40 And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.
41 And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.
42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
40 And I besought thy disciples to cast it out; and they could not.
41 And Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and bear with you? bring hither thy son.
42 And as he was yet a coming, the demon dashed him down, and tare him grievously. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
43 And they were all astonished at the majesty of God.
I. The Disciples' Inability.
A. Luke clearly intended for Theophilus to ponder this reality since he clearly wrote that Jesus had given "power and authority over all the demons..." to the Twelve (9:1).
B. Luke recorded the father's claim that the disciples "could not" in what the linguists call an "aorist, passive, indicative". What this means is that he did not cast the verb in an "active" voice as a description of the disciples' inability. This verb is used in this passive voice eight times in the New Testament (if my count is correct) and four of those eight are in the Gospel records of this particular event. The other four are found in records wherein the ones who "could not" are restrained by factors other than their own "power".
1. This means this: there are other factors involved in the breakdown of the disciples' use of Jesus' "power and authority over all the demons".
a. The most obvious of these factors is the demon's simple refusal to obey their demands. But this "obvious factor" raises a serious question: how does this demon stand out as distinct from "all the demons" so that he is exempt from the disciples' exercise of power and authority?
b. The less obvious of these factors is the implicit boundaries that surround any and all forays into the exercise of Jesus' power and authority.
1) In any discussion of the exercise of Jesus' power and authority we must understand the exercise of any power and authority and make a distinction between those exercises that are the outcome of Jesus' broad grant and of Jesus' limited grant.
a) There is no power that does not have its origins in the omnipotence of God (Romans 13:1).
b) Once God has "created", He has entered into some form of "dispensed power" that is marked by the limited sovereignty of the created. In other words, along with "creation" came a determination to allow the "creature" to exercise "power" to some degree.
c) This "allowance" is never without some forms of restraint, but it is a real "allowance" in that the creature has some capacity to make decisions and execute them even if they are in direct opposition to the Creator. This is often erroneously called "God's commitment to 'free will'". It is, rather, better described as God's willingness to permit others to exercise His power without His opposition. Thus, it is "free will" only in the sense that God sometimes restrains Himself from frustrating it. It is a limited capacity to make choices and an even more restricted capacity to execute those choices. The fact is that "choices" are pretty much "in house", but once the issue moves beyond "choice" the "power" is subject to similar choices made by others, including God, so that the "power" to do any given thing depends heavily upon the cooperation of others.
d) Clearly, Jesus' grant of "power and authority" in 9:1 was beyond the norm (the norm being that which is granted to most). Since that grant had to do with directly preventing the choices and actions of "demons" from being fulfilled, it was a bit more extraordinary than what most people can do.
2) Clearly Jesus' "grant" of this extraordinary "power and authority" came with greater limitations. Otherwise the demon would not have been able to refuse the demands of The Nine. Just as clearly, the divine grant of "power" to demons to function within a limited sphere of rebellion and evil was not to be restrained if the disciples moved beyond their own limitations.
a) This raises this question: what particular limitations did Jesus put upon His grant to The Twelve? The answer is fundamental: He limited the use of His power and authority to His agenda and purposes. In other words, The Twelve could exercise His power and authority as long as they were doing it in the service of The Kingdom.
b) Thus, another question arises: what did the demon discern from The Nine that enabled him to realize that they had stepped beyond the boundaries? The text answers that question in 9:45 and 9:46. The first text tells us the disciples were "afraid" to ask Jesus what He meant by words that He insisted they permit to "sink down into your ears" (9:44). The second text tells us that the disciples got into an argument over which of them was the greatest. These two texts, alone and combined, reveal one major fact: the disciples were heavily invested in "ego" issues. The implication is pretty straightforward: if men attempt to exercise the "power and authority" of Jesus to exalt themselves, they will not be able. He simply will not cooperate with them. How did the demon know? How could he not know? We who are human are pretty adept at "reading" others and demons have been around longer and have greater intelligence than do we. If we can read "ego" in the looks and actions of our own kind, demons are pretty sure to also be able to read such.
c) By extension, it is highly likely that Jesus will not extend His cooperation to those who are "into" other "less than godly" agendas either. Thus, it is not really a surprise that there is so little "faith" upon the earth: men are investing in ungodly pursuits and "cannot" exercise the faith required as long as they do so (John 5:44).