Mark 9:14-27 Biblical Commentary
MARK CHAPTERS 8-9 - THE CONTEXT: The story of the transfiguration is located almost exactly at the mid-point of this Gospel. Along with Peter's confession (8:29), the Transfiguration is the turning point of Jesus' ministry. Until now, Jesus has been teaching and healing. Now he will begin his journey to Jerusalem, where he will die. Immediately prior to the transfiguration, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah (8:27-30), and Jesus foretold his death and resurrection-to which Peter expressed serious objection (8:31-33). Jesus then began to teach his disciples the sacrificial nature of discipleship (8:34-38). The transfiguration reaffirms Jesus' identity, reveals his glory, and calls the disciples to listen to him. It validates that, in spite of his announcement that he will suffer and die (8:31), Jesus is the messiah-the Son of God. This section is bounded on both ends by the healing of a blind man (8:22-26; 10:46-52)-but the disciples remain blind throughout. Peter made a good start by identifying Jesus as the messiah (8:29), but his response to Jesus' prediction of his death made it clear that he expected a different kind of messiah than Jesus has to offer. During the transfiguration itself (vv. 2-9), Jesus does not speak even one word. In 9:1, however, which concluded the section where Jesus foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus promised, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power" (v. 1). In the transfiguration, Peter, James, and John catch quite a glimpse of kingdom glory. Some have proposed that the transfiguration story is really a resurrection appearance that Mark has placed out of sequence in this Gospel (Matthew and Luke use Mark's Gospel as one of their primary sources, so we would expect them to agree with Mark's account). Few scholars support that idea today. In the resurrection accounts, no prophet from the past accompanies Jesus. Jesus does the talking rather than a voice from heaven, and there is no mention of Jesus' dazzling clothing or face. After the resurrection, people will mistake Jesus for an ordinary traveler (Luke 24:16)-or a gardener (John 20:15)-or a stranger (John 21:4). The events of the resurrection appearances are quite ordinary compared to the pyrotechnics of the Transfiguration. Immediately after the transfiguration story, Jesus and the three disciples descend from the mountaintop into a very un-mountaintop situation (9:14-29). A crowd has gathered around a boy with a spirit that convulses him. Disciples who remained at the base of the mountain have failed to cast out the spirit, so Jesus does it. The disciples' problem is lack of faith and prayer.
The Problem (9:14-18)
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. (Mark 9:14-15 ESV)
We are allowed to see what was happening with the other nine disciples while Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on the mountain. While up on the mountain a large crowd gathered around the other nine disciples. We have seen throughout Mark's gospel that wherever he goes there are always great crowds following him. It turns out that quite a scene is being made because the scribes are arguing with these nine disciples. While glory is being shown on the mountain, the scribes are arguing with the rest of Jesus' disciples. But before we are allowed to learn what the problem is and what the argument is about, notice something else we are told in verse 15.
Immediately all the crowd, when they saw Jesus, was greatly amazed. Why are they overwhelmed with wonder? Why are they greatly amazed when they saw Jesus? The logical answer is that Jesus' clothing is still dazzling white from the transfiguration on the mountain. The parallel is in Exodus 34:29-30 when Moses came down from the mountain that the shining face of Moses did not stop but continued and Israel saw it. The same thing is happening here. People are being given a chance to behold a small portion of the glory of Jesus. They are amazed when they see him. But that does not stop what is happening in this argument just as the shining face of Moses did not cause Israel to seek deeply into its meaning.
So Jesus asks what the argument is about. Why are the scribes arguing with the disciples of Jesus? The answer is revealed. Someone in the crowd announces the problem. He brought his son to Jesus but found these nine disciples here at the foot of the mountain. His son has a spirit that makes him mute, seizes him, throws him down, causes him to foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid. In verse 22 we are told that this spirit casts the son into the fire and into the water to destroy him. This spirit has been afflicting him since childhood. But notice what the man says in verse 18. He asked his disciples to cast out this spirit and they were not able. The disciples could not cast out this unclean spirit. This appears to be the basis for the scribes' argument. It seems that the disciples are being challenged over their inability.
The Real Problem (9:19-27)
Notice what Jesus says in verse 19 upon hearing this news. "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long as I to bear with you?" Faith is the problem. How long will you not understand? This has been an overwhelming problem recorded throughout this gospel: the disciples do not fully understand who Jesus is. The disciples do not have a full faith in who Jesus is. They do not understand about the loaves (8:20-21). They are confessing Jesus but do not grasp the full implications of this confusion as they rebuke Jesus for saying he is going to die. So here again we see a lack of faith by the disciples.
Now look at what the parents say in verse 22. "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Think about what the parents just said. Do we not do this ourselves? Do we do this with the Lord? Lord, can you do something here? Jesus immediately responses in verse 23, "If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." It is never about what God can do. So much is built on faith. So much is dependent on our trust in God. All things are possible for the one who believes. The problem is not divine willingness but human unbelief. Nothing is too great for God. God can do anything. The parents beg for Jesus' compassion. Jesus does have compassion for us and he can do anything. But do we really believe this? Do we really believe that God has the ability and the compassion to do anything?
Why did these disciples fail? Why could they not cast out this unclean spirit? The text reveals to us that they were relying on themselves and did not possess enough faith. A lack of faith blocks so much. Faith is a great obstacle which has been revealed to us as that obstacle throughout this gospel. Great faith is lacking and the lack of great faith is the hindrance. Jesus, if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. If he can do anything? The problem is not with the power, ability, or compassion of God. The problem is us and our lack of faith. Listen to their response in verse 24. The father cries out, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
What a glorious prayer! I believe; help my unbelief! What we need is more faith. I have faith but I need more faith. Jesus shows why you should have faith in him. In verses 25-27 we see at simply the words of Jesus this unclean spirit, as strong as it is, is cast out. Jesus proves his point that there is nothing too great for him. Jesus has power over the dead. Jesus came to save and give life. Jesus conquers the dark powers that control us. Jesus is worthy of great faith. Believe in him.
The Solution (9:28-29)
In verse 28 the disciples speak privately to Jesus and ask him why they could not cast out this unclean spirit. Listen to Jesus' answer in verse 29. "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer." More faith comes from more prayer. Need faith? Pray for it. Pray the prayer that this man prays! I believe; help my unbelief! We see this message of praying for faith in the New Testament in many places. In Luke 22:32 Jesus prayed for the faith of Peter. In Jude 20 we read, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 1:20 NASB).
Pray for faith. Prayer is pictured as the avenue to faith. Success does not rest on our power. Self-sufficiency is the enemy of faith! We are not supposed to handle our trials alone. We are not supposed to walk through life independently. We are not supposed to take care of life ourselves. We are to believe that the Lord Jesus can do anything and pray for greater faith. This is the consistent message of the gospel of Mark: disciples need faith. The miracles we have read in this gospel have been a challenge of faith. The leper shows faith in Mark 1:40. The paralytic lowered through the roof to get to Jesus showed faith. The one healed from the demon called Legion showed faith after his healing. The woman with the flow of blood showed faith. Jairus showed faith for healing his dead daughter. Jesus marveled at the unbelief of the crowds. We see a lack of faith in the feeding of the 5000 and 4000. We read of great faith from the Syrophoencian woman who understands her position and just wants the crumbs that come from the table.
The big message is to have faith. Then admit the need for more faith. Admit the need for help and seek the help God gives. Lord, I believe! But I need so much more! Our inadequacies are to drive us to prayer. I want us to think for a moment about faith. What are we saying about our need for faith? We talk a lot about faith in church. But what do we need more faith in? We need to have faith in the sovereignty, power, and rule of Jesus in our lives and in the world. Do we believe in the full control and power of Jesus over this world because he is the king who sits on the throne and is ruling?
In fact, I would like for us to consider that our lack of faith and our fears come from a loss of seeing Jesus clearly? This is the connection to the prior paragraph about the transfiguration of Jesus. We need a greater view of Jesus. We need a greater view of who Jesus is and what he can do. God can bring difficulties into our lives so that we will need to trust him even more. We see this in the book of Job, allowing Job to suffer so that a greater faith would be developed in him.
What is it in our lives that we do not believe God can do anything about? What do we think God will not solve? What do we think God cannot handle? Where in our hearts have we said to the Lord, "If you can do anything?" Do not be self-sufficient. Do not rely on yourself. Let us pray for greater faith. Let us pray for the Lord to help our regular moments of unbelief. All things are possible for one who believes.
MARK 9:14-29 A Father's Growing Faith
INTRODUCTION: Fatherhood is under assault all across America. Every study on the state of the American family tells the same story. Families and parenting over the last twenty-five years have followed a radical departure from human history. The result is indescribable damage to our culture and the future of our society.
Leading humanistic authorities on child rearing tell us that "fatherhood is unimportant." Since fatherhood is gender-based, they say it is no long needed, and can therefore be altered at will.
They claim men in general are part of the social problem in the world. They see the transformation of society being accomplished only as the gender role is changed. They have created a "new father for a new age." The only problem is the "new father" does not exist. He is a father without gender roles. They do not want a father image. Do away with him; get rid of him. Make fatherlessness the norm.
Instead of a father let a boy friend, male friend or extended member of the family occasionally act as a father substitute and only when needed.
A good father is not perfect. He simply loves his wife and his children. He understands gender roles and the important role played by a father in the family. He is responsible for his family.
When we talk about the Fatherhood of God many people don't have the faintest idea how to identify with a healthy, wholesome father. They only thing they can relate to their mother's new boy friend or a substitute father.
You are an endangered species if you are taking your responsibilities as a father seriously. You are becoming rare, indeed.
In the Gospel of Mark chapter nine, we encounter Jesus and a desperate father. He is a good father, and we will assume from the context a spiritual leader in the home, a role model, and provider for his family. He takes his responsibilities seriously. He loves his son, and he is a father who is hurting. He is a man with a son in a hopeless situation.
As we watch Jesus reaching out to this hurting father it is important for us to keep in mind what is happening to Christ. The time of the encounter with a desperate father is the day after the transfiguration of Jesus. He along with Peter, James and John descend from the summit of the mountain into the plain below. They left the radiant light of the transfiguration experience to go into the shadows of shame and confusion below.
On that occasion Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus, Moses and Elijah talking about the coming death and resurrection of Jesus. "And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them" (Mark 9:2-3). The very divine, inner nature that had been hidden in His fleshly body was expressed before them in that same body. The normal outward expression of our Lord in His humiliation was that of a man acquainted with grief, the frail human weakness of man and aware of the brokenness of mankind. All of a sudden that outward expression was changed. Out of His inmost being shone the dazzling glory of the essence of deity which He possessed co-eternally with the Father and the Spirit. The radiance of His glory suddenly shone through His humanity and through His clothing. Matthew tells us, "His face did shine." This outpouring of glory came from within as the Lord of glory. It was like the light of sunshine on pure gold, or the flash of a large carat pure diamond. The Shekinah glory cloud overshadowed them, like in the days of Moses in the Tabernacle on the mercy seat. A voice came from the cloud saying, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" (v. 7). It is from that experience we see Jesus with the three disciples coming into the mainstream of humanity with its desperate suffering.
DOUBLE DESPAIR OF THE DESPERATE (9:14-18)
Jesus came back to the nine disciples whom He had left in the valley. There was a "large crowd around then, and some scribes arguing with them" (v. 14). It was a rowdy scene. The scribes were squabbling with the disciples. From the context they were probably ridiculing and harassing the disciples for their failure to cast out a demon from a boy. They had tried to heal a boy and had failed. No doubt the scribes were delighting in the failure and were taunting them. With the gathering crowd watching, the scribes were making the best of the opportunity to criticize and belittle their Master. The scribes seized the opportunity to put down the Savior. They judged Jesus by judging His disciples. They still do.
"And immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed, and began running up to greet Him" (v. 15).
The people saw Jesus and were astonished at seeing Him. His presence caught them by surprise. They were completely amazed. I really don't think it was the radiance of the transfiguration lingering on Him because He had sternly warned Peter, James and John not to mention a word of it until after Jesus rose from the dead (v. 9).
Imagine the feeling rushing through the veins of the disciples: confused, glad, ashamed, delighted to see Him, betrayed, failure, questioning, and desperation.
Perhaps the response of the scribes was an, "Oh, no! Not now."
Jesus asked them, "What are you discussing with them? (v. 16). I believe they were all amazed because of the sudden appearance of Jesus just at the time when He was most needed by His disciples and a hurting father. It came as a shock that He should suddenly appear at a time when the disciples had just miserably failed to help in a desperately cruel situation. Not only are the disciples humiliated, but also the desperate father is driven further into despair. The scribes are cheering. Suddenly, Jesus appears almost out of no where when He is not expected, yet He is needed and His name is being profaned. His timing is always perfect.
Perhaps from the tone of His voice they sensed His authority and the crowd fell silent. In the midst of the crowd the agonizing voice of a severely hurting father seizes the opportunity and answered Jesus. Perhaps he thinks there is one last chance. I am the reason for the commotion. He says, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and stiffens out. And I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they can not do it" (vv. 17-18).
It is a cry of desperation. Perhaps, maybe You can do something Your disciples can't do. This terrible situation was more than an epileptic deaf-mute child. This was not a case of simple epilepsy. An unclean spirit brought on this inhumane condition. The boy was demon-possessed. It was a far more complicated case because the forces of evil were turned against him.
The evil spirit "dashes him to the ground" (v. 17). The idea is to take hold of him as to take possession of him. The evil spirit makes the boy its own possession. It seizes the boy and pulls him down. And when it has the boy down on the ground it causes convulsions. The boy gnashes his teeth, shrills with a loud cry, and is left in a motionless stupor.
The child probably had scars from where he had fallen into the fire.
The disciples were powerless in this situation. The scribes were probably gloating over the disciple's failure. Ever wonder how many times this father had cried out to God for help? Doesn't your heart go out to the child and his father?
You can hear the father's strong appeal echoing in the crowd, "Help us at once." Wuest expands the father's words forcefully, "But if you are able to do anything, help us at once, having had compassion upon us." How would your faith respond in this kind of situation?
DARKNESS OF DOUBTING (19-24)
In verse nineteen Jesus responds to everyone in earshot. "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!"
Everyone present lacked faith that takes possession of demons. The father of the child, the disciples of Jesus and the scribes were all faithless.
Jesus wholly trusted in the heavenly Father, why couldn't His disciples trust Him? It was painful for Him to have to "put up with" all of them. Were they hopeless? Could He dare trust the future of the kingdom of God into their hands? He was preparing them for His soon departure. If they could not take possession of one demon in a child, how could they take the kingdom of God to all the ends of the earth and conquer demons worldwide? Everything depended upon them. Not only do we see the anguish of the father, but also the anguish of Jesus as He sees the faithless condition of His followers.
I think the demon saw the situation and tried to take advantage of it. In a fierce expression of His contempt for Jesus the demon took possession of the boy. "Immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth" (v. 20). Mark well the attitude of the demon toward the presence of Jesus. "When he saw Him [Jesus] immediately the spirit threw him [the boy] into a convulsion . . ." The evil spirit tried to kill the boy right in the front of the Creator. The convulsion occurred at the very moment when the demon saw Jesus. The demon "grievously" convulsed the boy.
This had been going on ever since he was a child (v. 21). "And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him" (v. 22).
The intense, tender love of the father for his son can be heard in his one last plea. "But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" (v. 22).
The response of Jesus is equally as intense. "The question is not whether I am able but whether you believe," is a good paraphrase by Hendriksen. Jesus places a strong emphasis on faith on this occasion.
"If you can! All things are possible to him who believes" (v. 23). It is a play on words in the original. "If you can (dunei), all things can be (dunata) possible to those who believe." As to your "if you can," "All things are possible to him who believes."
Matthew shares with us a little more of the evidence. He quotes Jesus when He was with all of the disciples privately. "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you" (Matthew 17:20). They have faith less than a grain. It only takes a grain of faith. I hear a lot of people in our day trying to "work up the faith" with loud shouting and screaming as if God is deaf and they have to wake Him up. Faith of a grain of mustard seed is simple trust in the living One. What was the response of the father? Verse twenty-four, "Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, 'I do believe; help me in my unbelief.'"
It is an inarticulate, "eager, fear-stricken cry" of faith. "Help" is boetheo meaning "to run to the cry" of someone in danger. We hear the cry of a small child and we drop everything and run in the direction of the crying. He asked for continuous help for his unbelief. "Be all the time helping my unbelief." It was an instant response to the demand of Jesus for full trust in Him. "I am believing. Be constantly helping my weak faith." Hendriksen translates, "Continue moment by moment and day by day to come to my aid, so that I may overcome my unbelief."
Thank God for the compassion of Jesus. He doesn't just sweep the man aside saying you are faithless. I cannot help you. Jesus first met the spiritual need of the father by bringing him to a focused faith.
DELIVERANCE FROM A DEMON'S ATTACK
Privacy, even in such a delicate situation, was impossible. The crowd, probably hearing the cries of the father and son, converged on a single point, perhaps from several directions. No one wanted to miss out on a miracle.
Jesus "rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you come out of him and do not enter him again'" (v. 25). The idea is come out of him and stay out. Do not enter him again.
The command of Jesus to the demon is sharp and firm. Jesus commanded him to come out and stay out. How beautiful is the cleansing of Jesus.
"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!'" (v. 26). Swete observes, "The convulsions were violent and prolonged, and when they ceased, the sufferer's strength was exhausted; a collapse followed; he lay motionless and pallid as a corpse." The boy resembled a dead body flat on the ground.
It must have been a frightening scene. The demon uses the boy's vocal organs to let out a loud shriek. The boy on the ground is convulsing terribly with muscle spasms, and then becomes rigid as if dead. "Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up" (v. 27). He was instantly and completely cured.
Like the disciples we often ask, "Why can't we do that?" Jesus still responds the same way, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" (v. 29). We are powerless because we are prayerless. We can't cast out demons, and move impossible mountains because we don't get alone with Him long enough to know Him and do business in His presence. We are faithless because we don't know Him in an intimate love relationship. The relationship must come first. God cannot use us until He has prepared us spiritually. Only when He has us in an intimate love relationship with Him can He invite us to join Him in what He is doing in a hurting world.
The word "fasting" does not appear in the two best manuscripts. It was probably added by scribes later to explain the disciple's failure. Their failure, however, was due to their prayerlessness. They were powerless because they were prayerless. Nothing but prayer will overcome the most difficult of circumstances.
I am amazed once again how Jesus dealt with this man. Jesus took him from fear, frustration, despair, doubt, and faltering faith to a place of trust. He cried out, "Help me, if you can." In his face to face encounter with Jesus his faith began to come alive, "I believe, help my unbelief. Take away my doubts and fill me with unquestioning faith in You." Jesus still takes us where we are in our spiritual life and brings us to an intimate love relationship with Him.
Some Abiding Principles
1. When we have a grain of faith we can move mountains.
We can accomplish great things as individuals and as a congregation if we keep our faith focused on Christ. Do you face overwhelming difficulties? Has God placed a challenge before you that is like a huge mountain looming over you? Jesus pictures a mountain being uprooted or pulverized. If you put your faith in Christ even the most difficult task or problem can be accomplished. Upon what or whom is your faith focused? It only takes a grain, like a tiny mustard seed, so keep it focused on Christ.
2. When we play around with demons we become just like them, unclean.
Demons will never repent. They are foul, unclean, impure, sinful and guilty. There is nothing good in demons. Absolutely nothing! This is not an area in which you want to experiment. We become like those with whom we associate. You play with the devil and you will become like him. You mess around with filth and corruption and it will rub off on you. Don't think you can play around with the forces of evil and get away with it. You can't. It will take control of you. It will possess you. The only thing that cleanses from corruption is the power and the blood of Jesus. "If you walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7, 9).
3. When there is little faith there is little praying.
When there is a wealth of genuine, persevering faith, there is also passionate, unrelenting prayer of a righteous person. If Jesus came back today, would He be appalled by our lack of faith and prayerlessness, or would He be delighted with our faithful of trust in Him? Jesus gave the son back to the father whole. This is His goal with each of us. One day Christ will present us perfect (whole, mature, complete) in the presence of His Father (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:28; Phil. 3:21; 2 Cor. 3:18).
Think with me for one moment about some impossibility you are facing today. What is that huge mountain you face? Do you approach it with an attitude of hopelessness? If you approach it with an attitude of hopelessness you make it hopeless. When you bring the LORD God into the picture it all changes. Will you ask Jesus to come along side and give you His strength to move that mountain? Remember faith talks. Lord you can do it! Lord you are always doing the impossible. Here I am. I believe You can and will make the difference. I hand this marriage over to you. Lord here is my son, my daughter, my situation at work. Lord I give my mountain over to You. I want your perfect will for my life. Lord you can do it. I know you can. I have never been disappointed in you. Lord take away my doubts and fears and help me grow in your grace.
B. Jesus casts out a difficult demon from a boy.
1. (14-18) The disciples are unable to cast out a demon.
And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, "What are you discussing with them?" Then one of the crowd answered and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not."
a. Scribes disputing with them: From the context, it is reasonable to assume that scribes criticized the disciples for their inability to help the demon-possessed boy. "One wonders why these same scribes, instead of further embarrassing the crestfallen disciples before the crowd, did not set about exorcising the demon themselves, as a proof of orthodoxy." (Cole)
i. This kind of conflict was exactly what Peter wanted to avoid by staying up on the mountain of transfiguration (Mark 9:5). But it couldn't be that way. They simply had to come down off the mountain and deal with what they found.
ii. "He found disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, and defeated disciples... He silenced the scribes, He comforted the father, He healed the boy, He instructed the disciples." (Morgan)
b. A mute spirit: In the eyes of contemporary Jewish exorcists, this was a particularly difficult - if not impossible - demon to cast out. This was because they believed that you had to learn a demon's name before you could cast it out, and if a demon made someone mute, you could never learn his name.
c. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid: The boy displayed signs that many today would regard as evidence of epilepsy, but Jesus perceived that they were caused by demonic possession. Surely, some of whom we diagnose as physically or mentally ill today are actually demon possessed.
i. "Jesus addresses the demon as a separate being from the boy as he often does. This makes it difficult to believe that Jesus was merely indulging popular belief in a superstition. He evidently regards the demon as the cause in this case of the boy's misfortune." (Robertson)
d. That they should cast it out, but they could not: This particular case of demon possession was too much for the disciples, though Jesus had given them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).
i. Apparently some demons are stronger - that is, more stubborn or intimidating than others. Ephesians 6:12 seems to describe different ranks of demonic beings, and it isn't a stretch to think that some ranks might be more powerful than others are.
2. (19-27) Jesus delivers the boy.
He answered him and said, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me." Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
a. O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? When Jesus describes a faithless generation,He might refer to the contentious scribes, to the desperate father, or to the unsuccessful disciples.
b. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground: When Jesus came near, the demon inside the boy knows that his time was short. He wanted to do as much damage as he could before he left.
c. But if you can do anything: The man seemed unsure if Jesus could do anything. But the "if" wasn't in regard to what Jesus could do. The "if" was in regard to the man's faith. So Jesus told him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. When we trust God as true and all His promises as true, all things He promises are possible.
d. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief: The poor father in this account was challenged by Jesus' exhortation for faith. He did believe in Jesus' power to deliver his boy - after all, why else would he have come to Jesus? But he also recognized his doubts. So, he tearfully plead with Jesus: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
i. In this case, the man's unbelief was not a rebellion against or a rejection of God's promise. He did not deny God's promise; he desired it. However, it just seemed too good to be true. Thus he said, "help my unbelief!"
ii. Help my unbelief is something a man can only say by faith. "While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief." (Spurgeon)
e. Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him: Jesus had no difficulty whatsoever in dealing with the demon, even though the demon made a final display of his terrible strength. Knowing he must leave, the demon did the most damage he could before he left. But it was not lasting damage.
Bible.org - Keathley Mk. 9:14-29
27. Casting the Demon out of the Lunatic Boy
A. Passage Selected: Mark 9:14-29 - All Things Possible:
14 When they came back to the 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 discussing with them?" 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." 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." 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 deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26 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. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
B. Progression Stated: Ideological
The main idea revolves around the faith of all those involved.
C. Presentation Summarized:
|Chiastic structure of miracle:|
|Son - Demon||Control - it's history|
|Father||Faith is the point|
|Son - Demon||Control - it's end|
Confession of Peter and transfiguration have just occurred.
How many have heard about the mountain top experience followed by the valley of defeat? What is wrong with that? It is a different group of disciples. This is a "meanwhile, back at the ranch" account.
The transfiguration is a confirmation of the faith of the inner core of the disciples who have struggled with the concept that he has to die so he gives them a taste of the coming glory to bolster their faith. While he is bolstering these disciples' faith, the other disciples down in the village are having their faith tested.
2. Confusion of faithlessness 9:14-18
a. The antagonistic scribes
The disciples and scribes are arguing, but when Jesus shows up, the crowd leaves and runs to see Jesus. Surely this didn't settle well with the scribes.
Why was the crowd amazed and run to see Jesus? Mark 9:15 Some say it was because Jesus' face was glowing like Moses' was after He cam down off of Mt. Sinai.
b. The agonizing father
(1) The hopelessness of the son
Over the condition of his son. The demons were really damaging the son. Luke points out that it is life threatening. It could kill him.
(2) The helplessness of the disciples
3. Conviction of faithlessness 9:19
a. The response
He convicts the disciples and others for their lack of faith. He makes reference to the fact that He is going to have to leave, and what are they going to do when He is no longer with them? If they don't have faith, they are going to be helpless.
b. The request
He asks the father to bring the son.
4. Confrontation of faith 9:20-27
a. Demonstration of demonic power
It demonstrates its control over the boy.
b. Demonstration of Divine power
The father says, "If you can." I think somehow God is offended when someone says this. Jesus' response is "If I can?" My ability is not the problem. Your faith is the problem, "All things are possible to him who believes."
Do we really believe that? Do we pray with faith that God can change my situation? We have not because we ask not. We shy away from the name it and claim it televangelist crowd and condemn them, but we have thrown out the baby with the bath water. What is your impossible situation? Are most of your prayers over things you can handle even if God doesn't do anything.
"I do believe..." What is happening with the father that should have happened with the disciples? The father ASKED. The disciples never asked for help.
5. Correction of faith 9:28-29
Why were they unable? Because they did not ask for help. No prayer.
Most manuscripts add "fasting" here, but the two oldest don't have it. It was probably added later due to the popularity of fasting in the early church. I can't imagine that if you run into a demon possessed person, that you would have to postpone the excorcism for several days so that you could fast, and then cast out the demon.
What is the connection between prayer and faith?
• This miracle stresses the need of the disciples to maintain constant contact in faith through prayer with the one person who has the power that they need.
• There is especial need for prayer when involved in spiritual warfare. Eph 6:
• If I don't pray, it reveals a lack of faith. Either I don't think I need help, or I think He can't or won't help. What is really going on is - I doubt the Power and Goodness of God.
• Unbelief is a sure road to spiritual failure.
• I should not question God's ability, but I should pray for help with my faith.
• Sometimes God may need to correct my faith, before He will help.
• I can't do it. = Humility
• He can do it. = Faith
• I appropriate His power. = Prayer
Mark 9-14-27 BibRef.com - Commentary
CONTEXT: Mark chapter 9 contains an account of Jesus' transfiguration, where three of the disciples witness Him in a glorified form. In this passage, Jesus also heals a demon-possessed boy. His teachings in this section include a prediction of His death and resurrection, and corrections to the disciples' errors on questions of pride and temptation. Mark 9:14-29 follows the transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John went up a mountain with Jesus and saw a display of His glory as God. They also saw Moses and Elijah and heard God affirm Jesus as His Son. Now the three disciples and Jesus return from the mountain and find the remaining disciples arguing with Jewish scribes. The disciples have tried to expel a dangerous demon from a young boy but have been unable despite having performed exorcisms before (Mark 6:7-13). Jesus explains that to do God's work, we need faith in Him and to be empowered by Him. This section is parallel to Matthew 17:14-20 and Luke 9:37-43.
v. 14: "Scribes" is from the Greek root word grammateus. These are the public servants who are experts in the Mosaic Law. Attempting to keep the Jews from breaking the God-given Law, they developed the Oral Law which was supposed to clarify and guard God's statutes. Instead, it just added a burden on the people God never intended (Matthew 23:4).
The office of scribe is a religious role; as a group, they have no specific political leaning, and some of them are also Pharisees. Despite their confidence in their position and their understanding of the written law, the scribes' fear of disrespecting God make them timid in their teaching. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, people notice "he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). Unfortunately, when the scribes do speak with confidence, they often get it wrong (Mark 3:22).
The scribes are apparently arguing with the disciples because the disciples claim to follow Jesus but can't exorcize a demon from a boy (Mark 9:16-17). Jesus performed many exorcisms and had given the Twelve authority to expel demons in Galilee (Mark 6:7-13); if the transfiguration mountain is Mt. Meron, it's possible some of these people have even seen the disciples perform miracles. The scribes from Jerusalem claim that this power comes from Satan, not God (Mark 3:22), but it's interesting to note that the scribes, who claim to follow God, don't appear to even try to free the boy.
v. 15: The story of the transfiguration is given in Peter, James, and John's point of view. We aren't told anything that the disciples didn't witness. And, unlike other passages where the disciples are confused about Jesus' teachings, we aren't given insight into Jesus' thinking (Mark 6:6), the situation (Mark 6:52), or even a flash-forward of future events (John 12:32-33) to explain the wider context. As the four come down from the mountain and interact with the crowd, the focus turns again to Jesus.
Before Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain to witness His transfiguration, they had already been surrounded by a crowd (Mark 8:34). Apparently, it grew during their absence. We don't know exactly where they are. Jesus had had one last altercation with the Pharisees in Galilee and left them, abandoning His public ministry in His home region (Mark 8:13). He and the disciples went through Bethsaida (Mark 8:22), on the northern-most coast of the Sea of Galilee, north to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
We are told that Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a "high mountain" (Mark 9:2). The highest mountain around Caesarea Philippi is Mt. Hermon, which is even farther north. If that's the case, the four must have traveled toward Bethsaida where the Jewish scribes would have been, although Luke says that this happened "on the next day" after the transfiguration (Luke 9:37), so they wouldn't have gone far. Christian tradition says they were at Mt. Tabor, which is southwest of the Sea of Galilee, on the southern edge of Galilee. Another option is Mt. Meron, which is northwest of the Sea of Galilee and just a seven-hour hike from Capernaum.
v. 16: We aren't told exactly what the scribes and disciples are arguing about, but it's not a unique event. Especially in the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the scribes and Pharisees tried to subvert His mission by casting doubt in His followers. When Jesus ate with tax collectors and other sinners, the religious leaders questioned the disciples (Mark 2:15-16). When the disciples ignored the extra-Scriptural customs on fasting and the Sabbath, the Pharisees confronted Jesus (Mark 2:18, 24; 7:5).
We also know that the scribes from Jerusalem claim Jesus' miraculous power came from Satan (Mark 3:22). Jesus later empowers the disciples to perform miracles of their own (Mark 6:7-13). So, when the scribes witness the disciples' unsuccessful attempts at exorcising a demon from a boy (Mark 9:18), the scribes apparently see their chance to assert their authority and try to draw the disciples back into their legalistic fold. It's likely that the scribes are insisting that the disciples cannot save the boy because they are not empowered by God.
The wording here is a bit confusing. We don't know whom Jesus is addressing. The other accounts (Matthew 17:14-20; Luke 9:37-43) aren't any help, as they dive directly into the father's plea. Whether Jesus is speaking to the scribes or the disciples, His question doesn't mean He doesn't know what is going on. Both He (Matthew 26:40) and God the Father (Genesis 3:9, 13) are known to use a question to take control of the situation and direct people's attention.
v. 17: "Mute" is from the Greek root word alalos which means unable to speak, just as we would think. This is not the same word used of the deaf man in Decapolis whose speech impediment prevented him from being understood (Mark 7:31-37). "Spirit" is from the Greek root word pneuma, which literally means wind or air movement, but is also used of non-corporeal beings, including the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:10), human spirits (Mark 14:38), and demons (Mark 1:23).
In the time of Christ, physical ailments are apparently often caused by demonic possession. Jesus clearly delineates illness caused by demons from those caused by medical issues. Today, some churches teach that demonic spirits inflict any number of specific hardships. Spirits are blamed for fatigue, sinful desires, mental illness, unemployment, and laziness. Although spiritual warfare is real (Ephesians 6:12), there is no indication in the Bible that people can be plagued by, say, a "spirit of infertility." Church leaders who convince people that they are being harassed or possessed by a demon that prevents them from finding work or making money are not teaching biblical truth. Christians cannot be possessed, and telling a young Christian he must go through an exorcism is tantamount to spiritual abuse.
In this case, and in other situations in the Bible, Jesus makes it clear that the ailment is caused by a demon. Undoubtedly, demons cause similar issues today. We need to exercise extreme caution, however, in making such a diagnosis.
v. 18: Perhaps the most important thing to understand about this verse is this: the modern disease of epilepsy is not caused by demon possession. We don't know why Jesus and His followers encounter so much demonic attack. Perhaps Satan is trying to derail their ministries. But we do know that not every illness, brain-related or otherwise, is the result of demons. The boy's symptoms are similar to epilepsy, including the inability to speak, tremors and jerking, and rigid muscles, but Matthew 4:24 differentiates between seizures caused by demons and those from more natural causes.
Scholars debate on the meaning of the word "rigid." The Greek root word is xeraino and often means to become dry or withered. That may mean the boy becomes pale and physically exhausted after an attack. This would certainly explain why the crowd thinks he is dead after the exorcism (Mark 9:26).
The disciples have expelled demons before (Mark 6:13). In fact, they were so successful they earned the attention of a crowd of five thousand that followed them to a desolate place outside of Bethsaida (Mark 6:32-33). Now, however, stuck between a desperate father and cynical scribes, they find themselves unable to help. Jesus tells the disciples that this type of demon can only be exorcised through prayer (Mark 9:29). More directly, He seems to criticize their lack of faith (Mark 9:19). We risk this same decrease in power and effectiveness when we stop relying on God. In the beginning stages, when we have more faith and enthusiasm than ability and knowledge, God has the freedom to do great things through us. Later, we tend to take credit for the successes. It's often then that God removes His power to remind us how reliant on Him we really are.
v. 19: In both Matthew 17:17 and Luke 9:41, Jesus is recorded as saying "O faithless and twisted generation." "Faithless" is from the Greek root word apistos and means exactly as it sounds. "Twisted" is from the Greek root word distrepho which means to be turned away from the right path. "Generation" can mean either a group of people who were born within a certain timeframe, or a group with the same ideologies.
Jesus is patient with the disciples, but He won't hold back if they refuse to accept what He has taught them. He has rebuked the Twelve for being hard-hearted (Mark 8:17), and equated Peter's words with those of Satan (Mark 8:33). Jesus has already exposed the scribes' lack of faith (Mark 3:22-30). Matthew 17:20 reveals that if the faithless generation includes the scribes, it includes the disciples, as well.
It's chilling for us to realize that if we do not live in faith of God, we can be lumped together with false teachers who reject Jesus. God does invite us into His work, but not because He needs our own skill or power. We need faith in His power and direction, and we need to be in prayer (Mark 9:29). An effective prayer life reminds us how much we need Him, acknowledges His work around us, and keeps us open to His guidance.
v. 20: The tenor of the demon's response to Jesus is normal, if the violence is unique. The demons in Capernaum (Mark 1:24-26; 3:11) and Decapolis (Mark 5:6-7) seem impelled to approach Jesus and react in a way that shows they know His power and authority and that He is their enemy. Where Peter, James, and John are afraid when they see a glimpse of Jesus' deity (Mark 9:6), the demons respond with hate. Most demons, upon seeing Jesus, are victim to a compulsion to declare who He is (Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7). This demon appears to make the boy mute because it is mute, and expresses its rage in more physical ways. Ironically, as the demon acts out in the face of Jesus' authority and deity, the father interprets the violent display as evidence that Jesus can't control it (Mark 9:22).
For centuries, western culture has seen demons as titillating entertainment. Apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books, such as the falsely-attributed "Testament of Solomon," claim to classify and name particular demons. More recently, demons have been portrayed as anti-heroes, tragic victims, and romantic interests.
This account more clearly describes what demons are like: destructive and hateful, more than willing to kill a child (Mark 9:22). Demons do not deserve our pity or understanding. They do not have an opportunity for forgiveness, and they do not want one. They are the enemies of God, not plot-points for modern entertainment.
v. 21: Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes recurring seizures. Convulsions and foaming at the mouth are common, and if the condition appears early enough in the person's childhood development, the language center of the brain can be affected, making it difficult to learn a language. That doesn't mean that epilepsy, in general, is caused by demonic possession and, in fact, Matthew 4:24 differentiates the two conditions. When Jesus heals, the Gospels are careful to distinguish between a physical condition and demonic possession. In this case, the boy is clearly possessed by a demon that apparently causes seizure-like manifestations. In Matthew 17:15, the father diagnoses the boy as physically disabled, or epileptic. Jesus treats the boy as demon-possessed and nothing else.
This is not the first time the Bible talks about the duration of a condition. Mark states the woman with an issue of blood suffered for twelve years (Mark 5:25). Luke, the physician, notes that a woman had a disabling spirit for eighteen years (Luke 13:11). John speaks of one man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years (John 5:5) and another man blind from birth (John 9:1). God does not promise physical healing today, but if He chooses to heal, He is not constrained by the duration of the condition. He is willing to heal our hearts no matter how long ago or how enduring the abuse, trauma, or sin has been.
v. 22: The fact that the boy's seizures often throw him into water or fire give evidence that they are caused by a demon and not an illness. Epileptic seizures do not have intent to harm; they're caused by abnormal brain activity. Epilepsy, itself, is often caused by head trauma, stroke, infections, or tumors. Although seizures can be dangerous, there is no conscious will that directs them to occur in intentionally dangerous situations. Demons, on the other hand, delight in harming God's creation.
The father's reticence in trusting Jesus is understandable. He has just spent time with nine of Jesus' closest students who could do nothing for his son. While they vainly struggle to heal the boy, Jewish scribes apparently argue that they do not have the power or authority to do so (Mark 9:14). In fact, it was scribes from Jerusalem who declared Jesus' power came from Satan (Mark 3:22).
Many people become disillusioned with the church or Christianity because of what they see in other people. Sometimes professing Christians act like fearful, powerless hypocrites, or non-Christians barrage beliefs they don't understand with critical editorials. Those who reject Christ cannot be experts on Him. And those who follow Christ are growing more like Him; we are not perfect representatives. To know what Christianity is all about, we need to look to Jesus. Our faith should be in God, not others (Mark 9:23).
v. 23: Jesus' words have been translated several different ways. He may have been making an ironic rebuke to a father and a crowd who have placed their faith (and doubt) in the disciples instead of God. Or He may be saying, "As far as your words, 'if you can'..." to highlight what He is responding to.
The sentiment He quotes reflects the climate of the entire crowd. The father has a hard time believing Jesus can save his boy when His disciples can't, the scribes don't believe Jesus' power comes from God (Mark 3:22), and the disciples' limited faith isn't directed at God where it should be. Like in Nazareth, the collective lack of faith threatens to prevent the miracle (Mark 6:1-6).
Jesus isn't saying that we can accomplish anything we want if we have enough faith; this isn't an endorsement of the Word of Faith teachings. True faith doesn't presume that God will do what we want but that God can do what He wants (see: Mark 1:40-42). Jesus will expand this truth from healing to salvation when He tells the disciples that the rich can only be saved through God's power and not man's intent (Mark 10:25-27). If the scribes have been reiterating their accusation that Jesus' power comes from Satan (Mark 9:14), then Jesus is telling the father to choose whom he believes-Jesus or the scribes.
v. 24: This is one of the most poignant verses in the Bible, and the sentiment is shared by believers around the world and throughout history. Jesus has just told a desperate father that his son can be healed if he believes. In a display of beautiful vulnerability, the father submits what faith he has alongside his doubt and fear. He is our example of someone who understands God wants all of us, not just the holiness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), or the bold confidence of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), or the adoration of Mary of Bethany (John 12:3). He also wants the limitations of Peter (John 21:15-19), the terrible miscalculations of Paul (1 Timothy 1:13), and whatever else we have to give, good or bad.
"Help" is from the Greek root word boetheo and means to bring aid to or comfort. The man may not have an advanced education in the power and faithfulness of God, but he knows what it is to be a father. As he would do anything he can for his son, he trusts that Jesus will do what He can for both his son and his own faith. He may not understand Jesus' power and authority, but he trusts Jesus' heart is like that of a loving father.
v. 25: It isn't clear why the appearance of a crowd accelerates Jesus' actions. They are already surrounded by a great number of people (Mark 9:15), but more are coming. Unlike with the deaf man (Mark 7:33) and the blind man (Mark 8:23), there is apparently no time to draw the boy away.
We don't exactly know where Jesus and the disciples are. They are seven days out of Caesarea Philippi which is far north of Bethsaida and the Sea of Galilee, and one day away from a tall mountain (see Mark 8:27; 9:2; Luke 9:37). They will have to travel through at least part of Galilee to get to Capernaum (Mark 9:30, 33). But His intentional, public ministry in Galilee is over (8:12-13), and for quite some time, He has tried to find quiet places to teach the disciples, even as He willingly heals those who cross His path.
So, it's likely that Jesus cuts short His lesson on faith to take care of the demon before yet another crowd can mob Him (Mark 3:7; 4:1). Although it would do the crowd well to learn more about having faith in God, it is more important that Jesus have the opportunity to teach the disciples what they need to know to develop the church. A quick object lesson as He expels the demon will have to do.
This may be the only time Jesus expels a demon and demands that it not return. He has made it clear that a person who is freed from a demon can expect the demon to reappear with other spirits (Matthew 12:43-45). The only permanent cure is for the person released from demonic possession is to accept the Holy Spirit. But it's safe to assume this demon obeyed Jesus' command.
v. 26: The reaction of the demon to Jesus' authority is normal, even for those without seizure-like manifestations. In the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when He heals a possessed man in the synagogue, the demon, "convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him" (Mark 1:26). The legion of demons caused such violence they destroyed a herd of pigs (Mark 5:13). When Philip exorcised demons in Samaria, they came out with a loud cry (Acts 8:7). Since this demon is mute (Mark 9:17), he expresses his rage physically.
Demons are former angels who rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:6-9). They rejected their duty to glorify God and followed Satan in his quest to seek his own worship (Revelation 12:3-4, 9). They are not our friends. The power they offer is meant to destroy us. They have no power or authority over God, but they can take away from His worship by tricking, leading astray, and attacking people. The violence they exhibit when leaving a person shows that they are malevolent to the end.
Apparently, the deathlike appearance of the boy is a normal result of a seizure. "Becomes rigid" in Mark 9:18 can also mean that the boy is exhausted, withered, and pale. The physical stress of a seizure naturally makes the boy appear dead, but the members of the sudden crowd (Mark 9:25) wouldn't necessarily know that.
27: When Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, "he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up" (Mark 1:31). When He raised the little girl from the dead, He took her hand and said, "Little girl, I say to you, arise" (Mark 5:41). When Peter fell into the stormy sea while trying to walk on the water, Jesus reached out His hand and saved him (Matthew 14:31). When He healed blind people, Jesus typically touched their eyes in some way (Mark 8:23; John 9:6). He even touched a man with a skin condition (Mark 1:41).
When the disciples argue about who is greatest and Jesus explains why this way of thinking is wrong, He takes a child and holds him (Mark 9:36). When parents bring their children to Jesus, He holds them and lays His hands on them in blessing (Mark 10:13-16). And at the last supper, Jesus personally washes the disciples' feet (John 13:5).
Even before the time this commentary was being written, before the #metoo movement and the revelation of abuses by Christian leaders, touch has increasingly grown unpopular in the church. The early church was told to "greet one another with a holy kiss" (Romans 16:16; 2 Corinthians 13:12). The kissing part was certainly cultural, but not the sentiment. Modern culture has a talent for sexualizing innocence, and making touch taboo is part of this. Christians should be mindful and careful about touch, but it may be that we have rejected it too much.