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Luke 9:37-42 (NKJV)

37 Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him. 38 Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. 40 So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.

In the above text, Christ upbraids the perverse generation but it is not clear to whom he was referring. Was Christ here upbraiding his disciples for failure to cast out the demonic spirit or the multitude for their unbelief?

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    Generation seems to refer to all the above and more.
    – Perry Webb
    May 19, 2018 at 13:33
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    I think "frustrated" might better describe Jesus' reaction here.
    – Dottard
    Jun 3, 2021 at 22:26
  • Yes, of course He was. But is not it self-evident? As to "disappointed", "angered", "infuriated", "saddened", - those nuances are impossible to define, for the Evangelist does not give them, for a good reason, that we may ourselves "flesh out" the skeleton of the narration with a gamut of colours and nuances and thus be, in a way, co-writers of the Evangelium. Jul 5, 2021 at 8:14

6 Answers 6

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Jesus expressed disappointment with His disciples on a number of occasions, including the famous "get thee behind me Satan" declared to Peter (see Matthew 16:23).

Jesus had high expectations, like "be ye therefore perfect" (Matthew 5:48), and let people know when they fell short. But He was also willing to praise His imperfect followers when they did well. E.g. "blessed art thou Simon" (Matthew 16:17).

This high-expectation, high-praise model is a valuable leadership trait.

As noted in the post linked by agarza, it is not clear that this particular chastisement is directed at the apostles. Unlike the Gospel of John, when Luke wants to refer to the apostles he almost always says "the twelve", rather than "the disciples", the latter being a broader, more nebulous group in Luke's Gospel.

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There are also parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark:

Matthew 17:14-18

And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 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. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Mark 9:17-27

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.


In this account, Jesus was not upbraiding the Apostles for their lack of faith. He was, rather, upbraiding the man who complained about the Apostles, as well as the bystanders, of being faithless and perverse.

Theophylact's explanation of the passage in Luke:

This man was exceedingly faithless. And for this reason the demon did not depart form his child, the unbelief overcoming the power of the apostles. Even now the man brazenly displays his unbelief, approaching the Lord in the presence of all to accuse His disciples. But the Lord shows him that his unbelief caused the child not to be healed, and He in turn rebukes him in the presence of all, and not only him, but all the others with him as well. When He says, O faithless generation, He includes all the Jews.


Cyril of Alexandria (c 376-444) and John Chrysostom (c 349-407) offer similar interpretations in their homilies on Luke and Matthew, respectively.

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Luke 9:1 states that Jesus gave the Twelve the power to cast out demons and heal the sick. I believe that Jesus was expressing frustration with the Twelves' inability to take care of business in His absence.

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Was Jesus disappointed with his disciples in Luke 9:41?

The answer is "No".

Apparently, the scribes are criticizing the disciples because of their failure to heal the boy, perhaps ridiculing their efforts. So instead of replying to the distraught father, Jesus addresses the crowd, saying: “O faithless and twisted generation, how long must I continue with you? How long must I put up with you?” These strong words certainly apply to the scribes who have been making trouble for his disciples in his absence. Turning to the distressed father, Jesus says: “Bring him here to me.”

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To whom was Christ referring to in Luke 9:41?

Luke 9:41 (NKJV)

" 41 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here."

Apparently, the scribes are criticizing the disciples because of their failure to heal the boy, perhaps ridiculing their efforts. So instead of replying to the distraught father, Jesus addresses the crowd, saying: "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you"?****( Luke 9:42) These strong words certainly apply to the scribes who have been making trouble for his disciples in his absence. Turning to the distressed father, Jesus says: "Bring your son here."

Jesus links the "crowds" with this "faithless and perverse generation"

Matthew 11:7, 16-19 NASB

7 "As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?"

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not [a]mourn.’ 18 For John [the Baptizer] came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Mann [Jesus] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a [b]drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

The prophecy was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple burned 70 C.E.

Matthew 23:35-36 (NASB)

35 "So that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [a]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

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To whom was Christ referring to in Luke 9:41?

Was Christ here upbraiding his disciples for failure to cast out the demonic spirit or the multitude for their unbelief?

Yes. This is most clear that Jesus’s rebuke was directed towards his disciples when examining what follows the parallel passage from Matthew 17:16-20,

16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith...

Above in the Matthew passage, Jesus blames the disciple’s inability to cast out the demon in verse 20 on the very criticism he expressed in verse 17: their lack of faith.

Up to this point, especially in Mark, there have been several incidents where the disciples’ lack of faith was on display (Mark 4:40, 6:51-52, 8:4,14-21,31-33, 9:19, Matthew 8:26, 14:31) Jesus would gently question them about it or just let it slide, but increasingly he began to more publicly dress down His disciples.

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me... 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38

Notice how Jesus refers to Peter as Satan and associates Peter’s shame of Jesus and his words with this adulterous and sinful generation. This is a shocking turn of events for Peter as he just made the great confession in Mark 8:27. In Matthew, there are only five verses between Jesus blessing Peter for his confession and rebuffing him as an agent of Satan:

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven... 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” -Matthew 16:16-23

Jesus is not holding back. He doesn’t have much time left. The apostles were supposed to bring the gospel to the world, and yet they did not believe the gospel. They were willing to follow him around, but they were ashamed of what he said. They could confess Jesus as the Son of God, but they could not embrace his need to suffer as the Son of Man. They believed in him but did not believe him. And now, because of their lack of faith, a boy and his Father were needlessly suffering when they should have been able to heal them for Jesus had already given them, over all demons, authority and power:

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Luke 9:1)

This is a good reminder for us who confess Christ to check ourselves to see that we not only believe in the person of Jesus Christ but also believe in the person of Jesus Christ and the word of Christ - the teachings and commands he has left us with through his disciples. He has given us the power through his word to spiritually heal and save the lives of others... Are there those around us who needlessly suffer spiritually and stumble towards death because of our lack of faith?

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