grain of mustard seed [cf. Mt. 8:31], and though St. Paul [1 Cor. 8:2] represents the faith sufficient to move mountains as something remarkable; nor does the expression signify a lively and vehement faith similar to the qualities of the mustard seed when crushed [cf. Euth. Dion. Fab. Caj. Jans.]; nor again a fruitful and growing faith like the fruitfulness and growth of the mustard plant [cf. Br. Bar.]; for in all these meanings there would be no reason for comparing the faith to a grain of mustard seed rather than to mustard seed in general. Recalling the smallness of the grain of mustard seed [cf. Mt. 8:31 f.], we must here understand by “faith as a grain of mustard seed” even the least amount of sincere faith [Chrys. Hil. Mald. Calm. Arn. Reischl, Bisp. Grimm, Schegg, Schanz, Fil. Knab. etc.], a meaning that also agrees better with the context [cf. Mald.]. Nor is there any discrepancy between the words of Jesus thus understood and those of St. Paul [1 Cor. 8:2]: the faith of miracles implies first the theological virtue of faith; secondly, the application of that universal faith to one particular object concerning which the thaumaturgus firmly believes that God will hear him; thirdly, a firm trust and confidence in the will of the wonder-worker as to the success of his undertaking [cf. Suar. De fid. disp. viii. sect. i. 3, 6]. The words of Jesus view this faith intensively, and assert that the least amount of it suffices to perform any miracle; the apostle views the same faith extensively, or as to its contents, and maintains that it embraces “all faith,” i. e. all kinds of faith. We need not then assume a hyperbole in our Lord’s words [Bar. and Sylv. against Mald.]. “This mountain” does not mean the devil [cf. Hil. Jer. Theoph. Bed. Br.], but it partly refers to the mountain at the foot of which the words were spoken [cf. Mt. 17:1], partly it alludes to a well-known proverb [cf. Zach. 4:7; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 1653; Lightf. in Mt. 21:21; Wünsche, p. 204] according to which the moving of mountains expressed extraordinary and incredible deeds of strength. There is no need to inquire why the apostles did not move mountains in their later life [cf. Theoph. Thom.], though Chrys. testifies that some saints did transfer mountains, as is well known of Gregory of Neocesarea [cf. Bed. ad Marc. xi. 23]; the Lord’s words merely mean, “Nothing shall be impossible to you.”

The following verse is wanting in א* B 33 e ff syr [cu her] sah cop [cd] æth [rom] Eus [can], and is therefore omitted by Tisch. W H Weiss; but the omission rests on too little testimony, while the interpolation of the verse out of the second gospel is improbable on account of the discrepancy. “This kind” does not refer to all devils [cf. Chrys. Euth. Thom. Grimm], for many of them were expelled by the mere command of the exorcists [cf. Acts 16:18; Lk. 10:17; 9:49]; but it denotes specially wicked demons [Jer. Leo, serm. 87, 2; Bed. Pasch. Alb. Dion. Caj. Jans. Mald. Lap. Bar. Calm. Arn. Schegg, Reischl, Fil. Knab. etc.]. “Prayer and fasting” are needed on the part of the possessed person [Chrys.], on the part of the exorcist or the wonder-worker [Orig.], on the part of both the demoniac and the exorcist [Theoph. Euth.]. It is as reasonable that the possessed person should make use of spiritual weapons against his spiritual enemies, as that the exorcist should attain to a closer union with God by prayer and victory over his inordinate affections before beginning to grapple with God’s enemies.


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