I was meeting with some of the pastors here Thursday morning.  We get together once a month to pray with and for each other.  John Schmidt from Cornerstone Baptist Church was talking about the situation in the Gospels when the disciples were not able to cast out the demon from the boy; and as Jesus, Peter, James and John came down the mountain Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah talked with Him. 

As they came down from the mountain they approached a crowd.  The boy’s father asked Jesus to do what the disciples could not; which He did.  The disciples came to Him (quietly, I imagine) afterwards and asked why they were not able to drive out the demons.  Jesus’ response was:

 20  “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure 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. [ 21  However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]” Matthew 17:20-21 (HCSB)

We have been talking about faith in our Sunday School class before church, so this is a timely topic for me.  The faith Jesus was talking about was not the kind of faith you think.  Before this event, Jesus had already sent out the disciples and given them authority over evil spirits.  In Luke 10 they returned to Him astounded that even those demons obeyed them!  So what was different?  Why is this demon any worse than others?  Is it worse?

The fact is, we do not know.  We presume, based on certain Scriptures, that the demonic forces (as well as the angelic ones) seem to follow a hierarchy of some sort – almost like a military unit.  So it is possible that this particular demon had more ability to resist than others.  Another possibility (and I think more likely) is that perhaps the disciples had become somewhat complacent in their authority.  They started to rely on themselves, whereas, in the beginning I am sure they were totally dependent on Jesus.  We tend to do that.  Certainly the history of Israel as a nation is an example.  The people started to think they were the source of their greatness and slowly turned their backs to God.

The reference to prayer and fasting is key in my mind.  I believe the reason Jesus said that “this kind” needs fasting and prayer was more an indictment on the disciples than an indication of the strength of the demon.  Like the nation of Israel, perhaps the disciples began to believe they were the authority the demons were obeying.  After all, I am positive they got the credit when they prayed and demons left.  That is human nature.  What is also human nature, is to begin to believe what other people say.  This is why we are currently studying Ephesians; to help us know who we are in Christ.  It is vital we know that Jesus is our source and our strength.  When He strengthens us – we cannot fail.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing.