Mark 9:14-29 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
This miracle took place after Jesus came down the mountain with Peter, James, and John. On the mountain His image was transfigured into a picture of His future glorified state. When Jesus rose from the dead He walked upon this earth in a glorified body- the reward for His perfect obedience to God and His submission to the will of the Father in dying for our sins. Jesus was going to the cross and before the transfiguration He had just told His disciples for the first time that He would die. Of all the difficult teachings that Jesus had taught His disciples, this was by far the most shocking and challenging. If Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ and was establishing the Kingdom of God, why would He die? If He could perform all the miracles that the disciples had already seen, why would He not prevent His own death if someone tried to kill Him? Was the devil more powerful than God? It made no sense.
The scene that transpired as they came down from the mountain consisted of the remaining disciples being challenged by the scribes- the Jewish leaders who knew the Old Testament writings better than anyone else. At the centre of their dispute was a demon possessed child.
Neither the disciples nor the scribes were able to help him. This boy had been brought by his father to be set free by Jesus but he did not find Jesus but only His disciples. The demon had complete control over the boy. The demon prevented the boy from speaking or hearing and would throw him around even trying to kill him in the fire. From childhood this boy had been utterly helpless because of the demon and was completely powerless.
This boy pictured perfectly the current state of Israel. If the true followers of God are walking with Him as they should the devil have complete control over them? No. The devil will be forced to flee. The devil’s power over man is because of sin and Israel was filled with wickedness. If the true followers of God are drawing near to God the devil has no power:
James 4:7-8 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
This is why Jesus said in verse 19, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” But why could the disciples not cast out the demon? The answer is their unbelief. Unbelief had crept into their hearts as a result of them being taught that the Christ would die. They were struggling intensely with believing this. A lack of faith was developing in their relationship with Jesus. They doubted Him and in turn they could not pray to God as they should. They could not see the Kingdom of God manifest in their midst because their relationship with God was in a damaged state. They did not believe. They doubted God.
Jesus knew what He was teaching them was difficult. He knew they would not fully understand until later but they needed to keep following Him. The disciples needed to follow Him to the cross. Before He died they would scatter but only temporarily. But here and now Jesus could not lose them. They needed reassurance that He was still in control and they could still trust Him. So the unbelief of the father was a picture of the unbelief of the disciples. It was the disciples who could also say, “I believe; help my unbelief!” They had given up everything to follow Jesus and yet now Jesus challenged them with the teaching of His death of which they did not and felt that they could not believe. But Jesus encourages them to keep following Him. He was saying, “Don’t give up following me now that it is becoming difficult and uncertain. I am still in control. I still have all power and authority. Submit to Me. I will lead you through this!”
Jesus demonstrated that He would have absolute control over what would happen to Him on the cross as He casts out the demon from the boy. The devil would try to destroy Him upon the cross but the devil has no power over Him. It was His Father’s will that He would die for our sins. It was the Father who would pour out His wrath upon the Son as He died upon the cross in taking the punishment for our sins. And by Jesus’ own power, and the power of the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus would rise from the dead! The devil could not destroy Him! Jesus would remain the King of the Kingdom of God! He could not be defeated!
All of us, if we are true followers of Jesus will have times in our walk with Him where we struggle with what He has called us to believe about Him. We all will have moments where we can likewise say, “I believe, help my unbelief.” In these moments, if we are genuinely seeking Him with all our heart, Jesus Himself will reassure us that He is still the only one we should follow. He is the way to heaven. He is the only means of our salvation. He will encourage us to keep following Him and in time we will believe. He is still in complete control. He still has all authority and power. He will raise us up for His glory! We will see Him in His glorified state! Believe!
Pastor Murray Hack
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