When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him. ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ He asked. A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ (Mark 9:14-18).

Jesus’ disciples weren’t doing very well, were they? The ones with Him up the mountain were hopelessly uncomprehending and the ones down below were out of their depth with a demon-possessed boy. They were supposed to be practising to be disciples but all they could produce at this stage was failure.

Imagine the disappointment and exasperation the father of the boy must have felt! Of course he understood that these men were followers of Jesus and that they, therefore, should be able to do what He did. But they couldn’t. The evil spirit just would not obey them. Didn’t the spirit know that he was supposed to get out when they told it to? Apparently not.

‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.’ (Mark 9: 19).

Jesus exploded! After all this time with them, all they could produce was unbelief and failure. What was wrong with them? How long would it take Him to convince these knuckleheads that He was who He was and that He had given them authority to do what He did? Exasperated, He called for the boy to be brought to Him. What was the use of having disciples when He had to do it all Himself?

What was their problem? His outburst, in the words of Eugene Peterson (The Message), reveal their mind-set, still stuck on their circumstances instead of being aware of God.

‘What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?

In this outburst, Jesus revealed the difference between the attitude of the disciples and His attitude – God-awareness. Adam and Eve lost their God-awareness the moment they disobeyed Him and stepped out of His felt presence. They hid from Him because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? They were aware of their nakedness? What happened to change everything? Because of their rebellion, they became painfully self-aware and their self-awareness took over.

Jesus was so God-conscious, so one with the Father, that He did everything in God. There was no situation too big for Him to handle because He and the Holy Spirit were one. Yes, Jesus was frustrated with His disciples and yet, failure was as much, if not more, their training ground as success. Isn’t it true that we learn more from our failures than from our successes?

Jesus was annoyed but not fazed by their inability to drive out the demon. He knew that when the Holy Spirit fell on them, they would be launched into a new kind of life, filled with revelation and authority way beyond their wildest dreams. This is still boot-camp. They were still battling with the basics, but their time was coming.

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’  (Mark 9: 20-23).

Now we are beginning to understand why the disciples failed with this boy. This was a particularly stubborn and defiant demon. It even tried to resist Jesus. It had been squatting in this boy for years and was not about to give way without a fight.

The father’s wistful request brought an indignant retort from Jesus. “If you can”? He echoed. Of course He could. He would never ignore a cry for help. But His mercy needed trust. If the father trusted Jesus, it would happen.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9: 24).

Now it was all coming together – God-consciousness that made them more aware of God than the circumstances, and the authority that flowed from that God-consciousness; and confidence that Jesus could do it. This was a lesson the disciples had to learn. It was not about them. It was about Him. They could do it because He said so and He had confidence in their confidence in Him.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Luella Campbell

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