“O unbelieving and perverse generation. How long ...” (Matthew 17:17)

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. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” (Matthew 17:14-17)

Why did Jesus call them an 'unbelieving and perverse generation'?

This is Jesus’ response when the man said that his disciples could not heal his son. The translation of the Greek word γενεά (genes) to "generation" is somewhat puzzling. This word can mean, according to the lexicon, "a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character" and "the whole multitude of men living at the same time."

Thus the Greek word is more appropriately translated to "culture" or "society." Jesus is commenting about the state of society around him - which did not believe that God could save the woman's son.

This means that Jesus was not happy that his disciples could not help the woman.

The word unbelieving is being translated from the Greek word ἄπιστος (apistos), which means, according to the lexicon, "without trust."

Jesus was not speaking of belief in the Supreme Being - as many of those around him believed that God exists. He was speaking of trust.

The belief that a Living Creator created other living beings is not so hard to envision. It is certainly more scientific to believe that all the living complexities, including love, compassion, mercy, chivalry and personality, all arose from an Original Personality. God is not so hard to believe in, in other words.

What is more difficult for us is coming to trust God. This is the meaning of faith. Trusting God means relying upon Him. Trusting the Supreme Being means knowing that whatever happens, it is for our best. It means that we know that God loves us and always wants the best for us, regardless of the temporary condition our physical body may currently be in.

Was Jesus' mission to be a healer?

These questions lead to another question: If Jesus' mission was to heal people, why didn't he heal everyone? Why didn't he and his disciples set up hospitals and clinics so everyone who was sick would come to get healed? All they had to do was touch him, right?

Healing the physical body was not Jesus' mission. He had another mission. A spiritual mission. Jesus' mission related to the spirit-person within. Jesus' mission related to the eternal soul, who continues to exist long after the physical body dies.

This is why Jesus taught:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
Such a teaching requires the acknowledgment of the existence of the soul outside of the existence of the body. This teaching means the soul lives on, even if the body is killed or dies in general.

Why didn't Jesus heal everyone?

Jesus' healings were instructional. They were not simply intended to prove to the people that he had power. They were to show people they could rely upon God.

How so? Because Jesus was relying upon God, as he stated many times. The power to heal did not come from Jesus. It came from God, and Jesus was God's empowered messenger and representative. This is why Jesus said:
"When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me." (John 12:44)

"How long shall I put up with you?"

So as the people around him were scurrying around wanting to have their physical bodies healed, Jesus chastised them from time to time because they were not getting it. They were not understanding that he was trying to introduce the Supreme Being to them and show them they could rely upon God. 

Whether their bodies were healed or not, the Supreme Being will take care of their real bodies: their spiritual selves.

Why else would Jesus have used the word "perverse generation"? Perverse means something is being utilized in a way it was not intended: in this case, activities done in the service of God were being taken with a consciousness of selfishness.

How did the people become perverted? Because Jesus' demonstrations of God's mercy were intended to bring their focus upon God. Instead, their focus was perverted towards taking advantage by getting all their various sicknesses healed.

In other words, they began seeing Jesus and God as their servants: They just ask to be healed and it happens. This is perverted because we are in essence, God's servants.

This is a critical point to the current approach seen among some of today's sectarian institutions and their teachers. Their approach encourages followers to focus on being healed or gaining wealth and success from their worship. This is a perversion of Jesus' teachings. This has nothing to do with loving or serving God: This is business - praying to get healed or get wealthy.

Such teachings are perverted because the purpose of prayer is to submit oneself to God.

What did Jesus want from them?

Jesus wanted them to trust in God. Here Jesus is commenting not upon the process of healing, but the level of trust that those around him had in God.

Belief in the Supreme Being is not so difficult. It makes logical sense that there is a Creator. After all, how did life arise accidentally? How did love arise accidentally? Scientists have many theories, but they all seem to go haywire once they reach the singularity problem. 

In other words, scientists cannot explain what existed before the big bang or string proliferation or whatever new theory they have come up with that supposedly gave birth to the universe.

They also cannot explain how dead matter in the form of chemicals suddenly became alive. What made the dead chemicals suddenly desire survival and begin to love each other?

Jesus did not come to heal people's bodies or make people successful or wealthy. He came to deliver God's message that the Supreme Being wants us to trust Him. God wants us to return to Him and re-establish our loving service relationship with Him. This is why Jesus' most important instruction, as was Moses' and all the other prophets' most important instruction, was:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37)
When we love someone, we trust them. When we trust them, we have faith in them, and we can serve them with love. Loving and serving the Supreme Being is our natural position and what will ultimately fulfill us.