Devotional #25 (3/18/13). Jesus casts a demon out that the disciples can’t.
Intro: Last week we saw Jesus transformed into His true glory at His transfiguration. His inner circle (Peter, James and John) got to ask a couple questions, one of which was about Elijah. So now they return to the rest of the disciples and a big group of people. This story is also found in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-42.
This Week’s Reading: Mark 9:14-29.
vv. 14-16. Jesus has been gone a little while but things have gotten a little crazy. There is a mob (“great multitude”), scribes arguing with the disciples and (as we’ll see) a failed exorcism. It says the people were “greatly amazed”, presumably because Jesus’ appearance had been altered. So even though the mob runs to Him, Jesus calmly focus’ on the scribes and says, “hey, what have you been talking with them about?”
vv. 17-18. But notice none of the scribes answer Him, probably because of his transfigured appearance (Source 1). And none of His disciples answer Him maybe because they are a little embarrassed that they couldn’t cast out the demon, possibly because they took comfort in knowing their master was back and everything would be OK. But the dad has no problem apprising Jesus of the situation: ‘My son has a demon but your guys couldn’t get rid of it!’ So why couldn’t they? Jesus is going to tell us shortly but Guzik says, “Apparently some demons are stronger – that is, more stubborn or intimidating than others. Ephesians 6:12 seems to describe different ranks of demonic beings, and it isn’t a stretch to think that some ranks might be more power than others are” (Source 2).
vv. 19-20. Jesus, a little annoyed, tells the disciples they shouldn’t attempt things they don’t know about unless they have the necessary faith. He says “faithless generation” which is a precursor to Jesus’ point that the man needed to place his faith in Jesus (Mk. 9:23-24) but also directed at others. MacArthur states that Jesus was speaking to “the father…the 9 disciples” and the “unbelieving scribes, who were no doubt gloating over the disciples’ failure (cf. v.14), and with unbelieving Israel in general” (Source 3). So Jesus asks that the boy be brought to Him and as soon as the demon who possessed the boy sees Jesus he throws the boy into a fit.
vv. 21-22. Jesus asks how long the boy has been like this. Jesus knows everything (being God) so He is obviously trying to draw something out and He gets it. The father says, “If You can do anything”…the key word here is “if”. In the past when people came to Jesus saying ‘Lord, I believe you can heal, will you?’ He would. But this guy approaches with hesitation. Jesus is surrounded by faithlessness. In the next verse Jesus’ answer is awesome!
vv. 23-24. When Jesus says, “If you can believe…” He uses the word “if” just as the man had prior. He puts it back on the man. So how does the father respond? With a very famous phrase: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Remember in the last few weeks we’ve talked about the importance of recognizing Jesus as Lord? He must be master of our life. We are responsible for believing in Jesus but we must also acknowledge that “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
vv. 25-27. When Jesus saw more people running towards them He healed the boy. Jesus probably wanted to spare the father and his boy more embarrassment and also Jesus never “performed” for thrill seekers (Source 3). When Jesus tells the demon to come out (interestingly it had made the boy mute but it cries out now) then the boy falls to the ground and everyone thinks he’s dead.
vv. 28-29. Jesus shows the crowd that the boy is alive and once the disciples get Him alone they ask why they couldn’t cast the demon out. He explains that only “prayer and fasting” work. This is amazing because Jesus was prepared for this. He had both been without food and praying prior to and during the casting out of the demon.
Conclusion: Jesus casts out a demon while instructing everyone on faith. We can try to imagine a father who is constantly worried about his son being thrown into fire or water finally hearing about Someone who can heal him. Then to be met with questions that are confusing followed by the healing must have been nerve-racking! But Jesus is always more concerned about the spiritual state of people, drawing out their hearts and mindsets so they can truly be complete. How comforting it is to knowing that Jesus is always prepared (as He was with “prayer and fasting”) to deal with our problems! He may make us a little uncomfortable but it is always for our best.
Source 1: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 183.
Source 2: David Guzik, Blue Letter Bible: http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=2&contentID=7902&commInfo=31&topic=Mark&ar=Mar_9_12
Source 3: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1479