After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
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.”
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at 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 shatters him, and will hardly leave him. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”
We have three very different tellings of this father’s plight and of this son’s suffering. And of the disciples failure.
This is one of those stories the disciples inserted into the Word that strictly defines the failure of the disciples, and lifts Christ up. Of course each of these miracles and interactions with the Messiah show evidence of His superiority, and of their insufficiency, but this one seems to highlight the disciples inabilities.
We should be used to this by now, if you have been tracking with me in this series. He is able. We are not. And in this story, three apostles write of the disciples failure. And the the disciples failure becomes public knowledge for the crowd (and all who read this passage ) from both the father and the Lord to a crowd.
Let me ask my reader about personal failure before we go much further.
How do you handle failure? Ignore it? Run from it? Promise yourself you will never do it again? Ok – seems natural. How about personal failure that is published, for all to know? Blush and avoid it? Get angry and fight against it? But the disciples did not simply experience published failure. No no no. They experienced public failure published by a friend, even their Rabbi? How would you handle a friend publishing to all around of your personal failure? Feel betrayed? Conjure up ways to get back at him or her?
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
The audience consisted of a “great crowd”, including a father and son, the disciples, a number of scribes arguing with the disciples (presumably) and the Lord Himself. He saw the arguing and initially asked of the topic, but a man who had a suffering son took precedence. Suffering took precedence over theological hair splitting in this man’s thoughts. But of course, if a loved one is suffering, the emphasis is on relief of the pain. And it appears that Jesus is of the same opinion in this instance. Interesting thought!
Or could the response of the man be an answer to the Messiahs question of the topic of the argument? By that I mean, were the disciples and scribes arguing over the failure of the disciples to heal the son ?
If so, the disciples may have been seeking to defend their failure in some way, to justify their lack of ability. Of course this is mere conjecture, but when confronted with failure that I need to own up to, especially in a crowd, my go-to place is to defend my personal honor, integrity and goodness. (A bit of sarcasm there but you get my point!). Could the disciples be arguing in order to defend their inability to heal the son, all in an effort to protect the ministry? (Again a bit of sarcasm!)
All through the three years, Jesus brought circumstances to challenge the disciples, and many, many times they failed. Yet they continued to follow Him. They stuck with Him for the long run, even when they had to experience failure, shame, disappointment, pain, embarrassment, loss of reputation. Need I go on? But that is faith.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Did the Lord perform the work of healing this boy to show He had greater abilities than that of the disciples? Let us not consider that foolishness, for He does not have a chip on His shoulder, always needing to prove His person.
Did the Lord heal this boy simply out of compassion? The text does not refer to His compassion being exercised, even though the father appealed to the Lord’s compassion.
The passage speaks of the disciples lack of faith. The passage also speaks of the father’s lack of faith. Faith becomes a central topic in the midst of failure. Interesting!
What was the message for the original audience?
The message out of this miracle is two fold.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.
Two things occur to me in this phrase that I ask you to consider.
Faith that demands a certain result cannot be the problem here. That is, the father wasn’t rebuked by the Lord for not believing that He could specifically heal the son. It was doubting that the Messiah could perform any miracle.
Two different outcomes that I sometimes get mixed up. Some consider faith to be an act that determines their own goals, that will see their will be done, and it is a matter of convincing the Master to do our bidding. This is not the faith I read of in the Bible.
Of course, the Master does consider our pleas, our prayers, and in His mercy. He provides His working in our lives, even providing some of our desires, in line with His will. But that is a huge topic, that I do not want to enter into here, since my understanding of that topic is woefully deficient!
The faith the Master focused on for the father was His identity, His personhood, His authority, and not on a specific “run of the mill” exorcism. I say “run of the mill” since He had proven over and over again that this situation was NOT a problem for Him. He had provided evidence, and the evidence spoke volumes!
The faith spoken of to the father has to answer the question – “Who is Jesus?”
Why could we not cast it out?
The father may have never seen the Master before, and only heard of His fame. We do not know of his interaction with Jesus prior to this encounter.
Not so for the disciples. They had been with Him for an extended period of time, had seen miracles and heard the teaching, listened to His parables and had been sent out with authority prior to this failure. They had preached the kingdom, healed the sick, fed thousands, seen the dead rise, walked on water, saw blind men receive sight.
And they asked the question that was the core of the argument. Why couldn’t they cast it out?
Jesus answer was short and pointed.
This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer
Notice that Jesus did not pray to heal this boy. The text does not speak of any prayer being given at the time. Let’s read the passage the way we interpret it for our own application.
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he spent 2 hours in prayer and then 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.
It’s as if He healed the boy quickly, even unexpectantly, due to the crowd coming together. And yet His message is that this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer. So what gives?
This passage speaks to the Master being always in a state of prayer. He was constantly in contact with the Father in heaven. He knew the Father’s will regarding this father and son, exercised the authority the Father gave Him to heal in this instance and used the healing to further the kingdom, not only with those who witnessed the miracle in the crowd, and the father and son, but more pointedly, the disciples who had to face their failure.
What is the message for us today?
In our application portion of this post, I would like to discuss how failure actually becomes the backdoor to succes in the Lord’s plans.
Failure implies we are going beyond the comfort zone we are used to, that we are not in familiar territory and that our efforts may not be in line with truth. (Of course failure may imply simply an attitude of laziness, of not trying even in those things we are have practiced and understand. This is not the failure I speak of here!)
Failure implies that a change is required. It is the fool who continues to bang his head against the wall in order to heal a headache.
Failure tells us that we are not living according to truth in the area we are failing in.
Failure does not always define a need to go beyond our current state of existence. We need to understand that we have limitations, and though we are to continue to grow, which includes changing, their will come times of failure that simply indicate a limitation in our experience. The proverbial hitting of the wall! Wisdom from the Lord is definitely required here to live in peace within our souls.
So let me ask you. How do you see failure in your life? An enemy? A nuisance? A megaphone in your head, informing of a need, providing information or wisdom, and giving direction for life?
Failure can be the back door to success, but let us be very clear. Success in the Christian life is not mimicking the worlds teaching of claiming power from a deity to perform a certain act that satisfies your current desires (or even needs).
Success in the Christian life is conforming to the character of the Messiah, who submitted to the Father’s will. He described Himself as
Matt. 11:29 … gentle and lowly in heart
This is a great challenge for the believer in this day and age, for we often seek to get things done for God, we seek to provide guidance and direction to Him for the sake of the church, or our personal lives. I struggle of course with this challenge, since I do not want to give up some of my power over the direction of my life.
And yet He claims to be Lord. And with that, as we accept His process, His methods, and find our own methods to be lacking, we will experience failure. For we have much transformation to experience, and our methods of change needs to be according to his plans, not our methods.
But in all this upheaval and pain, we can rest in the fact that He is good, all the time.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you know someone this blog may bless (or challenge), send them a link, so they may join us in our discussion
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