In all their affliction, He was afflicted.
This is a very special and intricate text of the Bible where different conversations and dialogues are intermingled to the point where the reader may get lost trying to figure out who is speaking to whom and what exactly is happening.
Let me give you a bird’s eye view of this text. As Yeshua comes down the mountain, His focus is at first on the disciples. In v.16, they are in the midst of a debate with the scribes who found an ideal opportunity to try to undermine the disciples in the eyes of am Yisrael, (the Jewish people) because they were unable to perform a miracle of healing.
Then as Yeshua focuses on the disciples, we have the father of the demon-possessed boy come to beg Yeshua to heal his son in vv.17,18. However, Yeshua does not respond at all to the father, as if He did not see him. He seems to disregard the father altogether. Then after the father explains the situation, instead of addressing him and his son, Yeshua then turns to the scribes with a warning in v.19. Right away the reader is taken aback by the apparent rejection of the father and his son who are ignored and left to themselves. The disciples, the scribes, the crowd, and now Yeshua do not seem to pay attention to them. But there is a strategy, a message in here.
This story already reminds us of the one with the Syrophoenician woman who also asked Yeshua to heal her daughter. If we remember well, at first, He disregarded her as well.
In v.20, right after Yeshua addresses the scribes, the boy is brought to Him. When the demon sees Yeshua, the condition of the boy worsens, and the boy goes into a severe convulsion. Even then Yeshua does not heal him, but instead asks the father a question, “How long has this been happening to him?” Why did He not heal him right away instead of taking time to ask questions? He surely knew the answer since He is the omniscient Messiah. There is a strategy here, a message for all of us.
The Father Accompanying the Son
Let us first consider the father. Behind the story, the arguments and debates, there is a very touching story of a hurting father. Notice how he spoke and what he said at the end of vs.22: Take pity on us and help us!
Here we see a father suffering alongside his son and following him everywhere, trying to save him. The demon would even throw him into fire or water to destroy him as v.22 tells us. Surely the father must have been constantly rescuing his son, pulling him out of the fire and suffering with him. Does that begin to sound familiar? Note the great emphasis that is put on the son’s suffering.
We are told that he:
– is possessed with a spirit – a severe one
– is made mute, unable to speak or express his suffering
– is seized and slammed to the ground
– foams at the mouth
– grinds his teeth
– stiffens out
– has been thrown into fire and water
– is thrown into convulsions
There is a lot that is being said here, making it sound like a full medical history. We begin to sense that the main theme of the story revolves around the son and his father. Luke tells us that the man said that he was his only son. I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only son. The last words, “only son” are translated from the one word monogenes, meaning one and only one.
Who is the Son?
Considering these things, we are brought to see something of greater importance, reminding us of other stories. The story of our Father God with His son, but in this case, the son is both Israel and the Messiah, because both are called the son of God. For Israel, God was, is and always will be with the nation to pull it out of fire and persecution. For Yeshua, God was always with Him while on earth. Rabbinical commentators say that the son is Israel. The Lord describes Israel as His son in Exodus 4:22, so they are right. Israel is My son, My firstborn.
It is very much like the powerful passage from the Book of Proverbs when the Spirit of God asks Israel if they know the name of God’s Son in Proverbs 30:4 right after describing God’s power over nature. It asks a simple question: What is His name or His son’s name? But why ask such a question if the answer is so obvious? It is like asking Israel if she knows her own name. If the question is asked, it is so that we may look deeper and consider if there is any other referent meant. Then we will find out that God has a Son who is the Messiah Himself. He is called a son, a child, in Isaiah 9:6. He has the very same name as the Father El Guibor (mighty God) and everlasting Father.
When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4
This is where the story of a suffering father and son encounter the Son of God who came from heaven and who Himself is a Son. That Son cures the young boy and saves him from demonic domination and destruction. Israel, the other son of God, was not able to do this for the boy and so Yeshua came to save him.
The healing of this boy was a prelude, as were many of the messianic miracles. They are preludes to the final act of healing and redemption, when Yeshua would soon reach Jerusalem at the time of Passover and die for the world’s sins and its inherent sickness. It is what He was on the way to do – Yeshua was on His way to Jerusalem to die for the whole world. In this story, Israel is like the suffering son. Through the earthly father we can see our Father in heaven, who followed and is still following His son, Israel. In all their affliction, He was afflicted. Isaiah 63:9
Because of all this affliction, the Son of God, the child of the Father was born to fully take it on Himself.