Immediately prior to this scene, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a high mountain to be alone with Peter, James and John. Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. According to Verse 7, a voice from heaven commanded the disciples to listen to Jesus. No doubt the next scene in the Gospel of Mark was intended to help disciples understand the importance of belief.
The Challenge (17–20)
When Jesus and the three disciples came down the mountain, a religious debate between a crowd of lay people and religious scribes was happening. Jesus inquired about the nature of the debate between the crowd and the religious leaders.
A father spoke up and informed Jesus the argument focused upon his sick son. The son was unable to speak, fell down, foamed at his mouth, ground his teeth and became rigid. Although the disciples had cast out many demons earlier (6:13), they were unable to heal or help in this situation because of a lack of faith and prayer (9:29). The demonic spirit immediately caused convulsions in the boy. He fell, rolled around and foamed at the mouth.
The Admission (21–24)
Jesus inquired about how long the boy had experienced the symptoms. The father explained that the boy experienced his problematic issues since childhood. The boy had fallen into fire and water numerous times. The father admitted to having doubts about Jesus’ ability to help. The phrase “if you can do anything” in Verse 22 does not express a great faith.
Perhaps the statement suggests that others had attempted to help and failed.
Jesus, however, is no ordinary healer. Jesus responded to the father’s “if you can” with a question and an explanation. Jesus responded by repeating the words back to the father. “If you can?” is an expression of exasperation. Jesus reminded the father that belief makes the impossible possible. None of us has perfect faith. All of us have a mixture of faith and unbelief. While faith makes all things possible, a lack of faith means that little is possible. The father asked Jesus to help his unbelief. I believe Jesus answered this prayer and will answer the same request from us. Jesus enabled the father to have faith and his son was delivered.
The Demonstration (25–29)
Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. The unclean spirits (or evil spirits) always obeyed Jesus in the Gospels. No doubt we should all acknowledge that we do not always obey the commands of Jesus. The spirit came out of the boy at the command of Jesus.
The spirit departed from the youth, shrieking and throwing the boy into convulsions. The way in which the spirit left the boy gave public evidence of the departure of the demon. At first, the witnesses thought the boy had died. Jesus grabbed the boy by the hand and helped him stand. The ability of the boy to stand gave evidence of restored health.
The demonstration opened the door for the disciples to ask a question:
“Why could we not drive out the demon?” Jesus earlier stated that He gave them authority over unclean spirits (6:7).
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida