When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith." (Matthew 17:14-20)
Jesus had brought Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light (17:1-2). When he came down, he was not greeted with faith, but with unbelief and failure, for a man told him that the disciples were unable to cast a demon out of his son.
Centuries ago Moses ascended a mountain to meet with God, and when he descended, he saw that his people had turned to idolatry (Exodus 32). He called them an unfaithful and perverse generation (Deuteronomy 32:20). Likewise, Jesus answered, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" Earlier he had called the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:39, 16:4), for they met his messages and miracles with unbelief. Now he issues a similar rebuke against his disciples, and afterward he told them that they failed because of their weak faith. In Mark's account, he also admonished the father to have faith, and said, "Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23).
Thus the indictment applies to all kinds of unbelief – to those who worship idols, to those who resist the messages and miracles of Christ, to those who fail to perform miracles in his name, and to those who waver in their confidence as they seek miracles from him. Moses and Jesus demonstrated that it is entirely fitting to display annoyance and indignation against such people. Like many of our church leaders, preachers, and theologians, the Pharisees were more eager to defend their status and tradition than to have Jesus heal the sick and alleviate their suffering.
In one place, we read, "He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored" (Mark 3:5). They were not concerned about the man, but they wanted to catch Jesus in the act of violating their doctrines and policies. Jesus looked around at them, seething with anger, and healed the man anyway. My brothers and sisters, what should we teach, and how should we behave, when the religious establishment has outlawed the faith and love of Jesus? We must always regard this hardness of heart with anger, and do the works of Christ anyway.