Through the Bible in One Year

Day 58

Mark 9:14-29

When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”

Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.

“From childhood,” he said. “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.”

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, 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.”

Then it came out, shrieking and throwing him into terrible convulsions. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.

After he had gone into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

And he told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.”

To put this passage into context Peter, James and John have just seen Jesus meeting with the two biggest figures in Jewish history, Moses and Elijah.  The four of them come down from the mountain that they have been on and they reconnect with the rest of Jesus’ disciples only to find that while Jesus, Peter, James and John have been gone the rest of the disciples have been trying, unsuccessfully, to drive out a demon from a little boy.  Jesus’ response to this was to call out both his disciples and those around with these words, “You unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.”

What Jesus was saying in these three statements is this: failure to stand in effective spiritual warfare against demons and overcome their influence and control is viewed by Jesus as a spiritual weakness and lack of faith on the part of Christ’s disciples.  We must remember that no victory comes where there is a lack of dedication and reliance on Christ.

We now see that the boy is brought to Jesus and the demon that had possessed this boy immediately begins to show itself.  It is at this point that Jesus asks the father a very simple question: “How long has this been happening to him?”  The father’s reply to this question is that this has been going since childhood.  The father then goes on to say these words to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  Jesus’ response is classic: “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.”  This statement made by Jesus to a father that was looking to have his son set free from the destructive power of a demon should not be taken as unconditional promise.  And there are two big reasons why this is the case.

  1. The word “everything” does not mean everything that comes to our minds or that we would desire for ourselves.  Our faith and prayers must be based on God’s will.  And we must not expect God to answer a prayer for something that is foolish, selfish or wrongly motivated.
  2. The faith required for powerful miraculous acts must be received and used as a gift from God.  God inspires this kind of faith in the hearts of believers who already living faithfully according to his purposes and desires.

The very next words of this father’s mouth show that he clearly understood what Jesus was talking about in his response to this father.  For the father of this demon possessed boy gives this response to Jesus: “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

In this life, our faith is often mixed with questions or doubts.  And as long as our lack of faith has to do with ourselves and our own inadequacies—and not God’s power and ability—he can work past these weaknesses.  Honestly struggling with faith does not mean that Christ will not respond to our requests.  Christ certainly expects us to grow and mature in our faith, but he also understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses.  We should always be honest and willing to admit our lack of faith so we can pray that God would give us the faith we need to serve him effectively and honor him completely.

This story of course ends with Jesus driving the demon out of the boy.  However, that is not the true ending to our passage for today, because Jesus and his disciples had a little one on one time after the events described here.  And it is during this one on one time that the disciples asked the most important question in this entire passage.  And that question was simply this: “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  You see the disciples were anxious to know how Jesus was able to drive the demon out of this boy when they couldn’t drive the demon out of this boy.  And Jesus was more than willing to give them the answer to this question.  And Jesus answer to their question was this: “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.”

Jesus does not mean that a time of prayer was necessary just in this instance so they could command the evil spirit/demon to release its control over this boy.  Because an isolated time of prayer is not enough to develop the kind of spiritual power and authority that is needed to exorcise demons.  Instead Jesus is talking about a principle and that principle is this: where there is little prayer, there is little faith.  And where there is much prayer, which is based on true commitment to God and his Word, there is much faith.  If the disciples had followed Jesus’ example and developed a strong and consistent prayer life, they could have had the spiritual power to deal successfully with this case of demonic possession.  And the same is true for those of us living as followers of Christ in today’s world.  Because just as the disciples’ faith or lack thereof was shown through their prayer, so too is ours.  Jesus was able to exorcise the demons from this boy, because he and his Father, God, were in constant and consistent communication.  And if we want to do powerful spiritual things, just as Jesus did, then we too must be constant and consistent communication with our heavenly Father.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Leviticus 22:17-23:44, Mark 9:30-10:12, Psalm 44:1-8 and Proverbs 10:19

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