Mark 9:14-19; 28-29
14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him. 16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? 28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.”
Jesus, Peter, James and John have been on the Mount of Transfiguration, in the presence of God and now they return to the problems of the valley. Most of us want to live on the excitement of the high peaks in our lives. We crave the moments of majesty on the mountain over the mundane. We try to thrive on the thrill of the mountain top, not wanting to descend into the difficulties of unbelief and religious ridicule. As Jesus descends to meet the disciples He is greeted by two groups, the religious leaders who hold a grudge, as He arrives they are arguing with His disciples, and the crowd who run to greet Him. In the absence of the Almighty we end up with argument yet in His presence there is awe. What a contrasting scene, the religious leaders in deep dispute, determined to set the disciples straight spiritually and those who are delighted to see Jesus. Yet the real fighting is not over who is right but who needs released. Faith has the power to:
Jesus asks them for an answer to the anger but it is a man in the crowd that answers. “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” No wonder the disciples didn’t speak up, their faith has failed. I’m sure they had desired to prove their power in the presence of the Pharisees but they were pathetic. They were unable to free this young man from the destructive grip of demonic powers. It is important that we recognize demons are real, their aim is to discourage, disfigure, defeat and destroy. Today we are deceived into dismissing demonic powers yet they are real and relentless. Some of the deceptive thinking today lies in our faulty belief that as Christians we are free from the influence of Satan. Yet here are the disciples who walked with Jesus unable to free this young man through faith. Jesus’ response is important. He said,“You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” Jesus was not embarrassed by His followers, He doesn’t focus on their failure but their faith in the face of the enemy. Here we hear the holy voice of godly sorrow over the state of unbelief in a faithless people. Satan is at war with us, he is our enemy and his goal is not to embarrass but to destroy. This young man bound in the bondage of demonic powers is an example of Satan’s intention. In verse 21 we hear Jesus second question as He asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.” Here we are given insight into the malignant nature of Satan and his demons, to control, they seek to kill. The problem is that when it comes to seeing people set free the disciples look for a:
After failing to deal with this demon and watching Jesus drive it out they asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast him out?” Jesus reminds them that faith is not a formula as He replies, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” They had walked with Jesus and witnessed His power yet somehow missed the prayer. Faith must express itself in communication with God and in personal sacrifice. Prayer is linking one’s life up with the Lord, listening to Him and obeying Him. Fasting is a matter of self-denial and surrender to the work of God in our lives. If we want to do anything significant for God we are going to have to be willing to spend time with Him and sacrifice some things for Him. The disciples had not done this, they had not taken the time to seek God in this situation, or sacrificed through self-denial. Faith is always tied to our focus on the Father. Our faith reveals our relationship with the Father, when we spend time in His presence through prayer we trust. There is a common connection between this kind of faith and what we do in our Christian lives. Those who don’t believe don’t pray and those who do not believe and do not pray certainly will not fast or deny themselves. When we don’t dwell in His presence there is no desire to deny self and surrender to the Savior. Dealing with the enemy is dependent on prayer and self-denial, this lack of power wasn’t a people problem but a prayer problem. The freedom through faith is found as we fast with our focus on the Father. There is power in prayer as we come into the presence of God in simple surrender. Today is your faith focused on the Father or a formula?