MAIN TEXT: MARK 9:14-29
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 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.” 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.” 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. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 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.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 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.” 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.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
All things are possible for one who believes. This phrase has been hi-jacked. We believe a story very different than the story behind this phrase. Our cultural interpretation of this would go something like this, “You can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do–you just need to believe in yourself. If you do this, all things are possible!” Our heroes are those who have cast off social restraints and pursued their individual desires to the disbelief and even sometimes the discouragement of those around them. Personal fulfillment and self-actualization are hallmark moments that we glorify, celebrate and deeply encourage. Jesus gave us this phrase, but we have hi-jacked it.
All things are possible for one who believes does not mean that we will always succeed. We won’t. It also does not mean that we wield power over our future. We don’t. Finally, it does not mean that we can deliver ourselves from the death that is pressing in around us from all sides. We can’t. We desperately need to recapture the potency of this phrase.
JESUS CONFRONTS OUR FAILURES
It feels really good to succeed at something. There is a sense of personal pride and accomplishment when we set out to do a task, give our time, energy and effort to its completion and see the task through to the end. Conversely, we usually greatly minimize or ignore our failures. When we struggle to accomplish a task, we usually don’t like to bring this up–and get roundly perturbed when others draw attention to our failure. Our failures and our inability tend to get pushed back into the dark corners of our life and we shy away from allowing the spotlight of attention to shine brightly on them.
Peter, James and John were with Jesus on the mountain when he was transfigured. They now return to the rest of the disciples who are in a heated argument with some of the scribes (religious leaders). There was a situation with a boy who had been tormented by an unclean spirit that the disciples could not deliver. In the eyes of the crowds, the scribes, and likely the disciples, they had failed.
The question for us to think about is, Where does your failure take you? Our failures often times cause us to bury our heads, shy away or become frustrated. If your faith and trust is in you, your failure will destroy you. If your faith is in Jesus, your failure will remind you that Jesus never fails.
JESUS EXPOSES OUR WEAKNESS
Our father in this story is in a desperate situation. He is seeking deliverance for his son who has had these convulsions since he was a child. There is more here than simply a medical condition. We understand through this story that the boy has another agent within him that is causing him to convulse and is even trying to harm and destroy this boy. We should all be able to sympathize with this father, who is seeing someone he dearly loves in danger. He is looking for help and he realizes that he doesn’t have what it takes to save his son.
Jesus probes deeper into the situation by asking the father how long this has been happening, which causes the father to reflect again on his hopeless situation. The father exposes, however his greatest weakness in this moment. His greatest weakness was not that he lacked the power over this force that had a grip on his son, but was his inability to trust fully in Jesus. He says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” (9:24).
Only until we’ve come to the end of ourselves will we begin to see our greatest need. You may think that your greatest weakness is that you aren’t very spiritual, don’t pray enough, don’t witness enough, are shy at work, get angry with your family, look lustfully at others, think hateful thoughts, judge harshly, etc. These are not your greatest weakness. Your greatest weakness is that you are powerless to save yourself.
JESUS DELIVERS US FROM DEATH TO LIFE
The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that it is not just good news for your apparent weaknesses that you face everyday, but it is your greatest comfort when faced with your greatest weakness of your inability to deliver from death to life. Romans says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In other words, the right payment due to us because we are sinners is death. We ushered sin into the world through our rebellion against God. The Good News of Jesus is that death will not have the final word in our lives.
This passage speaks of faith (9:19,23-24,29). Faith is not a power. Faith is not a blind hope. Faith is not wishful thinking. Faith is looking at Jesus and having your deepest conviction say “He is true and He has delivered me”. Jesus puts on display his credentials in this moment. He delivers this boy from his bondage by casting this spirit out of him. This boy was then still like a corpse until Jesus took his hand to raise him to life.
This moment points our attention to a greater moment that would take place shortly after, where Jesus would be the one to die. He would take upon himself sin. He would actually become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He would become the deliverer, because he would remove our sin from us and pay for it fully with his life. He would die and be raised up again. Death could not hold him and for those whose faith is in Jesus, it will not hold them either. The Gospel is not “you can do it” but rather “Jesus has done it”!
All things are possible for one who believes.
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 9:14-29
What has been your most profitable mistake--the one from which you learned the most valuable lesson?
Do you tend to berate others for making mistakes or encourage them to learn from a mistake?
How does turning to Jesus with questions and doubts demonstrate at least small faith rather than no faith at all? What would no faith look like?
How does self-sufficiency express pride, while prayer and humility express “faith, trust, and dependency”?