And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for 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. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, 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.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
(Mar 9:14-29 ESV)
A familiar text but one that grabbed my heart this morning. Jesus, with Peter, James and John, are just returning from experiencing the transfiguration of Christ. A crowd surges at Christ and his companions – something big is happening. And then from the fringe of the crowd a man steps forward. His eyes moist, his face haggard, lines of fatigue etch his face, and as he speaks his voice emits the sound of hopelessness. His son is possessed by a demon and has been since childhood. This man has watched the demon, at will, attempt to destroy his son. When possessed the boy crashes to the ground and writhes uncontrollably. Grinding teeth, foaming at the mouth, the demon has attempted to throw this child into the fire and water in drastic attempts to kill him. And dad is powerless. He is an observer to the collision of spiritual and physical. He has tried everything, even traveling to meet the disciples of Christ, and now he has lost hope. He has only one place to turn.
Parenting & Possession
In every parents life a time will come when they feel absolutely helpless to intervene in the life of their child. Oh, it may not be possession, but there will be times that they lack the ability to control their child’s life. This is what drew me to this passage. As my children grow older I am becoming more and more aware of the lack of control I actually have. It is frightening. There are times when we lose sleep over the events in a child’s life. Tears are shed. Hope slithers away. We wonder, “What has gotten into that boy/girl?”
The concern grows even greater as we watch children make sinful choices. Immaturity will cause our children to make poor choices, and spiritual immaturity will allow them to make sinful choices. These are devastating to a parent. We watch as they are thrown down and cast about by the destructive nature of sin. It breaks our hearts. We run out of resources. We begin to run out of hope.
Deliverance & Deity
The man approaches the Son of man. He pleads his cause, “I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” God! What am I going to do?!? As Jesus calls for the boy to be brought to him, the demon again seizes the child and throws it into convulsions. Jesus looks at the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” There is not an immediate correction to the problem. Jesus inquires first about the situation and circumstances. This spoke to me this morning as well. All too often we hear or see a situation and we just want to jump in and fix it. Maybe there is a need for a compassionate ear, a gesture of love that shows the man, “I’m concerned about the boy…and I’m concerned about you, too” The man wavers in the compassion of Christ. “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” The man falters and breaks under the load of caring for his son. This is his last option. Jesus speaks bold truth into his life, “If You can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Truth does it’s convicting work, “I do believe; help my unbelief“
Amazing words. God! I do believe, but I need help!! Now the scene is not about the boy, it is about the dad and his faith. And the father responds wonderfully. I want to believe to the point where the miraculous takes place!…but Jesus, you’re going to have to help me get there. I can’t do it on my own!!
We’ve been there as parents. Have you? The situation is out of control, truth demands full faith, and our hearts are timid and frightened. We call out to Jesus, “Help our unbelief!” We want to believe as you’ve called us to, but our spirit and flesh our weak. Oh, Jesus! help us! This is a good place to be.
Demons & Prayer
Jesus, seeing the faith of the father, rebukes the demon and commands it to leave the boy alone. And, because Jesus is King and has the authority of The King, the demon departs and the boy lays quietly on the ground. The crowd assumes the worst. “The boy is dead. ” Jesus, you’re too late, you aren’t powerful enough, release is not destined to happen. These are all things that run through our minds. God! Hurry! Do something with our child! Time is quickly drawing to a point of no return. God! Can you break through that hard, rebellious heart? Do you have enough power to snatch this child from the clutches of Satan and return him to normalcy? God! Satan is destroying him!
What did the dad feel at this point? His son is lying on the ground, “so much like a corpse” is how Mark describes the scene. Has the dad failed the son? Is a dead son better than a son living with occasional torment? Is this really what we have to live with now? Anguish. A lump in the throat. A hurried, panicked glance at the Savior. Unable to move, unwilling to accept the possibility, the dad fails to act.
But Jesus does not hesitate. He isn’t finished yet. The boy lying as still as death is unresponsive to the murmurs of the crowd. But when Jesus takes him by the hand, he rises and gets up to join his family. It amazes everyone. Dad is rejoicing, the son is reunited with family, the crowd is amazed. The buzz ripples through the throng. Jesus and his disciples leave the scene and enter a house where they bombard Christ with questions. “Why could we not cast it out?“
And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
What is your parenting situation? Are you grasping at every straw and resource known to man in an attempt to better your circumstances? Are you desperate?
Have you prayed? This verse is the verse that hit me the hardest today. I wrote a simple reminder in my bible: “Prayer is so important“. I don’t pray enough for my kids and the situations they face. I find myself in the continual ebb and flow of this discipline. There are times when it is only prayer that we have to hang onto. Hanging onto prayer, and relying on God, is the exact thing we need to be doing. The situation is greater than itself: God seeks to conform us to Christ – that is the ultimate goal in any situation we find ourselves in.
My, this is a lengthy post. Here’s the takeaway: Parents, do you find yourself hurting and out of options and hope? Turn to Jesus, rely on the Spirit for your strength and faith, and pray. Pray that God would move in such a mighty way that it would grasp the attention of others and bring glory to Him.