The disciple’s lack of faith should neither discourage nor encourage us. Their failings are our failings. Though they had been given the power to heal the sick and cast out demons, their lack of faith is equally comparable to our spiritual complacency and indifference.
The boy’s father came out to Jesus with more faith than his disciples. But he’s worried now. Since the power of the demon was too great for disciples to cast out, Jesus might not be able to help him as well. If several of Jesus’ students could not cast him out, could Jesus? Mustering up the courage to approach Jesus, the boy’s father demonstrates a tender faith and Jesus grants his son immediate relief.
The disciples ensuing question only highlighted their central faith problem and reinforced Jesus’ rebuke. “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” is the kind of question that can be asked as an accusation. “Why wasn’t your power strong enough, Jesus? We are near you and follow you. Why don’t we have the power you have?” But again the disciples did not understand the simple spiritual realities around them. Proximity to Jesus is no substitute for salvation. Being close to the Gospel, close to a church or close to Christ’s people isn’t the same as having these things within. Judas learned the hardest way possible that proximity cannot substitute for faith, and the disciples would learn their own lessons here on the night of Jesus’ arrest.
Faith is the great equalizer of men. The disciples had rested their hope on their abilities. Since they worked closely with Jesus and had tossed out demons before, the assumed that they would simply toss out another. They were like Sampson who, after he had given up the true source of his strength, thought that he could rise up against his enemies as before.
But true power comes through true faith, even as small as a mustard seed.