Matthew 17.14-18We were puzzling over Jesus's initial response to the father. “You unbelieving and perverse generation how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?"
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Rather than being moved by compassion Jesus seems upset and irritated. But why? And with whom?
Though Jesus is talking with the father it doesn't seem that Jesus is irritated with him and his request to heal his son.
Maybe Jesus is irritated by his disciples who had failed to cast out the demon, perhaps because they lacked faith (see verses 19-21).
But I don't think that's it either.
What I argued out at the prison was that we should take the target of Jesus's rebuke at face value. Jesus doesn't rebuke the father or the disciples. Jesus rebukes the generation.
It seems, to me at least, that Jesus is blaming the suffering of this child on the perversity of the generation. Jesus is angry because the wickedness of a generation is causing children to suffer--physically, psychologically and spiritually.
And I think Jesus's rebuke still rings out. Children continue to suffer in our world because we are an unbelieving and perverse generation.