Sunday School Lesson 8 - Mark 9:14-27 - COMMANDS
LAST WEEK: In Mk. 7:24-37, we saw Jesus in Gentile territory where He performed two distinctly different healings: the first, in Tyre, He healed the demon-possessed daughter of a Syrophoenician woman from a distance by simply saying that she was well; and the second, in Decapolis, He healed a deaf-mute man by sticking His fingers in his ears and placing His saliva on the man's tongue. The main truth of the lesson is that faith in Jesus Christ makes all people equal, regardless of gender, race, culture, or national origin. Although Jesus' earthly mission was directed to the Jewish people, Jesus was and is available to all who come to Him in faith. In both instances in that lesson, Jesus crossed social barriers to respond to the faith of two people who needed the kind of help that only He could give.
THIS WEEK: As we move forward in our study of Mark, we will skip all of Chapter 8, which reports the feeding of the 4,000 in the Gentile region of Decapolis (Mk. 8:1-10), the "leaven" of the Pharisees and Herod as figurative description of their hardened hearts and spiritual blindness (Mk. 8:14-21), the healing of a blind men at Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22-26), Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ when Jesus asked His disciples "who do you say that I am?" (Mk. 8:27-20), and Jesus' foretelling of His death and resurrection to His disciples (Mk. 8:31-38). Also, in Mark Chapter 9, we will skip the story of Jesus at the Transfiguration (Mk. 9:1-13). We come into today's lesson text in Mk. 9:14-29 just as Jesus, Peter, James, and John are returning from the Mount of the Transfiguration and find the remaining disciples in an argument with the Jewish scribes. In the interval, the disciples had tried to cast out a dangerous demon from a young boy but have been unsuccessful so far despite having performed healings before (see Mk. 6:7-13). This section is parallel to Mt. 17:14-20 and Lk. 9:37-43.
Read Mark 9:14-18 - THEY COULD NOT DO IT
14 And when they came back to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, "What are you disputing with them?" 17 And one person from the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, because he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes stiff. And I told Your disciples so that they would cast it out, but they could not do it."
v. 14: "And when they came back to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them" - As already know, scribes" are official experts on the Law of Moses who function as sort of a religious police who go around attempting to keep the Jews from committing infractions. Scholars suggest that the scribes in this instance are trying to discredit the disciples because they claim to follow Jesus but are themselves powerless to do anything to help the boy.
v. 15: "Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him" - Jesus' popularity with the crowds has become tremendous by this time, and they come to Him in swarms wherever He goes. While the text doesn't explain why they were "amazed," it's possible that His clothes were still dazzling as He returned from the Mountain. This has a parallel in Ex. 34:29-30 when all the people of Israel saw that Moses' face still shining (i.e., reflecting shekhinah glory) when he came down from the mountain from his encounter with God.
v. 16: "He asked them, "What are you disputing with them?" - It's not clear who Jesus is addressing-His disciples or the scribes. Since Jesus is all-knowing, He really doesn't need to ask any of them this question but does so in order to take control and re-direct the peoples' attention.
v. 17: "Teacher, I brought You my son, because he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak" - We need to stop here and talk about this for a couple of minutes. In our Mark study so far, we have seen a number of afflictions in people caused by demon possession. In the time of Christ, physical disorders were often attributable to demons, and in the course of His healings, Jesus clearly distinguishes between illnesses caused by demons and those caused by medical problems. We don't know why Jesus and His followers encounter so much demonic attack, except to say that Satan is using it an effort to disrupt and discredit Jesus ministry on earth. Lastly, we need to acknowledge the presence of this caring father who is trying to do everything possible to find help for his son's agony. Finally, as a last note, remember that believing Christians cannot be possessed by demons.
v. 18a: "and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes stiff" - This boy's symptoms sound similar to the modern disease of epilepsy, but it is not; the parallel in Mt. 4:24 makes a distinction between epilepsy and demon possession.
v. 18b: "And I told Your disciples so that they would cast it out, but they could not do it" - You will recall that two weeks ago, in Mk. 6, when Jesus sent His disciples on their first mission trip, he specifically "gave them authority over the unclean spirits" (another term for demons [Mk. 6:7]). Insofar as Eph. 6:12 appears to identify different ranks of demonic beings, it may be that some are more powerful and thus more challenging to cast out.
Read Mk. 9:19-23 - ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM WHO BELIEVES
19 And He *answered them and *said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23 And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."
v. 19a: "And He *answered them and *said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you?" - The word Jesus uses for "unbelieving" (Gk. apistos) literally means un-persuaded or not completely convinced. This rebuke is directed at all of them-the disciples, the boy's father, and the scribes. The "generation" would encompass all Jews living in Judea, Galilee, and elsewhere.
19b: "How long shall I put up with you?" - This statement reflects exasperation. While Jesus is patient with His disciples, he refuses to excuse them when they fail to remember and believe all that He has taught and shown them. They have seen faith in Him produce miracles beyond imagination.
19c: "Bring him to Me!" - Jesus now issues this bold demand for the ears of the father, the disciples, the scribes, and anyone within earshot. And like v. 16, above, He's re-directing all attention to Himself.
v. 20: "They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth" - The intensity of this violence is the normal response of a demon to presence of Jesus. He is their worst enemy. They know who He is and fear the power and authority under His control.
v. 21-22a: " And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22a It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. - This gives us a glimpse of what demons are really like: they are truly mean beings who are capable of torturing helpless children to the point of death. They are evil beyond description. Sadly, our modern entertainment media often goes as far as to portray demons as misunderstood anti-heroes in movies, cartoons, and comics. This is pure rubbish! All demons are the enemies of God.
v. 22b: "But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" - The renewed violence of the demon in the presence of Jesus and the previous failures of His disciples have weakened this father's faith. The statement, "if You can," indicates that he's now unsure whether Jesus has the authority to do it, and this probably mirrors the thoughts of those in the crowd who are looking on.
v. 23a: "And Jesus said to him, 'If You can?'" - This phrase, intended apparently as an ironic rebuke, has been translated in several different ways. It could be rephrased to say "The question is not whether I can but whether you believe." In other words, are you trusting in God or just in miracles? There's a big difference.
v. 23b: "All things are possible to him who believes" - In this statement, Jesus isn't saying that we can accomplish anything we want if we have enough faith; real faith doesn't presume that God will do what we want but will do what He wants according to His sovereign will, purposes, and timing.
Read Mark 9:24-27 - I DO BELIEVE; HELP MY UNBELIEF!
24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief!" 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again!" 26 And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him, and he got up.
v. 24: "Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief!" - This is one of the most moving verses in the gospels. Jesus has just told this desperate father that his son can be healed if he believes, and in a beautiful display of humility and helplessness, this man responds with an all-important leap of faith-saving faith. With the phrase, "help my unbelief," the father admits his powerlessness and asks Jesus to create in him a stronger heart of belief and trust.
v. 25: "When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again!'" - Jesus is prompted to conclude His lesson on faith and take immediate action because He sees an even larger crowd about to descend upon Him. This is apparently the only time Jesus cast out a demon with the additional order that it not return. The only permanent cure for a person released from demonic possession is to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12: 43-45). Hear that?
v. 26: "And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, 'He is dead!'" - This violent and convulsive reaction of the demon to Jesus' authority is normal, and in some cases, they even audibly cry out (Mk. 1:26). The demon's departure was of such force that the boy afterward appeared to be lifeless. While this condition is a normal reaction to a violent seizure, the crowd wouldn't have known this.
v. 27: "But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him, and he got up" - As in some earlier healings (Peter's mother-in-law Mk. 1:31; Jairus' daughter Mk. 5:41), Jesus takes the boy by the hand and he gets up alive and normal. The mere touch of Jesus is an expression of His power over life.
APPLICATION-Had a tough time with this one, but here it goes:
1. Spiritual authority may only be exercised through faith in God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In the lesson, the disciple's inability to cast out the demon demonstrated a lack of faith. Instead of relying solely on faith, they took their authority for granted and wrongly assumed it was always at their disposal. Today, our spiritual authority can be exercised through our ability to resist evil, through wisdom and discernment, by producing good works, and through the power of prayer.
2. Confession of unbelief can be the first step toward gaining faith in Jesus. The best thing anyone can do when confronted with his or her own lack of faith, is to confess it to God. That's what the father in today's lesson did (v. 24) when Jesus rebuked his doubtful faith (v. 23). Instead of trying to deny it or justify it, he acknowledged it.
3. Jesus holds authority over every aspect of the creation. In addition to the physical world, Christ also has the power to stand against any spiritual adversaries.
OBSERVATION: Christians today live in a culture that is characterized by evil and darkness. This reality often leads to feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness for many people. But amid all this darkness, there is a never-ending source of light and hope: Jesus Christ. And it only takes faith.
PRAYER: Lord God, our Father in heaven, we come before You this morning with thankful hearts, praising You for the love, mercy, and grace You steadfastly demonstrate to us as Christian believers. We thank You especially for sending Your Son Jesus to die for us on a cross so that we can may be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity in heaven with You. We thank You that we live in a nation where we are free worship You and share Your gospel truth with those who don't know You. I ask, Father, that all of us will take to heart the important lessons that Mark teaches us this morning, most of all, that if anyone lacks faith, their first step toward salvation is to confess it to You, Lord. So, I pray right now, dear God, that if anyone listening to this prayer is unsure of their faith, that they will confess it to You and ask for the help that only You can give them. In the name of our blessed Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, I ask these things, AMEN.