The Desperate Cry
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running 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 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
After Jesus has been on the Mount of Transfiguration He comes back to the people to find chaos. A crowd has gathered around a boy who is demon possessed. While the disciples may have had some success earlier with casting out demons, they were unable to accomplish the goal this time. Jesus is, of course, able to remove the demon and the boy is restored. Those are the bare basics of the story. But the text gives us so much more.
My first question about this text is always, why are the people “greatly amazed” when they greet Jesus? Does He still have a residue of the “glow” that had illuminated His glory while He was with the Father? The text doesn’t give us an answer, but as usual, I want one.
Then we find this poor young man who has been troubled by a demon since childhood, making him mute and causing seizures. There have been some who have speculated that this was not demon possession but instead epilepsy. But the text does not indicate that was the case. The people clearly attribute these symptoms to a demon and the verbiage used by Jesus and the disciples would support that understanding. Sickness is healed while demons are cast out.
Finally, we find the desperate cry of the young man’s father. “I believe; help my unbelief!” Here is a man who clearly understands his own heart. He believes that Jesus can rescue his son from this demon. But he harbors doubts and that is an attitude with which we can all relate. Have you ever wondered if Jesus can (or perhaps more accurately will) hear your cry for help? And when faced with the demonic, it would be easy to embrace the fear that nothing can help. Jesus faces this doubt head on and claims that all things are possible by faith. When you tie the instruction from Jesus, “All things are possible for one who believes” with “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” we may come to some understanding of this passage. Perhaps I am being too simplistic here (and the probability of that is high) but I must turn this passage back to Jesus. As always, it is about Jesus every time. All things are possible for Him (never me) through prayer to the all-powerful God. All things are possible for God. Later, Paul will tell us (echoing Jesus’ Words to the disciples) that all things are granted to those who would only ask the Father. Clearly, the remaining nine disciples who had unsuccessfully tried to free the young man of the demon had skipped a step and were trying to do it under their own power. That was never going to work.
The crowd was chaotic, the disciples were unsuccessful, the father was desperate, and Jesus was in in command of the entire situation. That may sum up our lives; we stumble through this chaotic life unsuccessfully trying to solve desperate situations while the God of the Universe is still in control of all things. May our unbelief be turned into belief as we watch Him work in our lives.