Why Did Jesus Call His Disciples Perverse?

When we think of Jesus and his disciples, we often imagine a group of close-knit individuals who followed their leader with unwavering devotion. However, in Matthew 17:17, Jesus calls his disciples “perverse” after they struggled to heal a boy possessed by a demon. This statement may seem harsh, but it raises an important question: why did Jesus call his disciples perverse?

Contextualizing the Statement

To understand why Jesus used such strong language, it’s important to look at the context of the situation. In Matthew 17:14-21, a man comes to Jesus asking for help with his son who is possessed by a demon.

The man explains that he has already asked the disciples to heal the boy, but they were unable to do so. Jesus then heals the boy himself.

The Disciples’ Lack of Faith

After healing the boy, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?”

(Matthew 17:17). This statement makes it clear that Jesus is addressing not just his disciples but also the larger crowd around them.

But what did Jesus mean by “perverse”? The Greek word translated as “perverse” is “διεστραμμένη” (diestrammenē), which means twisted or distorted. In this context, it likely refers to the fact that despite being given authority by Jesus (Matthew 10:1), the disciples were unable to heal the boy due to their lack of faith.

The Importance of Faith

Throughout the Gospels, we see that faith is a central theme in Jesus’ teachings. In Matthew 17:20, after healing the boy himself, Jesus tells his disciples that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can move mountains. The disciples’ failure to heal the boy was not due to a lack of power or authority but rather their lack of faith.

Lessons for Today

So what can we learn from Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples? Firstly, it emphasizes the importance of faith in our lives as Christians. Without faith, we cannot fully live out the calling that God has placed on our lives.

Secondly, it reminds us that even those closest to Jesus were not perfect. The disciples were chosen by Jesus himself, yet they still struggled with doubt and unbelief. This should give us hope and encouragement as we navigate our own spiritual journeys.

Finally, it shows us that Jesus is willing to challenge those he loves when necessary. While his words may seem harsh at first glance, they were spoken out of love and a desire for his disciples to grow in their faith.


In calling his disciples perverse, Jesus was not simply hurling insults but rather challenging them to examine their own hearts and faith. As we seek to grow in our own relationships with Christ, may we also be open to his correction and willing to trust him even when things seem impossible.