Summary: The miracle of Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit shows us the disciples failure of faith.
Jesus was coming to the end of his ministry in Galilee, where he had been for about eighteen months. He was about to begin his journey to Jerusalem where – in just six months’ time – he would experience suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection (see Luke 9:22).
Luke recorded thirteen miracles that Jesus did in the region of Galilee. Today, we come to the last of the thirteen miracles of Jesus that Luke recorded him doing in Galilee.
Let’s read about Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit in Luke 9:37-43:
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. (Luke 9:37-43)
The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is home to one of the most fascinating museums on earth. The facility run by GfK Custom Research goes under the informal name of the “Museum of Failed Products.” At first sight, the shelves and aisles look just like a supermarket – except there’s only one of each item. And you won’t find these items in a real supermarket anyway: they are failures, products withdrawn from sale after a few weeks or months, because almost nobody wanted to buy them.
This is consumer capitalism’s graveyard. It is the only place on earth where you will find Clairol’s A Touch of Yogurt shampoo alongside Gillette’s equally unpopular For Oily Hair Only, a few feet from a now-empty bottle of Pepsi AM Breakfast Cola (born 1989; died 1990). The museum is home to discontinued brands of caffeinated beer; to TV dinners branded with the logo of the toothpaste manufacturer Colgate; to Fortune Snookies, a short-lived line of fortune cookies for dogs; to self-heating soup cans that had a tendency to explode in customers’ faces; and to packets of breath mints that had to be withdrawn from sale because they looked like tiny packages of crack cocaine. It is where microwaveable scrambled eggs – pre-scrambled and sold in a cardboard tube with a pop-up mechanism for easier consumption in the car – go to die.
If the museum has a central message, it is that failure is not a rarity; it is the norm. For every insanely successful product such as the iPhone or the Big Mac, there’s a whole host of ideas that only a mother could truly love.
According to some estimates, the failure rate for new products is as high as 90 percent.
Given the ubiquity of failure, business expert Matt Symonds advises that we should help people “fail, fail again, and fail better” rather than “filling [people’s] heads with the unrealistic notions of winning every time.”
As Jesus was coming to the end of his Galilean ministry, he was still dealing with the constant failures of his disciples. I don’t think that Jesus was helping his disciples to “fail, fail again, and fail better”! It is just that his disciples were such slow learners! And yet, how grateful we are for the patient instruction of Jesus.
In the narrative we will examine today, as well as the next few pericopes in our study of The Gospel of Luke, we will see the disciples subject to constant correction by Jesus.
The analysis of the miracle of Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit as set forth in Luke 9:37-43 shows us the disciples’ failure of faith.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Heartbroken Father (9:37-38)
2. The Helpless Son (9:39)
3. The Hopeless Disciples (9:40-41a)
4. The Healing Savior (9:41b-43)
I. The Heartbroken Father (9:37-38)
First, let’s look at the heartbroken father.
In the previous pericope, in Luke 9:28-36, Luke told us about the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus had taken Peter and John and James with him up the mountain. While on top of the mountain, Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus. Then, the Shekinah glory of God the Father appeared in the form of a cloud, and he said to the three disciples, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (9:35). This is one of the most amazing accounts in all of the Gospels.