There’s a missing verse in your bible . . .

There’s a missing verse in your bible . . .

There’s a missing verse in your bible. No, seriously, studying online one-day in Matthew chapter 17 I noticed that a verse number skipped! Let me explain, I was reading verse 20 and then verse 22 began. “Where did verse 21 go?”, I wondered? I went to another website thinking that it was just a mistake.

Nope. The second web site skipped verse 21 too.

I know how to count. This is the most studied and important book in world. How do two web sites BOTH skip verse 21? I was going old school. I went for my preaching bible and this is where it got really weird . . . NOT THERE! Why would they skip a verse? It was just missing. I bet it is missing from your bible too . . . Check it. (Don’t read the footnote for a clue to our fun mystery!) I will wait. Go to Matthew 17 and start reading in verse 20.

It’s missing right? Chances are really good that it’s missing! (There is a SMALL chance that the bible you are reading it’s NOT missing-keep reading.) I want to tell you about this missing verse, but first can I tell you a story?

The Story:

“Do you sell Alcohol in your store?” said the voice on the phone before I could say a word. I thought it was something like the famous central Indiana radio comic, Roy D. Mercer, who would prank call businesses. The cranky old caller used was so brash, direct and goofy sounding that I seriously thought I was being pranked.

You’ve got to know the setting where the call came in and the way the conversation continued to play out to fully get what was running through my head! It was my first college job and I really don’t know how I landed it as a freshman! I worked in the center of campus at Cincinnati Christian College Bookstore. It was a bustling corridor for everyone coming and going to class. We sold Coke, CD’s (when you used to buy music on disks) and all the books required for a Seminary education. It was just a great place to work in the middle of all the social interaction on campus and I loved it. How did my crazy uncle Larry hear that I got this job, get the number and catch me at the front desk to prank call me already?

“Do you sell tobacco products at your store?” came the voice firing back at me before I could even get an answer out to the first question.

Pressing in with my own questions I asked, “Is this Kevin calling from the dorm?” I didn’t think Kevin could fake such an angry old guy’s voice without breaking character at all. “You must be looking for another store sir”, I said to try and end the conversation. I was representing the sole undergrad position on staff as assistant to the bookstore manager, Darrin Bennet, and just in case this wasn’t a buddy from the dorms I had to hold some form of decorum.

At this point I began to think that I was dealing with some confused old guy and so I had decided to shut the dead-end conversation down with my final words, “We don’t sell things like that here sir, we have a student policy against both of those substances!”

Well the hook was set, and I was on the other line. It wasn’t the first time this routine phone call had been made. I still didn’t know it yet, but I might as well have been reading a script because I was being led masterfully so far to the triumphant moment he worked so hard for. His barking questions about our stock of tobacco and alcohol products pivoted, to the clinch line he couldn’t wait to land on me “why don’t you sell alcohol and tobacco?” he demanded to know. The pause before his final zinger line was perfectly timed in the way that only a person who had delivered such a line many times before. So, he perfectly laid it out there . . . wait for it . . .

“You might as well sell alcohol and tobacco because you sell versions of the bible besides The King James don’t you!!”

A mix between:
Shock - that I fell for it.
Laughter - that he tricked me with such practiced skill and intentionality.
Anger - that people really thought so legalistically about everything in this story!

This actually happened. He didn’t wait for a rebuttal. His work was finished. The prepared lesson had been given to the new pupil and then he hung up on me. I walked back to Darrin, mouth still open and said, “you’re not going to believe the phone call I just got! A guy asked me if we sold Alcohol . . .”

“You heard from Rodger”, said Darrin as matter-as-fact as I had ever heard anyone say anything before. Darrin didn’t even look up at me. Honestly, I was elated at Darrin’s non-surprised response to such a crazy caller! “If that’s a normal day then this is going to be a great job”, I thought to myself.

It was. Until Darrin fired me because I was, in his words, “getting married and ready for a weekend ministry”. Thanks Darrin. I missed you, but you were right.

I puzzled over that phone call for years. How could one get so zelous over the King James translation being the only credible version that they would compare it, in their mind to other harmful substances? There were moments in seminary when the professor would note translation differences between versions of the bible, but I couldn’t list 10 for you that meant SOO much to me that I would escalate the conversation to an argument or a test of fellowship!

Let’s go back to the mystery missing verse.

Back to the missing verse:

It helps to know the backstory with what is going on in the verses around our ‘missing scripture’ In Matthew 17, Jesus has an encounter with casting out a demon. The apostles tried and couldn’t; Jesus saw that a crowd was gathering, and he quickly helped them rid the demon from the boy. The apostles want to know why they were not able to cast this demon out, but Jesus did. They asked him later in private what the difference was. This is where the missing verse comes up. It’s always good to know the larger story of what is going on around the verses we read.

  • What was going on in the verse before the mystery missing verse?
  • The disciples were doing ministry with Jesus and He had given them this authority in Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
  • Jesus noted that the situation was a specific ‘kind’ of a demon that needs ‘prayer’ to cast him out. If this verse doesn’t freak you out just a little bit then read it again. Apparently, there are levels of power in demons and some need extra spiritual weapons to defeat it.
  • The exact same story is actually recorded for us in Mark’s gospel too. Mark 9:28-29

So, what IS the missing verse?? Well, if you happen to have a King James version of the Bible you can read what many of the earliest Matthew 17:21 scrolls say, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Is your bible missing the words, “and fasting”? Wouldn’t that be important Demon advice? Jesus says, this kind is really hard, you APOSTLES couldn’t do it because you didn’t pray and something else . . . what was it? I would stick around and listen to the second important thing needed to beat demons!!!

I am NOT a King James ONLY guy. Our church uses NIV on the screens and I actually hold and personally use ESV or NASB. After looking at the manuscript evidence available for keeping this portion of scripture I agree that enough evidence is there to keep the words of Christ as saying “AND FASTING”. The research on this is fascinating if you want to dig in for yourself. But there is a bigger point for our church in all of this!

I want to invite you to something deeply spiritual. I invite you to the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting has a deep history in the Bible:

  • King David, a man after God’s own heart, fasted so often he often looked sickly
  • Esther chapter 4 records a moment where the entire nation of Israel fasts for 3 days asking God to deliver them.
  • Jesus started His personal miracle after His period of fasting in Matthew chapter 3 for 40 days and 40 nights
  • Matthew 9:15 Jesus tells some of John’s followers why His followers are NOT fasting. Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

There are many places for you to do some research on the health aspects of fasting and more biblical context. Here is one link I would suggest as a starting place if you feel called by God to participate in a fast:

  • Fasting can be a bring breakthrough.
  • Fasting can help release spiritual bondage.
  • Fasting can open our eyes to the new things God wants to do in our lives.
  • Fasting stretches our spiritual muscles.
  • Jesus Fasted.
  • The early church fasted.
  • We need to pray AND FAST!

Join me in praying for

  • God’s vision for our church
  • Unity in our leadership and body
  • God’s provision
  • Spiritual awakening in Tampa
  • That Jesus would be lifted up in our church and community