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Our text this morning deals with the disciples’ inability to cast out a demon
As the father of the boy with the demon says, they don’t have the power to do it
Now remember, they’ve been commissioned and given authority over demons:
And they’ve had success
So why can’t they here?
This is a lesson about spiritual power.
But the lesson is not that this demon is more powerful
It’s a lesson about where spiritual power comes from, and it’s a lesson the disciples needed.
I believe it’s a lesson we need, too
An Embarrassing Failure
Jesus w/ Peter James John getting back from the mountain where transfigured
Scribes disappear from the story after this.
What are they doing?
Arguing w/ the 9 disciples.
About what?
That’s what Jesus asked.
The arguers don’t answer (scribes afraid, disciples embarrassed).
So someone from the crowd speaks up to answer Jesus:
He brought his son to Jesus, didn’t find Jesus (up mountain), found the 9 disciples.
No problem: as we saw, they’ve been commissioned to do this very thing
But not this time.
This looks like a failure.
You can imagine what the scribes were saying
And it was a failure, for two reasons:
First, as we saw, they’ve been given authority for this
Second, look at how Jesus responds: “O faithless generation.
How long am I to be with you?
How long am I to bear with you?”
Be with you just association, but “bear with” or “endure”—that’s holy frustration
With whom is Jesus frustrated?
Broader than disciples, “this generation,” but esp.
They’re the ones whose failure to cast the demon out of the boy caused this frustrating scene.
I loved what someone said about this: “Jesus has had enough of unbelief”
In fact, Matthew records a longer reply to why couldn’t we cast it out:
Whatever the circumstances with this particular demon, they have failed because they lack faith
Jesus has no such problem
A Sweeping Victory
I love this interaction
This poor father—look what he’s been living with: “he has a spirit that makes him mute.
And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid”
He tried to bring the boy to Jesus, but he was gone up the mountain, so he got the 9.
And they, in his words, were not able (did not have power; lacked sufficient personal resources)
Jesus commands they bring the boy to him.
Normally when demons encounter Jesus, they blab: I know who you are, what do you want, etc.
I presume because this is a mute spirit, it can’t do that.
Instead, “when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth”
Do you think these primitive people just lacked our modern scientific understanding, so they attribute this condition to demonic possession, when clearly this is some sort of epileptic seizure?
Mark seems to take pains to explain this isn’t purely a physical or psychological problem:
Father says he has a spirit that makes him mute and sometimes gives him these seizures.
In v. 20 Mark records that when the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy down.
In v. 25 Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and v. 26 the demon came out of the boy.
In v. 29 Jesus even says something about what kind of demon they were dealing with
Mark’s not going to let you get away with thinking this was a physical problem.
Makes clear this case of what we might describe as epilepsy was caused by a demon.
He does not say that everything we think is epilepsy is actually demonic
Don’t miss Jesus’ tenderness in dealing with this dad.
They bring the boy to Jesus, the demon throws him down into convulsions, and Jesus asks the dad, how long has this been happening to him?
Apologies to WWJD people, but this response astonishes me.
I don’t know what I would do if you introduced your child to me and immediately a demon threw him to the ground, foaming at the mouth, but I imagine I’d react with some kind of urgency, maybe panic.
I’d at least expect Jesus to immediately act.
Not, “so, how long has this been going on?
It’s almost comical.
But don’t miss: it’s also very tender and compassionate
Jesus doesn’t need more info from the dad to deal with the situation.
He’s inviting this father to unload his burden on him.
Tell me more about your situation
And the father does.
He explains that not only does this happen, but this demon has even tried to drown the boy or burn him to death many times
What agony this father has been living with, apparently for years.
Not to mention what the boy’s been going through.
No wonder Jesus frustrated with the disciples failure to relieve this suffering
The disciples lacked the spiritual resources to deal with it.
The father is hoping that Jesus can do better, but he’s not sure Jesus can:
“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
This is like saying, “your disciples didn’t have the power to cast out this spirit.
you wanna take a crack at it?
Jesus’ reply is to quote the man’s words back to him: “if you can”
ESV correctly puts an exclamation point behind that statement.
“If you can!” Then he explains, “All things are possible for one who believes”
This isn’t an issue of power.
This is an issue of faith
More specifically, faith and its object.
It’s not the strength of your faith that determines what’s possible, it’s who you have faith in.
There is no limit to God’s power to act for you.
The only limit is, how much do you believe Him?
And dad gets the message.
He replies with a searingly honest prayer: “I believe.
Help my unbelief!”
Brothers and sisters, that is one of my favorite prayers in the Bible.
I have prayed it myself many times.
Even our strongest faith is mixed with some measure of unbelief
Do you struggle to have faith in God? Fine—imitate this dad
Does he focus on his doubts?
No, he confesses his doubts, and humbly asks Jesus to help with his unbelief
Don’t be afraid to confess as much to your Father in Heaven.
Faith is a gift from God. Don’t be afraid to ask Him to increase yours
He knows your weakness.
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