March 20, 2021
“Jesus took hold of the boy’s hand and helped him stand up” ~Mark 9:27
If you’ve ever been baffled and/or challenged by a section of Scripture regarding what Jesus said and meant, this is probably one of those. His reaction to a father’s request to heal his son and rebuking his disciples gives us pause to consider the meaning. The section follows:
Mark 9:14-29 – 14-15 Then as they rejoined the other disciples, they saw that they were surrounded by a large crowd, and that some of the scribes were arguing with them. As soon as the people saw Jesus, they ran forward excitedly to welcome him.
16 “What is the trouble?” Jesus asked them. 17-18 A man from the crowd answered, “Master, I brought my son to you because he has a dumb spirit. Wherever he is, it gets hold of him, throws him down on the ground and there he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. It’s simply wearing him out. I did speak to your disciples to get them to drive it out, but they hadn’t the power to do it.”
19 Jesus answered them, “Oh, what a faithless people you are! How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”
20 So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it convulsed the boy, who fell to the ground and writhed there, foaming at the mouth.
21 “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the father.
22 “Ever since he was a child,” he replied. “Again and again it has thrown him into the fire or into water to finish him off. But if you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us.”
23 “If you can do anything!” retorted Jesus. “Everything is possible to the man who believes.”
24 “I do believe,” the boy’s father burst out. “Help me to believe more!”
25 When Jesus noticed that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he spoke sharply to the evil spirit, with the words, “I command you, deaf and dumb spirit, come out of this boy, and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit gave a loud scream and after a dreadful convulsion left him. The boy lay there like a corpse, so that most of the bystanders said, “He is dead.”
27-28 But Jesus grasped his hands and lifted him up, and then he stood on his own feet. When he had gone home, Jesus’ disciples asked him privately, “Why were we unable to drive it out?”
29 “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer,” replied Jesus. J.B. Phillips Translation
Imagine the surprise at Jesus’ response to the father’s description of what happened, or rather, didn’t happen. The desperate man, anxious to see his only son healed, is instead rebuked by the Lord. First he is frustrated and disappointed with the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon and then, when Jesus appears He rebukes everyone for a lack of faith. Can anyone cast out this demon? Finally, he thinks, Jesus will restore my son to a normal life.
Not quite yet! Even though the boy thrashes about when he’s brought to Jesus, He asks the father questions instead of simply casting out the demon. Imagine the scene as Jesus and the father talk about frequency and how long this has been going on while the boy is convulsing nearby. Finally the father begs the Lord to heal his son.
Then Jesus challenges the father with, “If you can do anything? Everything is possible to the man who believes.” And since this is real life instead of a movie script, the father candidly, probably with tears, laments, “I do believe. Help me to believe more.” Jesus grants that request and heals his son. But did he?
Instead of rising up, after a piercing, demonic last ditch scream, the boy lay as dead. All who witnessed this exclaimed, “He is dead!” Not so. Jesus took his hands and raised him up into his father’s grateful arms.
The thoroughly confused disciples then took Jesus away from the crowd and asked, “Why were we unable to drive [the demon] out?” These were men of faith and action, who had seen and done miracles. Why were we so powerless, they wondered. What is the secret? In keeping with our Lord’s mysterious answers, He simply says, “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer!”
If you are like me, you vow to ask God to help you to believe more and pray more.