Pentecost 15, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Matthew 17:14-21

“When they came to the crowd, a man came to [Jesus], knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’” Matthew 17:14-16 (NRSV)

Imagine a the anguish of a father, watching his son suffer day after day, helpless to do anything but watch and try to prevent him from doing too much damage to himself. The boy is described as being an epileptic, but in biblical times that was not a medical diagnosis. Rather, it was a description of his behavior: something seemed to take hold of or seize him. This father has no way to battle the force that would periodically seize his son and throw him into dangerous situations.

He hears of a man who is able to cure various diseases and cast out demons. Finally, hope for his son! Eagerly he takes the boy and journeys to where this man is supposed to be. He finds some of his disciples and implores them, please, cure my son. The disciples agree to do so. But they fail. No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, there is no improvement in the boy. The father is disappointed. Why could they not do the miraculous healing their Lord is known for? And as he asks himself this question, he realizes his mistake: these men are the Lord’s followers; they are not the Lord himself.

The Lord Jesus Christ is perfect. He is compassionate, merciful, just, and able to do great things. His disciples throughout history have tried to follow his example, with varying degrees of success. No follower of Christ is as compassionate, as merciful, or as just as Jesus. No follower of Christ is perfect. And while we strive to live up to his calling, none of us is worthy of another’s faith.

Christians may help point the way to salvation, but we cannot save anyone. Only Christ can do that.

Let us pray. God of salvation, you sent us out to be your witnesses. Grant us the strength to be humble, that we may not confuse anyone by claiming your greatness for ourselves. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.