11.02.01 Mk. 9:14-28; Mt. 17:20-21 (Lk. 9:37-43a; 17:5-6) Near Mount Hermon: The “Epileptic” Boy Healed


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 02, 2016  -  Comments Off on 11.02.01 THE “EPILEPTIC” BOY HEALED

11.02.01 Lk. 9:37; Mk. 9:14-28; Mt. 17:20-21 (See also Lk. 9:38-43a; 17:5-6) Near Mount Hermon




Lk. 37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him.

Mk. 14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. 15 All of a sudden, when the whole crowd saw Him, they were amazed and ran to greet Him. 16 Then He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”

17 Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

19 He replied to them, You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.

“From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If You can’? Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly coming together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!”

26 Then it came out, shrieking and convulsing him violently. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.

28 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Mt. 20 “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. [21 However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]”

“The next day, when they came down from the mountain.” Jesus and the disciples stayed on the mountain overnight – probably because climbing to the high summit was exhausting. The foot trails are winding and near the summit are huge rocks.  Climbing up or down is not for the light hearted.

 “My son … has a spirit.” Matthew used the word seleniazesthai, a verb that means to be moonstruck.[1] This term offers two suggestions:

  1. That the illness was of demonic origin or
  2. That the people believed it was of demonic origin when it could have been a physical illness.

Some scholars have attributed the symptoms to be descriptive of epileptic seizures because demons take on the appearance of various diseases.  Others say that in a superstitious culture, illnesses that cause strange body movements were attributed to demons due to the ignorance of the common people. However, for them to declare that the boy simply had the disease of epilepsy is to say that Jesus did not know the difference between a disease and demonic oppression.  This was hardly the case.

As previously stated, demons are synonymous with unclean spirits,[2] who are connected with Satan,[3] and are in total opposition to God and the work of God [4] and as such, promote all forms of idolatry.[5]  They oppose the faith of believers,[6] and attempt to influence and disturb the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people.[7] However, while certain ailments may be connected with demonic powers, the laws of Moses that pertain to sanitation clearly indicate that good health is also a matter of cleanliness – meaning that many diseases are not related to demonic influences but can be prevented.

Many in the ancient world believed that epilepsy was caused by demonic activity.  For example, Aretaeus of Cappadocia (c 130-200 A.D.) was a Greek physician who practiced in Alexandria and Rome. He is noted for having written eight medical books in which he detailed symptoms and diagnostic characteristics of various diseases.[8] His most noted work is the identification of a disease well known today, that he named diabetes.[9] Concerning epilepsy, he said it was known as “the sacred disease” and believed a possible cause was demonic activity.[10]

“He foams at the mouth.” The term foam  (Gk. aphrizo 875) denotes to foam at the mouth,[11] and was considered a confirmation of demonic possession.

“You unbelieving generation!” These stinging words were not directed toward the leading Pharisees, but to His own disciples!  Clearly, Jesus was frustrated with them!  Previously they had been given the power to cast our demons and perform healings, (Mt. 10:1) but here they failed. These words were also reminiscent of the critical comments Moses made in Deuteronomy 32:5 and 20 to the Israelite forefathers. Unbelief was the reason the disciples failed to cast out the demons they encountered even though they had been successful previously. The boy’s father recognized his difficulty and said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” With this, Jesus freed the son from the demonic oppression.  Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked why they had been unsuccessful.  Jesus gave them two reasons:

  1. It was the matter of faith, and
  1. They needed to pray.

You will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.’”  Mountains were symbolic of kings and kingdoms, as indicated in the book of Revelation that has many references to mountains being kingdoms. In this case, Jesus spoke of the power that was available to His disciples to move demonic kingdoms (“mountains”).  But telling a mountain to move was also a proverbial statement for accomplishing a difficult task.[12]

Everyone knew that these words had the imagery of the famous Herodian, the summer palace-fortress built by Herod the Great.  To build it, his slaves and servants relocated the top of a small mountain and had it placed on the top of another nearby mountain, thus making it higher and in the shape of a volcano.  Hence, Jesus essentially said that by faith His disciples would be able to perform greater feats than Herod.

11.02.01.A. THE MOUNTAIN MOVED BY HEROD THE GREAT 11.02.01.A. THE MOUNTAIN MOVED BY HEROD THE GREAT.  The volcano-shaped Herodian Fortress-palace was created when Herod relocated one mountaintop and placed it upon another, and then built his palace-fortress upon it. Located only about two miles south of Bethlehem, this architectural achievement was built with slave laborers and was the backdrop to the words of faith spoken by Jesus. Photograph by the author.


[1]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 2:166.


[2]. Mk. 5:12, 15; 3:22, 30; Lk. 4:33.


[3]. Lk. 10:17-18; 11:19-20.


[4]. 1 Cor. 10:20-21.


[5]. Rev. 9:20; 16:13-14.


[6]. 1 Tim. 4:1.


[7]. Lk. 13:11, 16; Mk. 5:2-5; 7:25; Mt. 12:45.


[8]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aretaeus_of_Cappadocia Retrieved December 7, 2013.


[9] . http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/33531/Aretaeus-Of-Cappadocia Retrieved December 7, 2013.


[10]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:346.


[11]. Vine, “Foam.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:244.


[12]. See. Isa. 41:15; 54:10; Hab. 3:10; Zech. 4:7; Babylonian Talmud, Berakot 63b.


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