What does Matthew 17:16 mean?
ESV: And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”
NIV: I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.'
NASB: And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.'
CSB: I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him."
NLT: So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.'
KJV: And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John with Him to the top of the mountain to witness His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–13). During that time, He left the other nine core disciples (Matthew 10:1–4) behind at the foot of the mountain. In Mark's telling of this moment, Jesus returned to find a crowd gathered around His disciples as they engaged in an argument with some Jewish scribes (Mark 9:14–17).

The reason for the argument was that the disciples could not cast a demon out of a boy suffering from seizures. The combined details from Matthew, Mark, and Luke make it clear the boy's condition was not simply something like epilepsy, but something happening in especially dangerous moments (Matthew 17:15) thanks to a demonic spirit (Mark 9:17–18; Luke 9:39). The scribes were teachers of the Law and did not usually claim the power to cast out demons. Perhaps they were insisting that the disciples did not have the authority from God to cast out demons since they were unable to do so.

Jesus, though, had given the disciples the authority to do this. He had given them His authority and power to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" to show that they represented Him and His kingdom on the earth (Matthew 10:8). In fact, these disciples may have cast out demons prior to this. So why did they fail to cast out this spirit? Jesus will explain it in the following verses.
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:14–21 finds Jesus and three of the disciples returning from the mountain, to find a crowd gathered around the remaining nine. A desperate father pleads on behalf of his demon-afflicted son who has seizures and often falls into water or fire. The disciples could not cast the demon out (Mark 9:14–29). Jesus, exasperated by the doubt of His disciples, rebukes the demon and heals the boy. When they ask, Jesus tells the disciples their faith was too small to cast out the demon. Even faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain. Verse 21 nearly duplicates Mark 9:29 but is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. There, they see Him "transfigured" into a shining, divine form. They also see Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah but are commanded not to speak of this event until later. Jesus heals a demon-afflicted boy after the disciples cannot cast the demon out. Jesus very clearly tells the disciples He will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and raised on the third day. After explaining why He is exempt from a temple tax, Jesus agrees to pay it and tells Peter to find the money in the mouth of a fish.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 17 begins with the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction at the end of the previous chapter: that some of those present would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus casts out a demon, predicts His death, and commands Peter to pay a temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish. This leads Matthew back to extensive records of Jesus' teachings, continuing through chapter 20.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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