Pentecost 16 (September 12, 2021)
Mark 9:14-29 (Series B)
By the Power of Jesus
Today, we are going to look at how things should take place in the minds of Christians. Our example is taken from our Gospel reading in Mark 9:14-29. The context of this finds Peter, James, and John coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration to rejoin the other disciples who have a large crowd gathered around them.
We are told that there is an argument going on involving some scribes. The scribes, as we know from other accounts, were always looking for ways to discredit Jesus and label him as a heretic. We don’t know exactly what the argument was about, but it had something to do with the disciples who had been there not being able to cast out the demon in the son of this father who had brought him for healing.
The father details the events up until that point and indicated that the disciples had not been able to cast the demon out. To this Jesus bemoans the faithless generation, meaning the crowd and the disciples. Then Jesus instructs the boy to be brought to him. With this the demon becomes unsettled and convulses the boy and casts him to the ground and he foams at the mouth.
Jesus asks for a history of how long this has been going on and the father says that it has been since childhood and that at times things were even worse with the demon casting him into fire and water in order to kill him. Now comes the interesting part as the father asks Jesus to heal his son, “If you can.”
Jesus turns things around to address the real problem we all have as sinful human being, even as Christians at many times. Jesus said, “If you can. All things are possible for one who believes.” To this the father responds with, “I believe; help my unbelief.” With this Jesus casts out the demon but the boy seems to be a corpse. Jesus then takes his hand and lifts him up and he is alive and fine, no longer demon possessed. It is no stretch to see the devil being cast out and new life being in the hand of Jesus. Without Jesus there is no resurrection.
The account then moves to the next phase which is the disciples wondering why they couldn’t cast out the demon when they tried. Jesus’ answer was that this required prayer. Since the disciples had previously cast out demons it was reasonable to wonder why they couldn’t do it now and the very way I phrased the first part of the sentence should be your clue. When Jesus had sent the disciples out previously, he supplied them with the authority to cast out demons while in this case there is no indication that they had called on the name of Jesus. They may well have forgotten that it was not by their own power that they were involved in the casting out of demons.
The power and authority belong to Jesus, and He works through people who trust and have faith in the power from on high. Turning to the Lord in prayer means that we are setting our own arrogance aside, that we can do things ourselves, and acknowledging that it is by the power
and will of God that good things happen.
The lesson to be learned from the father of the boy is that since sin is still in us we can lapse into unbelief or have doubts about what God can do and what he can do through us. And so we may believe and at the same time have moments of unbelief. This reality needs to bring us back to where say, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
Individually and as a congregation, we need to guard against saying there is nothing more we can do for this suggests the power and authority were somehow ours in the first place. Jesus started the church with twelve disciples and equipped them with the word and the Holy Spirit to reach all nations, so there is nothing he can’t do. By ourselves we perish but by the grace and power of God we have faith begun and nourished within us. This power from on high continues to sustain us and that which we ask in his name he will do as is best for us and the sake of others. Believe in the power of Jesus and live in him. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Amen.