Jesus and His disciples have just been on the mount of transfiguration. He had shone in that moment of brightness. His three most spiritual disciples had seen Him glorified. The thick, blinding, indescribable effulgence of Jesus' deity pounded into their retinas. Jesus had prayed for strength to endure His Gethsemene test on behalf of humanity, that they might witness a manifestation of His divinity to comfort them in the hour of their supreme agony. God had given it.
After that night on the mountain with Jesus down they return in the morning. While they were on their way, a man had brought his son to the disciples to be healed. They failed. The demon remained.
We pick up the story here.
Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him. Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, 'Teacher, I implore you, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored your disciples to cast it out, but they could not' (Luke 9:37-40).
Jesus had left nine of His disciples at the base of the mountain where, faced with the possessed child, they had tried to cast out the demon. They failed miserably. Now Jesus has returned, and there they stand, spiritually impotent, the child still under demon control.
People Looking for Spiritual Help
Our world is a dangerous place. Some things happen quite incidentally. Some work themselves out in an independent sequence; there is no force moving anything in any particular direction. Not everything that happens is pregnant with meaning and significance. But there are many things which do happen with particular significance. Our world is not a neutral backdrop.
As God the Father knows, as the disciples know, and as Jesus knows, there are good things and bad; there are spiritual forces attempting to work their will in this world. There are personal beings who are good and personal beings who are bad. There are personal beings bent on destroying and damaging and inflicting suffering on humans. And, there are angels and agents on God's side, laboring to protect, work providentially, and intervene for our good.
At the root of society is the family. A man and a woman marry, and engage in the sex act. They seek to procreate. When successful, they become father and mother, a baby is born. They raise the child and labor for its good.
Along the way there are challenges, sometimes personally insurmountable challenges. Then, they seek for a help beyond themselves, beyond their capabilities. This is what has happened in this story. Nothing that was tried helped the child. But the parents heard that there were amazing interventions. They heard that Jesus and His disciples were preaching and teaching and healing, and that there were amazing deliverances. So the man set out with his son to bring him to Jesus.
There are spiritual battles. People figure that out. They seek out spiritual help. They approach the church. Then what do they find?
In this case, nine powerless disciples. The father came to Jesus' disciples for help but it looks like it is a failure. They could not cast it out. But as we'll see, this is solved by the Lord of the church, Jesus Himself. But at this moment it looks iffy.
Powerlessness and Self-obsession
What do people find when they come to our churches? Spiritual power? Friendly people? Self-absorbed people? People echoing the same mainstream issues and agendas they see when they watch the news? What do they find?
Here are these disciples, standing round without any answers, any power. The church certainly is not defined by doing miracles on demand but there should be some spiritual power in a church. And when there is not, we should not question God so much as we question ourselves. If the local church you belong to is lacking in spiritual power, maybe your experience is part of the problem. Then your experience could also be part of the solution. Life comes in limited quantity. Don't be discouraged but realize that every member has a vital part in what God wants to do in your church. Don't go away with slumped shoulders; go to your knees and ask God to give you a new vision for His work.
Honestly, too many of us echo our devotion to consuming when we come to the church. The church gets treated like a drive-thru. We want to place our order, get it cheap, get it now, and drive away. Oh, and extra sauce please. How often have we literally driven away from blessing, all wrapped up in ourselves?
How Long Shall I be with You?
Now, Jesus' response to the situation. Verse 41:
'O faithless and perverse generation how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.
This father is not a drive-thru customer. He is not looking for a quick, self-centered fix. He's hunting and searching and seeking for the real deal. And He has come to where he should find the real deal. He hasn't seen it happen yet; he's still present, praise God. He still hasn't given up and left seeking other solutions.
Jesus' reaction here is very pointed. The disciples don't realize how limited their time with the Master will be. Jesus is on a clock and the clock is running out. Still there is opportunity, but how much longer?
"Generation" here, as often in the Bible, means "kind of." Jesus rebukes His disciples: "O faithless and perverse generation" or "kind of" people. For Jesus to give this kind of rebuke means that the disciples need it. Why, of all people, are you, My disciples, so poor in exercising faith? So bent, so trapped in inanities and things that don't matter, in private agendas and your own burning personal issues, that you are spiritually out of tune and you can't cast out these demons from this child?
Remember, with men many things are impossible, but with God, all things that are right are possible. The disciples should have been able. Jesus lays His finger right on the problem: faithlessness. This is the problem for many of us in AD 2020. Instead of faith in God, we have placed our trust in many other things. We trust in science, we trust in the government, in the mainstream media, in the fundamental goodness of people. None of these bear the weight of human need. Every time we trust in a person we will be let down. Our faith must rest in God and not in even the best our society has to offer.
Our faith must be in Jesus. Jesus, who took our humanity, and that with special purpose in mind. He could not be our sacrifice on the cross unless He was connected to us, unless He was like us.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death.
He took our humanity so that He could live in it, and die in it. This was the one way to defeat Satan; to go all the way to the grave, taking there a humanity able to die. What kind of humanity do you and I have? A humanity that can die. He came identifying with us so completely so that He might give us His life.
But not only how long will He be with us, how long will Jesus bear with us?
One of Satan's ploys is to tell you you've gone too far, God has abandoned you. You knew better, you failed Him, and He is so disgusted with you that He can't bear you. You have already decided your destiny. There is no hope. You will be lost.
Satan doesn't hesitate to transmit these words into your mind. The logic is seductive. Why? Because along with this siren whisper comes the subtle call to fall back into those pet sins God has already delivered you from. If you are lost, you might as well go back for one more helping of that crazy sin. You have nothing to lose. At least get what you can get while you can.
Before you fall for that seduction, stop! Because the answer is that Jesus bears with us long, so long. The disciples have failed Him but Jesus will not only carry out the exorcism in a few moments, but He will continue to walk with and work with and do everything in His power to redeem and to save His disciples. He will bear long with them, so long and amazingly, that in His prayer in John 17 what do we learn? That He will save every single one of them except for Judas. Jesus' score will be 11 out of 12 apostles. Proud John, impulsive Peter, doubting Thomas, and all the rest, will be in the kingdom. One by one each of them believed and gave their hearts to Jesus. He will bear long with us.
The point here is that the disciples failed needlessly on this occasion. But Jesus is relentless. He will not be deterred. He will do everything in His power to save a person. Don't buy into this cheap trick of Satan that your case is hopeless. Jesus has a heart of mercy and He will intervene between you and death, He will take the nails you deserve in your hands and feet for your transgressions and give you eternal life. There is in each person something very precious to Jesus, and the project filling His thoughts is to do all in His power to bring you to His Father for His Father's glory.
Bring Your Son to Me
Jesus cares not only for His disciples, but for every crying father and mother and tormented son. There is hope. Even when Jesus' people fail, there is hope. So Jesus calls that heroic father, and says, Bring your Son here.
Every father is negligent who does not do what is in his power to bring his wife and children to Jesus. How many of us as parents feel we have failed. Our children are out of the church, living a thousand miles away, and not walking with Jesus. The cares of this life and the follies and empty adventures of this world fill the child's life. We feel failures and hopeless.
But remember. Like this man, all we as parents can do is bring our children to Jesus, our grandchildren to Jesus. This father could not save him in any direct way, but he could bring him to Jesus. So he brought him to the church. And even then there as no immediate success. But Jesus is still connected to His church. And so they are brought together, Jesus and the child.
We should not despair; despair is not useful; it is a waste of energies. Instead of feeling defeated, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves as unsuccessful parents, let us use our spiritual energies differently.
Like this father, be engaged in your own journey to Jesus. Seek Him by faith. Be gaining in theology as you study His word, and be gaining in kneeology, as you persist in prayer. Pray for your children. Use the energies God gives you that way. If you do this, God will answer in blessing and power. Trust your children to Him and do what you can to open their pathway. Never give up. Jesus says to you and to me, bring your son to Me.
We learn more in the parallel account in Mark nine. When the demon has the child rolling and frothing on the ground, Jesus asks how long this has been happening, and the child's father answers. As the possessed child rolls helplessly across the ground, his father bursts out in desperation, saying to Jesus, "If You can do anything have compassion on us and help us."
But Jesus knows exactly what is needed most. And so, He asks one final question. Mark 9:23. To the child's father, he asks, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." The father responds, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" Now the boy's father is ready. Jesus is ready. Now Jesus will show it is true. There is no lack of power on Christ's part, but someone has to exercise faith. It is faith that connects us with heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness. The situation is now ready. Now God can work.
Rebuke, Healing, and Restoration
The demon exercises his power. The child froths and foams. It looks like he is dying. Then, in one sentence, Luke nine, verse 42, the deliverance: "Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him to his father."
Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit. God gives people free will. No other being has any business preying upon us or taking away our free will. God gave you a mind and a heart. He gave you a will. Nothing is more alien to Christian liberty than to have a demon or an AI running your body for you. This imposition, this overwriting of one being's person by another, is true evil. Nothing stinks more. And so, the strong reaction from Jesus.
Jesus commands the demon (Mark 9:25): "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" The spirit cries out, and convulses him mightily. But it has no choice; it must now come out. It does. The child lies immobile on the ground. He appears to be dead.
Is the child dead? Did the demon take his life in the very presence of the Lifegiver? Comparing the accounts in Mark and Luke is interesting here. Mark records Jesus commanding the spirit to depart and then lifting the boy up by His hand. There is nothing particular in the account about healing. But Luke says, "Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father." I believe that those are three separate actions. Jesus commands the spirit to come out of the boy, then Jesus heals the child by the power of God the Father, then He gives the child back to his human father.
Ellen White writes, "Jesus takes him by the hand, and lifting him up, presents him, in perfect soundness of mind and body, to his father" (The Desire of Ages, 428). Perfect soundness of mind and body. It is a miracle. It is not merely a casting out but also a literal healing.
Let's really get straight here. This is the God you serve. This is Jesus who died for you. He is able to cast out demons. He is able to heal your body. He is able to heal your mind. All bruised, battered from rolling in the dirt and foaming and being imposed on by others, having your will pushed and squeezed and pummeled and abused by others, Jesus can heal you.
Conclusion: Afraid to Ask
Some would stop right there. Another glorious victory for Jesus. In human expectation, we often think, OK, this is done, we can move to the next thing. But we serve a God who wants our good, who sees more clearly than we do. He sees what must be done to truly complete a step toward eternity. The moves God is making are all steps toward eternity. We have to look at Luke 9:43-45.
And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. But they did not understand the saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.
It was a great day, a day of victories, and Jesus tells them the reason they could not cast it out was their own inadequate prayer and fasting. There is a whole area that opens up for us, but not today. We need to consider instead this last scenario.
People are rejoicing about the victories but Jesus is urgent. "Let this sink down into your ears." He wants them to understand. He will be crucified. There is a cost and He will pay it. It was not God hiding it from their understanding. It was their own fear. There was an uncomfortable piece; it didn't fit what they wanted the future to be. God doesn't force anyone to come His way.
The disciples suffered great loss, and needless loss, because they were afraid to ask. God has truth for us but we have to be willing for it to cost something to us. No, a thousand times no, we are not saved by our works. But how many opportunities is God giving us to draw close, to suffer with Him, to work with Him for hearts, but we aren't ready to join into the costs incurred by heaven, and to suffer with Him?
There are wonderful things on the horizon. Some of our eyes I believe will see them. But we have to take the hard parts with the victories.
Don't be afraid to ask.
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