Why were the disciples unable to heal the epileptic? (Mt 17:19-17:20)

“Then the disciples

Came to Jesus privately.

They said.

‘Why could we not cast it out?’

He said to them.

‘Because of your little faith.

Truly!

I say to you!

If you have faith

The size of a mustard seed,

You will say to this mountain.

‘Move from here to there.’

Then it will move.

Nothing will be impossible

For you.’”

 

Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπον Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό;

ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν· ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται, καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν.

τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος οὐκ ἐκπορεύεται εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ.

 

This faith saying can also be found in Mark, chapter 9:28-29.  However, he added the need for prayer, as in the variant Orthodox texts that mentioned fasting also.  The disciples came to Jesus privately (Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirits from that boy (κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπον Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  Jesus reminded them (ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς) of their little faith (Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν), a term used predominately by Matthew.  Jesus came back with a solemn pronouncement (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν) that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), they could move mountains from here to there (ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται).  Nothing would be impossible for them (καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν).  If they had faith with prayer and fasting (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ), they would be able to cast the evil spirits out (τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος οὐκ ἐκπορεύεται).  Matthew continued to emphasize the lack of faith or the little faith of the disciples of Jesus.

The adoration of the three apostles (Mt 17:6-17:8)

“When the disciples heard this,

They fell to the ground,

Face down.

They were overcome

With fear.

But Jesus came.

He touched them.

Saying.

‘Get up!

Do not be afraid!’

When they looked up,

They saw no one

Except Jesus himself alone.”

 

καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν σφόδρα.

καὶ προσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἁψάμενος αὐτῶν εἶπεν Ἐγέρθητε καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε.

πάραντες δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν οὐδένα εἶδον εἰ μὴ αὐτὸν Ἰησοῦν μόνον.

 

This adoration of the apostles can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:8, Luke, chapter 9:36, and here in Matthew, which is more elaborate, even though there are other differences in all 3 accounts.  When the disciples heard (καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ) this voice from the cloud say that Jesus was the beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased, they fell face down to the ground (ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν).  They were greatly terrified (ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν).  However, Jesus came (καὶ προσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς) to them.  He touched them (καὶ ἁψάμενος αὐτῶν).  Then he told them to get up (εἶπεν Ἐγέρθητε) and not be afraid (μὴ φοβεῖσθε).  When they looked up or lifted up their eyes (πάραντες δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν), they saw no one (οὐδένα εἶδον), but only Jesus himself alone (εἰ μὴ αὐτὸν Ἰησοῦν μόνον).  Where were Moses and Elijah?  Was this just a dream?

The positive response of Peter (Mt 16:16-16:17)

“Simon Peter answered.

‘You are the Christ!

The Son

Of the living God.’

Jesus answered him.

‘Blessed are you!

Simon!

Son of Jonah!

Flesh and blood

Has not revealed this

To you,

But my Father

In heaven.’”

 

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος εἶπεν Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ Πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

 

The response of Peter can be found in all four gospels, Mark, chapter 8:29, Luke, chapter 9:20, and John, 6:69, but all slightly different.  The name of Peter is sometimes just Peter.  Are the Greek “Christ” and the Hebrew “Messiah” the same?  Matthew is the only one who had Peter say the son of the living God.  Matthew is also the only one that mentioned the special relationship that Peter had with his Father in heaven.  Peter gave a strong positive response.  Simon Peter replied (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος) to the question of Jesus immediately.  He said that Jesus was the Christ (εἶπεν Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς) or the Messiah that they were expecting in Israel.  Jesus was the son of the living God (ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.), not just merely the son of God.  Jesus then responded to Peter (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He said that Simon, the son on Jonah, was blessed (εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ), because flesh and blood or humans had not revealed this saying of his (ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι), but Jesus’ heavenly Father (ἀλλ’ ὁ Πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς) had done so.  Peter had a special relationship with the Father in heaven.  Peter, as the leader of this new group of Jesus followers, asserted this important belief about Jesus.  For the first time, Jesus is called the Christ, the messiah.  The only other mention of this was in the prologue with the expectation of a messiah and the question about John the Baptist on whether he was the messiah.  Here Peter, in the name of the nascent Christian community, proclaimed that Jesus was the messiah, the Christ, the son of the living God.  Matthew, more than any of the other gospel writers, emphasized the role of Peter as the leader of the early Christian community, the disciples, and the apostles of Jesus.

The yeast of the Pharisees (Mt 16:11-16:12)

“How could you fail

To perceive

That I was not speaking

To you

About bread?

Beware of the yeast

Of the Pharisees

And Sadducees!’

Then they understood

That he had not told them

To beware

Of the yeast of the bread,

But of the teaching

Of the Pharisees

And Sadducees.”

 

πῶς οὐ νοεῖτε ὅτι οὐ περὶ ἄρτων εἶπον ὑμῖν; προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων.

τότε συνῆκαν ὅτι οὐκ εἶπεν προσέχειν ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν ἄρτων, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ τῆς διδαχῆς τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων.

 

This is unique to Matthew.  Jesus, via Matthew, asked the disciples how they could not perceive or understand (πῶς οὐ νοεῖτε) that he was not speaking to them about bread (ὅτι οὐ περὶ ἄρτων εἶπον ὑμῖν).  Instead, he was warning them about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees (προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων).  Finally, they understood (τότε συνῆκαν) that he was not talking to them about the yeast in bread (ὅτι οὐκ εἶπεν προσέχειν ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν ἄρτων), but the yeast of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ τῆς διδαχῆς τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων.).  Once again, Jesus, via Matthew, took a shot at both the Pharisees and Sadducees, but not the Scribes.  The Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that followed the Law of Moses, but with a number of oral traditions.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  The Sadducees, on the other hand, were generally aristocratic priestly officials, tied to the Temple and ritual purifications.  They were less concerned about oral traditions, so that they might have been political religious rivals to the Pharisees.  However, Jesus warned his disciples against both groups and their teaching yeasts.

Jesus reminds them of the multiplication of the loaves (Mt 16:9-16:10)

“Do you still not perceive?

Do you not remember

The five loaves

For the five thousand?

Do you not remember

How many hand baskets

You gathered?

Do you not remember

The seven loaves

For the four thousand?

Do you not remember

How many big wicker baskets

You gathered?”

 

οὔπω νοεῖτε, οὐδὲ μνημονεύετε τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους τῶν πεντακισχιλίων καὶ πόσους κοφίνους ἐλάβετε;

οὐδὲ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους τῶν τετρακισχιλίων καὶ πόσας σπυρίδας ἐλάβετε;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 8:18-21, where the disciples responded to these questions.  Jesus clearly reminded them of the two times that he had multiplied the loaves of bread.  Was that not good enough for them?  They did not yet seem to understand or perceive what was going on (οὔπω νοεῖτε).  Did they not remember (οὐδὲ μνημονεύετε) the 5 loaves of bread for the 5,000 people (τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους τῶν πεντακισχιλίων) and all the fragments that they gathered in the hand baskets that was left over, since it had just happened in chapter 14:30-31?  Did they not remember (οὐδὲ) how they had 7 loaves of bread for the 4,000 people (τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους τῶν τετρακισχιλίων) and the many big baskets of fragments were gathered of left overs (καὶ πόσας σπυρίδας ἐλάβετε), since that had just happened in chapter 15:32-38?  How could they be so forgetful?

Peter wanted to understand (Mt 15:15-15:15)

“But Peter said

To Jesus.

‘Explain this parable

To us!’”

 

Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ Φράσον ἡμῖν τὴν παραβολήν.

 

This saying of Peter is unique to Matthew, emphasizing the role of Peter and his lack of faith and understanding.  In Mark, chapter 7:17, the disciples in general and not Peter ask for an explanation of the parable.  Peter may also have been speaking for the rest of the disciples, as their leader.  Peter replied to Jesus (Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ).  He wanted Jesus to explain this parable to his disciples (Φράσον ἡμῖν τὴν παραβολήν).

The Pharisees were offended (Mt 15:12-15:12)

“Then the disciples

Approached Jesus.

They said to him.

‘Do you know

That the Pharisees

Took offense

When they heard

What you said?’”

 

Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ Οἶδας ὅτι οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον ἐσκανδαλίσθησαν;

 

This seems to be a unique saying in Matthew.  The disciples pointed out that Jesus had offended the Pharisees with his sayings.  Then the disciples approached Jesus (Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ).  They asked him (λέγουσιν αὐτῷ) if he knew that he had offended the Pharisees (ὅτι οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἐσκανδαλίσθησαν) when they heard what he had said (ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον).  Jesus’ disciples seemed concerned or worried that Jesus might have offended the Pharisees.

Jesus walks on water (Mt 14:25-14:27)

“Early in the morning,

Jesus came

Walking toward them,

On the sea.

But when the disciples saw him

Walking on the sea,

They were terrified.

They said.

‘It is a ghost!’

They cried out in fear!

But immediately,

Jesus spoke to them.

He said.

‘Have courage!

It is I!

Do not be afraid!’”

 

τετάρτῃ δὲ φυλακῇ τῆς νυκτὸς ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν.

οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης περιπατοῦντα ἐταράχθησαν λέγοντες ὅτι Φάντασμά ἐστιν, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ φόβου ἔκραξαν.

εὐθὺς δὲ ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς αὐτοῖς λέγων Θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε.

 

This incident about Jesus walking on water can be found in Mark, chapter 6:48-50, and John, chapter 6:19-20, but without some of the details here.  However, in all three stories, the disciples are afraid and the response of Jesus is the same.  Early in the morning or the 4th watch of the night (τετάρτῃ δὲ φυλακῇ τῆς νυκτὸς), Jesus came walking towards them on the sea (ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν).  When the disciples saw him walking on the sea (οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης περιπατοῦντα), they were terrified, troubled, or disturbed (ἐταράχθησαν).  They said that it was a ghost or an apparition (λέγοντες ὅτι Φάντασμά ἐστιν).  They cried out in fear (καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ φόβου ἔκραξαν).  But immediately, Jesus reassured them (εὐθὺς δὲ ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς αὐτοῖς).  He told them to have courage and take heart (λέγων Θαρσεῖτε).  He said that he was not a ghost but Jesus himself (ἐγώ εἰμι), so that they did not have to be afraid.  They had nothing to fear (μὴ φοβεῖσθε).  Jesus reassured his disciples, while he walked on the waters of the sea.

The boat in the middle of the sea (Mt 14:24-14:24)

“But by this time,

The boat,

Battered by the waves,

Was far from the land.

The wind

Was against them.”

 

τὸ δὲ πλοῖον ἤδη σταδίους πολλοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἀπεῖχεν, βασανιζόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν κυμάτων, ἦν γὰρ ἐναντίος ὁ ἄνεμος.

 

This incident about the disciples in the boat at sea can be found in Mark, chapter 6:47, and John, chapter 6:18-19.  By this time, instead of the disciples waiting near shore, their boat was far from the land, many “stadiums” “σταδίους” from the shoreland (τὸ δὲ πλοῖον ἤδη σταδίους πολλοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς).  A stadium was about 1/8 of a mile based on the race tracks in the Roman arenas.  The waves tossed the boat (ἀπεῖχεν βασανιζόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν κυμάτων) and the wind was against them (ἦν γὰρ ἐναντίος ὁ ἄνεμος).  In other words, they were in a little trouble.

The blessing of the five loaves of bread (Mt 14:18-14:19)

“Jesus said.

‘Bring them here to me.’

Then he ordered

The crowds

To sit down

On the grass.

He took

The five loaves

And the two fish.

He looked up to heaven.

He blessed them.

He broke the loaves.

He gave them

To the disciples.

Then the disciples

Gave them

To the crowds.”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Φέρετέ μοι ὧδε αὐτούς.

καὶ κελεύσας τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνακλιθῆναι ἐπὶ τοῦ χόρτου, λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας, ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν, καὶ κλάσας ἔδωκεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς τοὺς ἄρτους, οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις.

 

This is the only blessing miracle that is recorded in all four gospels, Mark, chapter 6:39-41, Luke, chapter 9:14-16, and John, chapter 6:10-11, plus here.  The blessing of the bread and the fish is exactly the same in the synoptic gospels, but merely summarized in John.  This feeding of a large group of people harkens back to the Exodus story, chapter 16:1-36, about the manna and the quails in the wilderness.  Yet the blessing itself has almost a foretaste of the Eucharistic Last Supper of Jesus, when he blessed and broke the bread.  Jesus said to his disciples (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν) to bring him the food (Φέρετέ μοι ὧδε αὐτούς), the 5 loaves of bread and the 2 fish.  Then he ordered or directed the crowd to sit down on the grass (καὶ κελεύσας τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνακλιθῆναι ἐπὶ τοῦ χόρτου,).  He took the 5 loaves and the 2 fish (λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας).  He looked up to heaven (ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν).  He blessed them (εὐλόγησεν).  Then he broke (καὶ κλάσας) the loaves of bread and the fishes into pieces.  He gave the loaves of bread to his disciples (ἔδωκεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς τοὺς ἄρτους).  They, in turn, gave them to the crowd (οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις).  This almost sounds like a large later distribution of Holy Communion.