10th Sunday after Pentecost


The Exorcism 


the Lunatic Son

Matthew 17:14-23And when they were come to the multitude, there came to
him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, {15} Lord, have
mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he
falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. {16} And I brought him to
thy disciples, and they could not cure him. {17} Then Jesus answered and
said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?
how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. {18} And Jesus
rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured
from that very hour. {19} Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and
said, Why could not we cast him out? {20} And Jesus said unto them,
Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as
a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence
to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible
unto you. {21} Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and
fasting. {22} And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The
Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: {23} And they shall
kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were
exceeding sorry.


In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
Today is the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.  On this day we read about the
exorcism of the son who is a lunatic.  This story has many applications
and meanings.  The external meaning is simply that Jesus heals a boy who
is grievously afflicted by a demon by casting it out.  Let us see why he
was afflicted.

This story is related in all 3 of the synoptic gospels, so we will have
a fuller picture if we take all these into account.

A man comes to Jesus, and begs him to help his son, his only child.  The
man calls his son a lunatic.  In that day, there was the superstition
that when the moon came out, it made some people crazy, and they called
such people lunatics.  Actually, it was a demon, not the moon.  Demons
commonly use folklore and superstition to entrap the unwary, and remove
suspicion from themselves.  This demon obeyed the cycles of the moon
because it suited his purpose, but he could actually afflict the boy at
any time.  The father blamed the moon, when actually there was someone
else to blame, and not only the Devil, mind you, but himself also.

The man says, "Lord have mercy on my son," and he kneels down.  He says
that the boy is ?sore vexed¦ - ?ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and
oft into the water.¦ What is the meaning of this? Fire is anger, and
lust, jealousy and the rest of those hot passions, by which we are so
afflicted and which are so tasty to us.  They must be tasty and
succulent to our sinful souls because we indulge ourselves so often in
these terrible passions.  The water quenches zeal, quenches ardor,
quenches desire for holy things.  It is worldly cares.  A man will send
himself to perdition with either the one or the other, or, more
commonly, both.

This boy is cast into the fire and the water and he is terribly
afflicted, and the father begs our Lord's aid.  Jesus has a interesting
response.  He says, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall
I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" This is sort of an odd
thing to say to the people present, but it cuts to the heart of the
matter.  He rebukes two people here, or two groups.  First, He rebukes
the father, because the father has very little belief.  He blamed the
apostles, instead of himself and said, "- I brought him to thy
disciples, and they could not cure him." Our lord is pointing out to the
father - it is YOUR unbelief, it is YOUR depravity which has hurt your
own son.  This is a truth for all parents to understand.  We visit
affliction upon our own children because of our own passions.  This is a
terrible truth, and a frightening truth for all of us to bear.  Indeed,
even demon possession can be visited upon a child because of the sins of
his parents.  This is a terrible truth, but you must know it.  And all
the other things that can happen to a person are many times the
responsibility of the parents, because they do not teach him, and
because they live depraved lives themselves.  Be careful, my brothers
and sisters.  Before you judge yourself to be immune from these
problems, consider what you are teaching your children, not only in
words, but in deeds and attitudes.  Measure your life against the
requirements of the Christian life before you are so quick to judge
others as depraved, and yourself as blameless.

Our Lord is also rebuking everyone around: ?Faithless and perverse
generation¦ - these are the same people that in a short while would say
?Crucify Him! Crucify Him!¦ because they wanted to be under a temporal
king, and not the King of all.  So Christ has the man bring the boy up. 
In another account He tells him, ?All things are possible to him that
believeth.¦ The man says: ?Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.¦
Indeed, the Lord had already exposed this man-s unbelief, his lack of
faith, his judgmentalism.  The man had all these weaknesses, but he also
had the germ of belief, and our Lord did not require everything of him
right away.  He healed the son, even though the father had only a small
amount, a little germ, of belief.  He who has ears to hear, and
believes, let him hear.  

The apostles came to our Lord apart, and they were very upset and
troubled.  Remember they had gone out into the countryside, and they
were raising the dead, and healing the sick.  The lame were walking, the
blind were seeing, the deaf could hear, and the demons were cast out, by
not only the twelve, but also the 70.  They were amazed at the grace
that God was sending through them.  And yet, it did not ?work¦ this
time.  They were concerned - had they lost this gift? Had their
unworthiness caused them to be passed over by the Lord? What did He tell

Your unbelief is the reason.  ?If ye have faith as a grain of mustard
seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and
it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.¦ And I tell
you, this is not just figurative.  Mountains have moved.  A mountain
moved to save the holy Baptist, and mountains have moved at other times,
literally, but this mountain means something else.  A mountain is high. 
Pride exalts itself, and raises itself up, as if to the heavens, like
the tower of Babel.  The Devil, the liar, the slanderer - he is like a
mountain, exalting himself up to the heavens.  And you can say to this
mountain move, and IT WILL MOVE, if you have faith.  Wherever this
mountain might be, whatever affliction you might have, whether it be of
your own self, or of someone that you care about, indeed you can say to
the mountain, ?move¦, and it will move, IF you have faith as the mustard
seed.  The mustard seed is a small, tiny seed, very very small, but it
is very pungent and hot.  There is warmth and flavor in it, and it
affects a dish exquisitely with its pungent flavor.  And also, when you
put it into the ground, it grows into a great tree. This is what our
faith should be like.  It need not be big in a worldly sense, but it
needs to be hot, pungent.  It must be strong, and it needs to grow.  

Our Lord also told the disciples concerning the demon, ?This kind goeth
not out but by prayer and fasting.¦ It is related to what He had just
said about faith, because the mustard seed, when it grows, is buffeted
by winds, and in danger for much of its life as a seedling, but it grows
into a great tree, and there is abundant fruit from it.  Without prayer,
and without fasting, I tell you, you don-t have faith.  You do not have
faith, or love for God, if you do not live how He has told you to live. 
This way of life includes prayer, fasting, desire, putting God first in
all things.  If you do this, then ?this kind¦ - meaning not just the
?kind¦ that made the boy fall into the fire and the water, but also the
passions that make you and me fall into fire and into water will be
eradicated from our souls, and we will find peace.  By the way, we do
not always innocently fall into sins.  I think we most often jump into
these things, because we LIKE them.  This ?kind¦ that is embedded in our
souls - this kind comes out not but by prayer and fasting.  This does
mean prayer and fasting in a literal sense, which is absolutely
necessary.  Without fasting, the church does not see how a man can be
saved.  This is on account of our character.  The church understands
this and that is why it is obligatory upon us, because it is necessary
for our salvation.  The ?prayer and fasting¦ enjoined upon us by our
Savior also includes the whole continuum of the Christian life, and the
whole perspective we should have.  

The whole purpose of our life is the salvation of our souls.  There is
nothing more important.  There is nothing that has any meaning, but to
know the God-man.  We just had a feast where we saw what it will be
like, a little bit, to know the God-man, to see the Uncreated Light, to
understand and apprehend the energies of God.  This is meant for the
elect. But when they saw God transfigured on the mountain, the holy
three apostles had already traveled a long way.  They had labored to go
up the mountain.  We must labor, brothers and sisters. I don-t
understand how completely this terrible heresy has occurred in our day,
and even for many hundreds of years - that Christianity is a life
without labor, but only with belief.  

I don-t understand how it happened - how the Devil so beguiled so many
hearts and souls of men to think that is belief ONLY that saves a man. 
It is labor that saves a man, because of what he believes.  It is
becoming like Christ.  It is doing as He tells you and as He teaches
you.  Without labor you cannot be saved, or without desire, without
prayer, without fasting.  Fasting is what? It-s our blood, the giving of
our blood, like the martyrs gave theirs - so says our blessed
Metropolitan.  It shows we are sincere.  That-s what it is - showing
that we are sincere, showing that we are not liars.  That-s what our
fasting is, and our prayer and our long vigils and our prostrations and
our giving up of ourselves.  That-s what our turning away from lust, or
anger, or deceit, or any other thing that casts us into the fire or the
water is.  Our life is one of sincere labor because of love for our

A Christian should consider himself to be a slave of a benevolent
master.  ?Slave of God¦ - that is the terminology used in the
scriptures.  Indeed, there will come a time when we will be fully worthy
of that name ?friend¦.  Christ said He would call us friends, but we
have a way to go before we can appropriate that name.  Indeed, it is
ours - it is our destiny to be friends of God.  But we must have
humility, and work out our salvation now, and labor.  So this demon,
this passion that afflicts us, regardless of whether a man is possessed
by a demon or afflicted by demons as we are - this kind comes out only
by prayer and by fasting.  This is the Christian life.  It is a life of
labor, it is a life of zeal, it is a life of desire.  May God help you
to be zealous for your salvation - to pray, to fast, and to love God
above all things.  And then you will find peace.  

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 The following sermon was transcribed from one given Aug 11/26. 1997,
the 10th Sunday after Pentecost. The usual readings for this day are 1
Cor 4:9-16 and Matthew 17:14-23  (The exorcism of the son who was a

 Matthew 17:15, partial

 Matthew 17:15, partial

 Matthew 17:17, partial

 Matthew 17:16

 Mark 9:23, partial

 Mark 9:24, partial

 Matthew 17:20, partial

 cf. Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19

 Matthew 17:21

 cf. ¦. 2 Pet 1:3-4, ?According as his divine power hath given unto us
all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge
of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: {4} Whereby are given
unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be
partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in
the world through lust, and the entire service for the Transfiguration
(August 6th according to the church calendar), which explains this
significant consequence of the incarnation of God.

 Metropolitan Vitaly, first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church
abroad, has said this many times, including a sermon during the Fall
pastors conference in 1996 in Mahopac NY.

 Cf. John 15:15

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

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The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Exorcism of the Lunatic Son

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