Schoolyard Skirmish – Mark 9:14-29 – Pastor Josh
Where we find ourselves in Scripture today brings us into a difficult situation, a big argument involving too many people. There were two main groups, the disciples and the scribes, and they were getting into it with each other in the midst of a larger crowd. Not knowing what they were arguing about, Jesus along with Peter, James and John walk onto the scene bewildered. They had just walked down from the Mount of Transfiguration witnessing Jesus’ magnificent glory along with appearances by Elijah and Moses only to find this squabble.
Even in this mess of going from magnificence and glory to maleficence and shame, Jesus met all of these people with where they were at: in all of their needs and in their doubts. Which leads us to our take home truth, in all of our needs and even our doubts, Jesus offers us Himself as the greatest hope of all.
There is no separation between the good and the bad times in relation to Jesus's presence. In other words, He is with us all the time continuously offering us Himself for us for our good and our hope.
There are many things that we need to survive in life but there is one main thing that we need to live not just in this life but in the next. It is the person of Jesus. I believe deep down all of us are looking for hope and safety, someone or something that we can fully lean on whether we realize it or not. Not just in our spiritual needs but in our physical and mental as well. So, the question I want us to ask ourselves and I believe our passage answers is how does Jesus offer hope?
1. Jesus meets us in our times of need. (vv.14-19) When we are needy, when we are hurting, Jesus is there... greeting us with a smile on His face and a helping hand.
Verse 14. Remember not too long ago we were just talking about how Jesus and His other disciples Peter, James and John had just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus revealed His glory to them alongside appearances from Moses and Elijah just as the Father arrived in the form of a cloud declaring to them, “This is My son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” Now imagine if you were there with them. I would say most of us, if not all of us, would be pretty shocked and in awe of what we had just witnessed. It's with this kind of attitude that Jesus, Peter, James and John arrive at the scene we find ourselves in here in Mark 9:14.
The other nine disciples are found arguing with teachers of the law, AKA scribes, and there was a large crowd around them. Clearly there must have been something pretty big or enough of a commotion that drew such an audience.
Then as people in the crowd saw and recognized Jesus, they themselves were found to be shocked and in awe. They even ran over to greet Jesus. Some scholars believe that after Jesus, James, Peter and John had walked down from the mountain that there was some kind of glory or radiance that emanated or shone from them. While Mark shares in much greater detail this story than Matthew and Luke's gospel, we can't know if this is for sure because there is no mention of this written. All we know is that Jesus was seen as a great teacher and these people are only amazed and overwhelmed with wonder when they see Jesus. There is no mention of Peter, James or John being those who overwhelm them with wonder.
Jesus goes on to ask these people why they are arguing. Then in verse 17 a man in the crowd answers that he brought his son to Him who is possessed by an evil spirit. This spirit has made the son mute, it causes seizures, and makes him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth, together while becoming stiff is a doornail. These sound like the symptoms of epilepsy. The father of the boy even asked his disciples to drive out the spirit, but they couldn't. Notice the father isn't giving an opinion but he's merely stating a fact.
To this Jesus responds, “you unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” It's unclear who exactly Jesus is addressing in this situation. Suffice to say we don't know for sure. Whomever Jesus is addressing in verse 19, the disciples, the scribes or the crowd, there are elements of unbelief amongst them all and He only had a short amount of time on earth with them. Then Jesus asked for the boy to be brought to Him.
Praise God Jesus was there for the boy and the father. He is always there for all of us. All of us have dealt with obstacles in our lives. Whether you were born in the internment camps or born just yesterday, the fact that life is difficult does not change and its hard sometimes to remember He’s there.
This father knew his son was possessed and needed healing, so he sought it out. But in the middle of all that, Jesus came forward ready to meet them in their time of need.
Whatever it is or whatever those things are that press you, Jesus intentionally moves towards us in those moments. We'll continue expanding this truth through the rest of the message but in the meantime simply know that Jesus meets us in our times of need.
2. Jesus accepts us in our doubts. (vv.20-24) Jesus knows that we have our own doubts but even so, He patiently accepts with us in those moments.
Finally, we see what all the trouble is about when the crowd brings the son before Jesus. With first sight of Jesus, this evil spirit throws the boy into a frightening seizure. What's even more sad is that the boy's father tells us that he's always been like this from childhood. Even worse things have happened while seizing: getting burned and drowned on separate occasions.
The plea for help finally comes here in the middle of verse 22: the dad asks Jesus, “If You can do anything, have compassion on him to help us.”
Honestly, this sounds nice at first. If you or I were to ask for help from someone to move we’d probably say something along the lines of, “Oh hey if you are free or if you can, would you be willing to help us move? We need some help next Saturday.” We don't want to assume people are free or available to help us, so we say it like this. It sounds and is polite. But where the father failed was his unbelief.
Jesus responds with this: “If?” “If I can?” “Are you talkin’ to Me?” Of course I can! But what about you? “All things are possible for one who believes.” Instead of trying to provide His qualifications as a miracle healer, Jesus flips the question and places the responsibility and call to action on the father. Of course, Jesus has what it takes to get rid of this demon, but Jesus is asking the father, “Do you have the faith to believe I can?”
Then the father cries out that famous line, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Even as the dad struggled to believe that Jesus could do it, he asked Jesus for help. What a real and honest confession. Jesus, help my unbelief.
There seems to be something pretty profound here that Jesus is affirming. This idea, this truth that it’s possible to ask God for help but still struggle to have faith in Him. You can ask God for help but still have your doubts.
3. Jesus points us to the power of prayer. (Vv.25-29) As the crowd formed around the spot where Jesus and the child were found in, Jesus 1. commanded the evil spirit to come out of the boy for one and 2. to never enter him again. So, with two commands, Jesus displays His power and might over Satan.
The frightening thing after this is that as the spirit left the boy, the boy was left convulsing until finally he lay flat as if he was a goner. Yet again, we see Jesus raising someone from what seems to be death this time.
None of the disciples were able to exorcise the demon from this poor boy except Jesus. So, this has all of them wondering and asking Jesus in private, why couldn't we do it? Why weren't we able to cast the demon out? To which Jesus replies this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.
What's funny is you would think that the disciples who followed Jesus would follow His example of praying and communing with God the Father. There should be some sort of dependence or reliance on God, a coming before Him before every miracle asking for help, I would imagine but that's not what the disciples were doing at this point in time. Jesus had given them the authority to perform miracles in His name, but it seems like they were beginning to rely more on the power that was given to them from God instead of the person of God Himself. They held the gift more highly than the gift giver.
Jesus is pointing out the disciples’ failure. They thought they could do it on their own now that they got the power. As much as it's easy to point the finger at the disciples and say look at you what's wrong with you with taking advantage of Jesus like that, we should ask ourselves that very question to ourselves. “How do I value God’s gifts to me more than Himself?”
Even as we fail just like the disciples, in all of our needs and even our doubts, Jesus offers us Himself as the greatest hope of all.
Man of Sorrows, O Come to the Altar, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Doxology