There is a great contrast between the marvellous vision on the Mount of Transfiguration in our previous study and miserable condition of the demon-possessed boy in this section. In the first we see the Lord Jesus in glory, but now we are presented with the evil work of Satan in the life of a young soul. We will not attempt to retell the details, for Mark makes the account very clear, instead we will look at what lessons we can learn from the story.
“And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?” (Mark 9:14-16).
When the Lord came down from the mountain He found great confusion amongst the nine disciples. No doubt the scribes were belittling them for their failure to cast out the demon in the name of Christ. The disciples were chided for their unbelief, for the Lord had given them the power to cast out demons, but something hindered their faith. Not so long ago they had much success in delivering people from devils, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17), but now they must learn by humbling experience that without Christ they could achieve nothing, “for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). It may have been a bitter lesson to learn at the time, but it would remind them that are trusting in the Powerful Lord rather than their own ability.
We are all prone to fail the Lord at times. Even some of the martyrs, Thomas Cranmer for instance, thought they had the ability to face the flames, but soon recanted. But when Cranmer allowed Christ to be Lord of his life, he faced the flames a second time without loss of faith. The best of God’s people have nothing to glory in. Their strength is not their own but of Christ. The mighty Samson became as weak as any man the moment the Spirit of God left him, “And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him” (Judges 16:20). Every day we need the grace and presence of Christ with us. Without Him we cannot overcome temptation and trials.
“And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us” (Mark 9:17-22).
A demon had possessed this young man from childhood. We often fail to recognise that this is where Satan can begin to damn a soul. This is why children must be brought up in the love and word of God. How many children are being possessed through evil movies, video games and other wicked devices of Satan? All the social ills today, especially those caused by wayward youths, is not the result of a lack of education or privileges, but is a direct result of satanic influence (even possession) in their lives. It is not the government or schools who are to blame, but the irresponsible upbringing they have had at home. Not only was the demon-possessed boy in a miserable state, but he also made life a misery for those around him. The father of this boy knew that Jesus was the answer to the problem. Only He can turn this nation around.
A child is never too young to learn about the things of God, for the devil wastes no time in endeavouring to influence their minds and turn them from God. If young hearts can be filled by Satan, then they can also be filled with the Spirit of God instead.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24).
How many true Christians believe in the Lord, yet their faith fails them at certain points? There have been times when we have lost hope and given ourselves over to fear and anxiety. In most of us there is that element of unbelief that remains and hinders our walk.
At least the father of this boy used whatever faith he had to call upon the Lord. He did not wait until his faith was great, perfect or mighty to come before Jesus. If unbelief remains in us, then He is the remedy even for that. Having a mixture of faith and unbelief will cause whatever faith we have to grow weaker unless we turn to the Lord for added strength.
“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:25-29).
Though the disciples could not cast out the demon, the Lord did. He simply spoke with divine authority and the devil was obliged to obey. In Matthew’s account of this miracles Jesus tells the disciples that it only takes a little faith to cast out demons, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21). Maybe the mention of fasting here indicated the fact that believers need to build up their failing faith by spending more time with God in prayer, for the more we commune with Him the greater will be our strength to resist the devil.
Satan may be a strong, malicious and evil foe, but the Saviour is with us all the way. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) … “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
A great chain has been prepared for Satan and he will one day be cast into the Lake of Fire, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years … And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:1-2, 10). “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20).