Saturday, March 5, 2016

Flame and Flood

Scriptural Reading: Mark 9:14-29
Devotional Reading: Genesis 50:15-21

As a teenager a young lady befriended me and gave me a poem entitled Let Go and Let God. It reads “As children bring their broken toys with tears for us to mend, I brought my broken dreams to God, because He was my friend. But then, instead of leaving Him, in peace, to work alone; I hung around and tried to help, with ways that were my own. At last, I snatched them back and cried, ‘How can you be so slow?’ ‘My child,’ He said, ‘What could I do?’ You never did let go.” I never forgot this simple lesson of encouragement from my friend. There is nothing so serious in life to cause doubt and disbelief that God can’t handle.

We are in Unit I – “Tests of Faith” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a four-lesson study of faith. In the lesson today we are reminded that we are powerless without God and must always have faith in Him within whom there is nothing impossible. Luke 1:37

Before our lesson begins there was the most powerful transfiguration of Jesus witnessed by Peter, James, and John on the high mountaintop in this chapter. Mark 9:1-13 Christ had begun informing his disciples of His upcoming sufferings, death, and Resurrection to prepare them for the days to come. Six days after His telling them the date was near, He took three witnesses to be a record on earth. The transfiguration of Jesus in a glorious state was accompanied by both Moses and Elias. The witnesses were overwhelmed, but the experience ended with a voice saying “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.” Jesus was no longer transfigured and Moses and Elias had disappeared. Each came down the mountainside. The witnesses were told to say nothing of what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen. They were confused as to the meaning of Resurrection.

While God’s forces are working, the forces of evil are working also. Jesus Christ took off His robes of glory on the mountain of transfiguration and found His remaining disciples were at a disadvantage in the presence of the multitude in the valley encounter with a demonic spirit. They deeply relied on Jesus as stated in Mark 9:14-15, “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 all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. ” The other disciples refer to the nine of the twelve who had not accompanied Jesus to the mountaintop. They felt powerless. The multitude had witnessed and heard that both Jesus and the disciples had the power to heal and drive out spirits. (Mark 3:13-15; 6:7) Naturally this confusion was happening in front of the teachers of the law (scribes) who could possibly use it as evidence against Jesus to take it back to the Sanhedrin. The return of Jesus was overwhelmingly welcomed by His disciples and given to amazement by the multitude who awaited the miracle. The teachers of the law, on the other hand, fully did not welcome His return.

Jesus immediately involved Himself in the controversy. He knew the scribes were antagonizing His disciples,‘What are you arguing with them about!’ he asked.” Mark 9:16 Although He inserts Himself, they do not respond. The disciples are comfortable in allowing Jesus to speak while the scribes simply wish to keep quiet to gather evidence against Him. A man from within the multitude responds to Jesus by telling Him the subject matter of the controversy, “A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.” Mark 9:17 He is only identified as the father of a child possessing a demonic spirit. It is described as epilepsy in another passage. The father calls Him Teacher having authority for the power of Jesus. And the man knows that Jesus knows how to deliver his son of the demon that robs him of speech.

The father continues to describe the symptoms his son suffers to Jesus at Mark 9:18a, “Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.” His child is possessed with the demonic spirit and the symptoms include a falling-sickness, lack of speech during the fit, the spirit tears him (a self-destructive behavior), throws him into such violent convulsions as almost pull him to pieces. This is very grievous to the father and frightful to those about him. His son foams at his mouth, gnashes with his teeth, and becomes rigid with pain and great misery as the fits go off presently. Some people are simply disrespectful because of the condition the son. The father is desperate.

This unnamed father states at Mark 9:18b,‘I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ Not being able to find Jesus, the man had asked the disciples to deliver his son of the spirit. He knew they had done it before. The teachers of the law had also witnessed the disciples deliver spirits and heal. So this was their perfect opportunity to challenge the disciples’ inability to perform deliverance. Such was the subject matter of the controversy when Jesus arrived. The father believed Jesus had arrived just in time. The demon in the son would destroy his son sooner or later if he did not get help.

Jesus did not immediately respond to the father with compassion. Instead he rebukes His disciples with impatience by calling them faithless and unbelieving in Mark 9:19, “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.” This rebuke was probably music in the ears of the scribes. They had not heard Him complain before, especially about His disciples of whom He had given power to cast out demons. Jesus has come down from the mountain of his glorious transfiguration to face this unbelief of those who should have more faith and power. He warns that the time is short as is His patience with their unbelief. Jesus then asks he father to bring his son to Him.

As soon as the demon in the boy saw Jesus, it threw him to the ground because it recognized the authority of Jesus. Mark 9:20 indicates the demon’s attempt to fight to the end, “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.” It was a particularly serious fit. There had previously been narrow escapes from death since childhood as explained in Mark 9:21-22a, “Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.’ As Jesus collects the facts about the father’s need to monitor his helpless son, He also notes the desperation. From childhood this demon has often thrown the son from flame or flood trying to kill him. His father was coming to get deliverance for his son from the LORD that will stop all those near-death experiences.

Then the father asked the Lord to please do something to deliver his son if He could. He had experienced years of desperation. The appeal for deliverance continues at Mark 22b-23, “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.” It is natural to say “if you can”. However, everything is possible in God (Luke 1:37). All you have to do is have the faith to believe in Him and His power.

Sometimes as believers of Christ we find ourselves in situations where we are overwhelmed and filled with doubt. In Mark 9:24 the father responded to Jesus, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” After a long tiring, battle with his son who was demon-possessed and an appeal for deliverance, his faith is weak. But he begs for help for his son anyway.

Jesus will now cure the son, in answer to the father’s request. The multitude came running to see Him rebuke this demon as He had in many other places. They wanted to witness what Jesus said, whether the demon would leave the boy, and everything after that point. Mark 9:25-27 paints the deliverance, “When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said,‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again. The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much liked a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.” This seems so self-explanatory, but it is not. Jesus rebuked the spirit and commanded that it never enter the boy again, a permanent deliverance. (Satan may leave but go back and possess the human dwelling.) When Jesus cured he boy the evil spirit wanted the crowd to believe it still had power. It threw the boy into another convulsion and he appeared dead to many in the crowd. Jesus reached out his hand and raised him up

Behind closed doors the disciples were full of curiosity as to why they failed to deliver the demon from the boy. Mark 9:28-29 explained the problem, “After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” They did not want to be afraid again in the public. Jesus knew they had attempted to cast out the demon in their own authority and power. That could never work, especially with a demon that resided in the boy since childhood. It had strengthened its stronghold and made the boy weaker over the years. To drive this type demon out required prayer and fasting. They had to go to God with this type of work. But Christ could do it with the speaking of words as part of the Trinity.

As Christians each of us has experienced a sense of defeat. We felt as if we had been working for the LORD, but the power of God has not come. We feel as if we’re either in a flame of fire or a flood of hot or cold water somewhere. Do not despair. The LORD shall never leave us. He shall just come in His time. Remember, “Let Go and Let God”.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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