Mark 9:14-32 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Jesus Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit

Comments for Study 16

Mark 9:14-32
Memory Verse: 23b


I. Jesus Grieves at Unbelieving People (14-19)

Jesus' Mid-Ministry Travels

>1. Where had Jesus and the three disciples been? (2)

* Mark 9:2 "After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them."

* "up a high mountain" -Mount Hermon ("devoted mountain") has three summits, about 1/4 mile (1/2km) from each other. Its huge mass 11,000 feet (3 350m) high and 5 miles (8km) wide and 16 to 20 miles (26 to 32km) from north to south is visible for miles around. The upper slopes remain snowcapped virtually all year, as indicated by the Amorite name for the mountain, Senir (or Shenir), meaning "snow mountain." It was known as 'Sirion' among the Phoenicians and the Arabs call it Jebel el-Sheikh, the "grey haired mountain," or Jebel el-Thalj, the "mountain of the snow." Its Hebrew name, "Chermown" ("sanctuary"), may allude to the fact that since ancient times it has been a sacred mountain. The mountain was also called "Baal-Hermon" (Judges 3:3) in the time of Joshua and the Judges, indicating a local Baal was worshiped there (as was the case with many high places).

Mount Hermon has been described as a giant sponge with many scattered cavities (dolinas) that collect huge volumes of snow. They are the last areas to melt in the spring and they emerge at the base of the mountain in a series of abundant springs that form the three main sources of the Jordan River. These springs also feed the Litani River as well as the Oasis of Damascus. In clear weather, Mount Hermon is visible from great distances. It dominates the landscape. From the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan Valley, the snow-capped mass forms the one permanent feature on the northern horizon of Israel. In biblical times the slopes were apparently covered in thick forests. While in exile, David reflected on the depths of the Jordan and the heights of Hermon. They were for him symbols of the source and extent of God's blessing, His love and protection (Psalm 42:5-11; Psalm 133:3).

>When they arrived from there, what scene did they see? (14)

* Mark 9:14 "When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them."

* "When they came to the other disciples" -The other disciples were lost and embarrassed without Jesus.

* "they saw a large crowd" -A crowd of people were at the base of the mountain. It seems wherever Jesus went a crowd was soon to gather.

* After his transformation he came down the mountain and help a man and his son. To the three disciples who had been with him, after witnessing such glory, the state of mankind's world must have looked dark and bleak. As our spiritual image improves and allows us to see and understand God better, we will also be able to see and understand evil better. We would be overcome by its horror if we did not have Jesus with us to take us through it safely.

>2. How did the people respond when they saw Jesus? (15)

* Mark 9:15 "As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him."

* Perhaps the glory of Jesus' transfiguration was still lingering, just as Moses glory from being up the mountain lingered.

* They knew that Jesus was the real greatness, and his disciples were lesser and still learning from him.

* "ran" -Shows how overwhelmed they were.

>With whom were the nine other disciples arguing? (14)

* Mark 9:14 "When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them."

* "teachers of the law" -Teachers of the law here could include some of the members of the scribes, Pharisees, and/or Sadducees.

Scribes -The scribes had a good beginning. Evidently Ezra was a scribe and the founder of that group. They were the professional expounders of the Law. However, by the time of our Lord they had become "hair-splitters" and were more concerned with the letter of the Law than with the spirit of the Law.

Pharisees -The Pharisees also had a good beginning. They arose to defend the Jewish way of life against all foreign influenced. They were strict legalistic. They believed in the Old Testament and they were nationalists in politics. They wanted to bring in the coming of the kingdom of heaven (the kingdom of God) upon the earth.

Sadducees -the Sadducees were made up of the wealthy and socially-minded. They had no spiritual depth. They wanted to get rid of tradition. They rejected the supernatural and were opposed to the Pharisees who accepted the supernatural and accepted the Old testament. They were closely akin to the Greek Epicureans.

Herodians -The Herodians were a party in the days of Jesus who arose as political opportunists. They were strictly a party to try to keep the Herod family on the throne in Palestine.

The above information is from J. Vernon McGee's Thru The Bible Commentary.

>What might they have been arguing about? (16)

* Mark 9:16 ""What are you arguing with them about?" he asked."

* Most likely, the teachers of the law said that the disciples couldn't cast out the evil spirit because they were like Jesus who did it by the power of the devil." (Mark 3:22)

* Maybe they said that the disciples couldn't cast out the evil spirit because they were doing it on their own power, not God's. (Mark 6:12,13)

* Maybe the Sadducees, who didn't believe in demons were the ones arguing that science and medications should be used to help the boy.

>How did the father describe his son's problem? (17,18a)

* Mark 9:17-18a "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."

* "possessed by a spirit" -The original Greek is "echo alalos pneuma". "Pneuma" means breath, wind, breathe and spirit. Read Merrill F. Unger's "Biblical Demonology" published by Van Kampen in 1952 for more on on this subject.

* "robbed him of speech" -The boy seems like an epileptic, but his problems are more than that because an epileptic isn't necessarily dumb.

* The reason the demon caused the boy to fall in the fire and water was to cause the father to have fear and to kill the boy.

* The evil spirit's control was not only over the boy, but the father as well.

* Satan only wants to destroy us and bring misery into our lives. He is not our friend, confidant, nor ally. Satan hates every man because God's favor has left him and is on mankind.

* The father brought the affliction of his son to God's son.

* The demon caused the boy to have problems. To many people today are influenced and inflicted by demons.

>What had compounded his despair? (18b)

* Mark 9:18b "I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.""

* Also the argument didn't help him and his spirit.

>3. What did Jesus say? (19)

* Mark 9:19 ""O 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 was said to the crowd and the teachers of the law, and probably also the disciples. (Matthew 17:20)

>What can we learn about the major problem of the father, the disciples, and the times?

* "unbelieving" -The original Greek is "apistos" meaning faithless, infidel, and unbelieving.

* They did not have faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

>What does this tell us?

* Jesus exclamation that they were "unbelieving" tells us that faith in God is the key to spiritual power. Faith is not in a vague sense of God, but faith that is active and alive.

* Unbelief is the cause of man's social problems. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his book The Plight of Man and the Power of God, “Nothing but a belief in God and a desire to glorify Him, based upon our realization of our utter dependence upon Him and our acceptance of His way of life and salvation in Jesus Christ His Son, can ever lead to a good society. This is not merely a dogmatic statement. It can be proved and demonstrated repeatedly in the history of mankind.”

II. Jesus First Helps the Father's Faith (20-24)

>4. What happened when they brought the boy to Jesus? (20)

* Mark 9:20 "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."

* "When the spirit saw Jesus" -Perhaps meaning through the boy's eye.

* "it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion." -Perhaps the demon did this out of fear of Jesus. Most likely the demon did this to cause doubt, despair, agony, and unbelief to grow.

>Why did the problem intensify and what might have the father thought?

* The father must have concluded bringing the boy to Jesus did not improve things, but only made things worse.

* Satan works greatly before and during complete healing.

>5. What did Jesus say to the father? (21a)

* Mark 9:21 "Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?""

* Mark is the only gospel writer to include this dialogue. Matthew and Luke do not.

* Jesus was in total control.

* Jesus said this to establish a relationship with the father. In this way Jesus could heal the unbelief.

>Why did Jesus give his attention to him instead of the suffering boy?

* The father was a part of the boy's problem and solution.

* The father was the one seeking Jesus' help.

>How did the father reveal his fear and deep doubt? (21b-22)

* Mark 9:21-22 ""From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.""

* "but if you can do anything" -The father's words shows unbelief.

>How did Jesus challenge him? (23)

* Mark 9:23 ""'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes.""

* Because of the father's need, Jesus knew the father could handle this challenge.

* The problem was not that Jesus didn't have the power. The problem was that the father didn't have faith in Jesus. A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do.

>What was Jesus' purpose in this?

* To help the father believe. God can work with just small quantities of faith. (Matt. 17:20)

* To correct the father's misconception about Jesus.

* Faith planted in one person affects many.

* Challenge in needed to increase and plant faith.

>6. What did the father mean when he said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief?" (24)

* Mark 9:24 "Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!""

* He wanted to believe in Jesus. He did believe in a way, but he realized that it was not acceptable to God and thus needed to be changed and made complete.

* The father revealed his true self.

III. Jesus Heals the Boy (25-27)

>7. After the father's exclamation, how did Jesus deal with the evil spirit and the boy? (25)

* Mark 9:25 "When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.""

* "Jesus rebuked the evil spirit" -Jesus has all power. He was not rebuking the boy, the father, the crowd, or the disciples. He rebuked the evil spirit.

* "rebuke" -The original Greek is "epitimao" meaning "a strong reprove, charge and rebuke" and "to strongly voice or convey disapproval of and find fault with". Today many believe that rebuke has only negative overtones believing it is wrong to criticize others lifestyle. "Live and let live" is there mantra. It's impossible to say, "My position is to have no position." and "We should not get involved." When Jesus was invited to solve a problem he got involved. When the problem involved rebuking evil spirits, he did so.

* First, he subdued him by rebuke. Then, he exposed the nature of the evil spirit-deaf and mute. Then, he commanded him not to enter the boy again.

>What does this show us about Jesus' power and love? (26,27)

* Mark 9:26-27 "The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like 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."

>8. How did the evil spirit react to Jesus' word? (26)

* Mark 9:26 "The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead.""

>Was the boy really deaf and dumb?

* No. The evil spirit made it look like he was deaf and dumb.

* Note: not all people who show these symptoms are controlled by evil spirits because Jesus healed physical aliments as well.

>What can we learn here so that we are not fooled by evil spirits?

* If we know the works of and purpose of evil spirits we can see them. The purpose is to divide God and man, divide man and man, and plant unbelief.

* We are in a spiritual battle.

* Evil spirits use deception.

* Just because things get worse, it does not mean that one is not being healed or will not be healed.

III. Prayer is the Expression of Faith (28-32)

>9. Why had the disciples failed? (28,29)

* Mark 9:28-29 "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.""

* Possibly fasting was missing here. (NIV Bible's sub note.)

>What did Jesus teach them about the source of spiritual power?

* Prayer is the expression of faith.

* Prayer is the source of spiritual power.

* Prayer is relying on God's help.

* Fasting purpose is to deny the flesh and concentrate our focus on God, his desire and will. Fasting always goes with prayer.

>10. Where did they go and why did Jesus keep it a secret? (30-31a)

* Mark 9:30-31a "They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples."

* Jesus begins his final trip to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, tried, crucified, buried, and he will rise from the dead.

* On the way to Jerusalem Jesus concentrated on teaching his disciples.

>What did he teach them? (31b)

* Mark 9:31b "He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.""

* This is the second time that Mark records Jesus telling the disciples what is soon to take place.

>Why didn't they understand? (32)

* Mark 9:32 "But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it."

* The suffering Messiah was understood my few before and during Jesus' ministry. The conquering Messiah was very popular to the Jewish people because of continual oppression from foreign occupiers.