BELIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE
Lord, we believe but help us to conquer our unbelief.
Read MARK 9:14–29
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]”
a Mark 9:29 Some manuscripts prayer and fasting
New International Version (NIV)
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“God is not human, that he should lie … Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” (Num 23:19).
Coming down from the mount of transfiguration, Jesus is faced with a dramatic situation. An argument has arisen between His disciples and a Gentile crowd because the disciples are unable to cast out a demon. Jesus’ response to the father’s report, “You unbelieving generation!” (19), shows His exasperation not with the Gentiles as much as with His disciples (FJ Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, Hendrickson, 2002, p183). Jesus has rebuked them on a previous occasion for their lack of faith (4:40), and they realize that He is now addressing them because, later they ask why they were unable to cast out the demon (28). Casting out demons is part of their mission (3:15), but they fail here because of a lack of faith.
After describing his son’s condition, the father asks Jesus to show compassion and help, if He is able to do so (22). Jesus seems a little exasperated with the father too, and blandly replies that everything is possible for the one who believes (23). Although the father admits to a mix of belief and unbelief (24), the grammar suggests that belief is dominant, so he looks toward Jesus to strengthen his faith (CD Marshall, Faith as a Theme in Mark’s Narrative, CUP, 1989, p121–122). Jesus apparently approves of the father’s response, because He casts out the demon and restores his son.
The disciples, lacking in faith, are unable to carry out their mission here, namely, to cast out a demon. The father, however, confesses his ambivalence and his dependency on Jesus to strengthen his faith, so that Jesus can act upon it and cast out the demon. Thus, the child’s father inadvertently advances Jesus’ mission, which, we have seen earlier, is for the Gentiles too.
“Everything is possible for one who believes” (23). Do you grasp this, even if your belief is sometimes or often mixed with unbelief?
Lord, fully equip us for our mission while we are still here on earth.