How Long?

Jesus and his three disciples came down from the mountain and were met by a large crowd. Just then someone in the crowd shouted, “Teacher, please do something for my son! He is my only child! A demon often attacks him and makes him scream. It shakes him until he foams at the mouth, and it won’t leave him until it has completely worn the boy out. I begged your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn’t do it.”

Jesus said to them, “You people are stubborn and don’t have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you?”

Then Jesus said to the man, “Bring your son to me.” While the boy was being brought, the demon attacked him and made him shake all over. Jesus ordered the demon to stop. Then he healed the boy and gave him back to his father. (Luke 9:37–42)

Because he loves us, Jesus never gives up on us. Jesus words to his disciples may seem harsh. In the face of the boy’s suffering, Jesus berated them for being “stubborn” and having “no faith.” He then wonders aloud about how long he’s going to have to stay with them and put up with it all.

Where was Jesus’ compassion? Why was he suddenly so cross with them? The context explains it all. Jesus had sent his disciples two by two to preach about the kingdom, with Jesus’ authority to heal and cast out demons. He had fed the five thousand. Peter had declared that Jesus was Messiah and Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection. Then three of his closest disciples had witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, saw Moses and Elijah, and heard the voice of the Father. It was only after all of that, that Jesus blew up at his disciples when they failed to help a poor man and his son. Nevertheless, Jesus solved the problem, despite the stubbornness and faithlessness around him. He healed the boy from the demon and restored the son to his father.

Jesus may be disappointed by our failure, just he was with his disciples, but he’ll keep working with us, even as he kept working with them. How long did he put up with his disciples? The rest of their lives, and for all eternity. But Jesus more than just puts up with us. He loves us and will be with us always.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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