Introduction

This lesson is a study of Mark 9:14-29, which documents the healing of a boy who was demon possessed.  We are going to use this healing as a lesson that we can apply to our own lives as we minister God’s love and will to others and to ourselves.

 

Lesson

First read Mark 9:14-29, Matthew 17:14-21, and Luke 9:37-42. This will help you get a complete perspective of this event by examining the records from three different writers.

 

The Encounter

Mark 9:14-16 (HCSB) {14} When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. {15} All of a sudden, when the whole crowd saw Him, they were amazed and ran to greet Him. {16} Then He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”

Jesus came down from the mountain after being transfigured with Peter, John, and James with him.  When he came down from the mountain and came to his disciples he saw that there was a crowd around them and that the Scribes were disputing with them.  I would also like to point out that from Luke’s account it appears that Jesus was on the mountain with Peter, John, and James overnight. In any case, we see that Jesus met the other disciples while they were in a dispute with the Scribes.  Jesus then asked them what the Scribes were discussing with his disciples.

 

The Issue

Mark 9:17-18 (HCSB) {17} Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. {18} Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

A man brought his son to Jesus because his son was demon possessed.  Since Jesus was on the mountain the man talked with Jesus’ disciples instead.  The son had a spirit that made him mute and whenever the spirit would seize (attack) the boy it would throw him down and the boy would foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid.  The man asked his disciples to heal the boy, but they could not heal him.

I cannot say whether the argument with the Scribes was related to the boy and him not getting healed. However, one would assume that at least the argument was started by the lack of success in healing the boy.

The boy had definite manifestations of a spirit that caused him to be thrown down to the ground, foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid.  Imagine if your child or loved one had similar manifestations whether it is because of an evil spirit or not.  How would you respond if you saw your child or friend foam at the mouth and become rigid?  I think it is important to realize the reality of the situation in that these were real physical things that happened for which the disciples were called upon to deal with.  What if the boy began to show those manifestations when the father brought him to the disciples?  What impact do you think that would have had on them operating in faith?

The issue here was a boy was possessed with a spirit and Jesus (including his disciples) were called upon to cast the spirit out.  Jesus disciples were unsuccessful at doing that, however.  So we could say that there were two issues here.

  1. The deliverance of the boy from the spirit that tormented him
  2. The failure of the disciples to heal the boy.

It is interesting that the failure of the disciples to heal the boy resulted or diverted into an argument with the Scribes.  You could probably assume that their attention was taken away from the boy and onto something else, which they were arguing with the Scribes about.

How would you respond if your efforts (prayers/ministry) to deliver or heal someone was unsuccessful? 

 

Jesus’ Response to the Issue Presented

Mark 9:19-20 (HCSB) {19} He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” {20} So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Apparently, Jesus was not pleased with what he saw.  The passage says that he replied to them.  Who is the “them?”  Was it the disciples or the people who were gathered around?  I would have to say that his remarks were directed at his disciples since they were the ones who were expected to heal the boy.  The man exercised some faith by bringing the boy to the disciples so it is doubtful that Jesus’ remarks were addressed at him.

Notice the emotion suggested by Jesus’ statements.  He stated that the disciples were unbelieving (faithless).  He also indicated his displeasure with the fact that they failed to heal the boy.  However, with all of that Jesus intended to take care of the boy himself since he called for the boy.

Next, notice what happens when the spirit came in the presence of Jesus.  It manifested itself by convulsions causing the boy to fall to the ground, roll around, and foam at the mouth.  Now imagine if you went to pray for someone and something like that happened.  How would you be affected by it?  Perhaps the spirit did that in an attempt to discourage Jesus or to establish its own power.  Regardless we do know that the spirit manifested itself because it saw Jesus.

What is also interesting here to me is that Jesus was there all along though obviously not right in front of Jesus.  It is as though the spirit saw Jesus when the boy saw Jesus and that is when it manifested itself as described above.  Jesus’ response in verse 21 suggests that He was not moved by the manifestation of the evil spirit in the boy.

 

Jesus’ Response to the Demonic Manifestation

Mark 9:21-23 (HCSB) {21} “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father. “From childhood,” he said. {22} “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” {23} Then Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

Jesus’ response to the spirit’s manifestation in the boy was to ask the father about the boy’s condition.  I’m sure Jesus had a reason for asking the question though we really can’t say why for sure.  The point was that it showed that he was not moved by what happened with the boy.  Jesus seemed to remain calm in the presence of such manifestation.  I can only imagine how we might become fearful or have feelings of being overwhelmed if we went to pray for someone and this happened to them.  Jesus seemed to be at peace even in the face of such demonic activity (See Colossians 3:15).

Something amazing happens next.  The father told Jesus what has been happening to the boy since he was a child.  This suggests that the boy was older perhaps a teenager or older.  The father then says something very interesting in my opinion.  He said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  The father was pleading to Jesus for help.  Perhaps the father was thinking that this would be a great task even for the healer, Jesus.  It was as if the father was begging for anything to help the situation.

Jesus’ response to the father’s request is also very interesting and a great revelation for us. Jesus first quoted the father, “If you can?”  It was as if Jesus was saying, “You are asking me if I can?”  Jesus then told the man that everything is possible to those who believe.  This is an amazing statement.  Jesus said that if we believe everything is possible!  He didn’t qualify it either.  Everything is possible if you believe.  Compare that with Mark 11:22-24 where Jesus gives the same revelation about believing.  Consider also Matthew 21:22.

Matthew 21:22 (HCSB) {22} And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

That is an amazing statement.  It seems to say that we can do all things if we believe (compare with Philippians 4:13).

Philippians 4:13 (HCSB) {13} I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

What if you really believe what Jesus said?  If you really believe what Jesus say then there would be no obstacle or challenge that would worry you (consider Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34).  You wouldn’t worry about being laid off, not having enough money at a certain moment in time.  You would simply believe and know that your needs would be met (Philippians 4:19).

However, with all that goes on in our lives, Jesus said that if we believe then all things are possible.  He said that if we believe then we will have what we say when we pray.  Do you believe that?  If you do then you will start to practice it.  We have to be doers of the word and not just hearers.  It is not enough to say you believe it.  You have to do it.  When you really believe something you really do something.

Now back to our scripture lesson.  The father responded to Jesus in a very interesting way.  He cried out, “I believe!  Help my unbelief.”  I believe that the father’s statement epitomizes what goes on in our lives and why we don’t really believe.  We say we believe, but at the same time we have doubts and effectively do not believe (as far as our true actions).  It is like saying you can ace a test, but you don’t take the test because of certain doubts.  It is great to say you can, but another thing when you go to do it.  This war was going on in the father and it goes on in most if not all of us.  We believe, but we also doubt.  We can see this same thing play out when Peter walked on the water (Matthew 14:28-31).

In that situation Peter walked on the water at the command of Jesus, which Peter requested.  The bible says that Peter saw how bad it was on the water in that the wind was blowing hard and there were waves of water all around him.  However, that situation existed before he walked on the water (See verse 24).  What changed for Peter?  When he first stepped on the water to walk on it the waves and wind were blowing just as hard while he was in the boat before seeing Jesus walking on the water.  So what changed for Peter?

Jesus reveals what happened with Peter by the statement, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”  I don’t think it was the little faith that caused Peter to begin to sink in the water since Jesus said we only need faith as a grain of mustard seed.  Peter also did not sink because he took his eyes off of Jesus as we are commonly told in church and Sunday school (though if he had kept his eyes on Jesus walking on the water he may have avoided his sinking).  What caused Peter to sink was the fact that he doubted.  He had faith enough to walk on the water because he was walking on the water.  Would you have gotten out of the boat?  Peter began to doubt, which negated the effectiveness of his faith. 

The same thing happens to us.  We believe God and at the same time, we doubt, which negates faith working in our lives.  Doubt is anti-faith in God.  Doubt can be thought of as negative faith.  Peter began to believe his senses more than the word of Christ to “come.”  We all believe that if we step on the water that we will sink.  This is the belief that overshadowed his belief in the word of Christ at that time.  It dominated his faith in Christ by focusing his faith in natural laws.

The father of the boy that was before Jesus fought this same battle within.  He believed, but also declared that his belief needed help.  Do you feel that way sometimes?  You believe the word of God, but so much doubt is sprung up because of your belief in God that you find yourself fighting to believe God instead of what your physical senses dictate to you.

 

The Boy Is Healed

Mark 9:25-26 (HCSB) {25} When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly coming 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!” {26} Then it came out, shrieking and convulsing him violently. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.”

When the man shouted about his belief people started to come closer. Jesus saw this and healed the boy.  Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of the boy and never to return.  Now I notice something here.  The bible says that Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit (verse 25).  It is amusing to me sometimes when I hear people say things like, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus” or something to that effect.  The word rebuke means “an expression of strong disapproval—to reprimand.  The bible says that Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit by saying…  He rebuked the unclean spirit by commanding it to leave.  He didn’t say, “I rebuke you.”  Remember that.  Just saying, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus” is virtually meaningless (assuming that you know what the word rebuke means anyway since many people just regurgitate what they hear).

At Jesus’ command, the spirit came out of the boy though with one last act of violence.  The boy lay on the ground as if he was dead after the spirit came out of him.  Some even said that he was dead. However, Jesus took the boy by the hand and stood him up healed.  Perhaps sometimes we have been victorious, but it looks like we failed.  Continue in your faith and believe.

 

The Reason for the Disciples Failure

Mark 9:28-29 (HCSB) {28} After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” {29} And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer [and fasting].”

The disciples came to Jesus and asked him why they were unsuccessful in healing the boy.  The passage in Matthew gives more details about Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question.

Matthew 17:20-21 (HCSB) {20} “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.  {21} However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”

Some Bibles may have a note that Matthew 17:21 (Mark 9:29) did not exist in some manuscripts.  This doesn’t negate what is said.  Even if it was added later, the person who wrote it most likely wanted to provide more information about how ministry such as this works, namely that prayer and fasting are important.

Jesus plainly told them that the reason they were unsuccessful is that they did not believe.  Their faith was diminished for whatever reason.  It didn’t require a lot of faith to heal the boy, however, because they did not believe the little faith that they did have could not do the job.  So the disciples could not heal the boy because something caused them to stop believing.  Perhaps it is the same thing that happened to Peter when he was walking on the water.

Another interesting thing here is that Jesus said that “this kind” does not come out except by prayer and fasting.  There are two things to consider here.  First, “this kind” and second. prayer and fasting.

The term “this kind” could refer to the spirit that was cast out of the boy or it could refer to the faith that Jesus was talking about to his disciples.  I believe that it is the latter.  Consider that Jesus did not pray or fast to heal the boy.  He simply commanded the spirit to leave the boy and it did.  If he had prayed and fasted then it would have been before that situation and not particular to that situation.  In other words, Jesus’ practice of prayer and fasting would have prepared him spiritually to come against the works of the enemy (Acts 10:38).  If that were not the case then Jesus would have had to have a specific prayer and fasting session for such demonic activity.  Furthermore, Jesus was discussing faith and belief with his disciples, not the spirit.  The “this” would have referred to the topic of discussion, namely faith.  If he was referring to the spirit then I suppose he would have said, “That kind doesn’t come out of a person except by prayer and fasting.”  That was not the case.  Throughout Jesus’ teaching, he emphasized the importance of believing to accomplish things.  He did not emphasize prayer or fasting though he did teach us to pray.  If the “this” referred to the spirit then that means that we would have to qualify spirits in order to operate in the authority of Christ to deliver people from those spirits. How would you know if what is ailing your child is indeed the “this spirit?”  You wouldn’t and that in itself would be the seed for doubt to arise in you leading to ineffectiveness.

I believe that prayer and fasting are practices that keep us in tune with God and help us to be more spiritual.  Prayer is communing with God and a way for us to express our belief about things.  I should point out that prayer is not a request session though you may ask God for things sometimes.  Prayer is communion with the Lord and/or an expression of your faith.  Notice that when Jesus taught us how to pray that his model prayer did not include requests (See Matthew 6:9-13).  Prayer is a plethora of statements as you put your faith in God for those statements to come true.  Of course, prayer can be other things such as thanksgiving, worship, etc. 

 

Lessons Learned

What have we learned in this lesson?  Here are some points that I hope are taken away from this study and integrated into your lives.

  • Do not allow the physical things you see deter you from operating in faith
  • Remain at peace when ministering to someone
  • Believe!  Believing is the key to operating in the power of God through Christ Jesus.
  • Doubt counters your belief so minimize doubt as much as you can.  This can be done by meditating on the word of God in addition to practicing the word of God so that what you believe is more significant than your doubts (what your physical senses or circumstances tell you).
  • Prayer and fasting have their place in ministry.  It is not a formula to get a particular job done, but rather a way for us to stay in close fellowship with the Lord so that we can get those jobs done.
  • Anything is possible to the one who believes

 


Jesus Heals the Demon-Possessed Boy
A Study of Mark 9:14-29
By William R. Cunningham
January 8, 2012

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