Apr 07, 2013
Mark 9:11-29

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Scene of Activity

Jesus has been transfigured into “heavenly glory” in front of Peter, James, and John. 

Moses and Elijah then appear and discuss with Jesus the coming events of Jerusalem.

In response to Peter’s interruption, God descends “in a cloud” and says two things: 

1. God affirms who Jesus was.... “This is my beloved Son.

2. God commands that they.... “Hear Him!” (Hush & Hear)

The presence of God in the cloud, Moses, and Elijah immediately disappear leaving Jesus (no longer transfixed) and His disciples alone on Mount Hermon.
Jesus warns them to keep what they’d seen to themselves “till the Son of Man had risen from the dead” before they begin the journey back down the mountain. 

As they continue their descent we’re told they....

[Mark 9:11] “Asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 

Q: How was this question relevant?

Since Peter declared in Mark 8:29 that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus has been teaching them a radically different view of the nature of the Messiah and His mission.

As the “Suffering Servant” presented by the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said the Messiah must “suffer many things.... be rejected.... be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Though a radical departure from what they had been taught, any doubt Jesus was the Messiah has been removed from the minds of Peter, James, and John through His transfiguration.... the case for Christ was closed. 

To understand the relevancy of the question you have to understand what the “scribes” taught concerning “Elijah” and what they believed concerning the Messiah.

Note the Object of their Question: “Why do the scribes say....” 

The disciples are trying to reconcile what Jesus has been teaching them concerning the Messiah with the conventional wisdom of the day.

The Scribes view of the Messiah: 

Scribes understood there were two competing descriptions of the Messiah.

The prophets described a Suffering Servant as well as a Triumphant King.

Scribes concluded there would be 2 Messiahs. (B-Sides)

Messiah #1: Messiah Ben David - a conquering king in the pattern of David.

Messiah #2: Messiah Ben Joseph - a suffering servant in the pattern of Joseph.

Scribes believed the “Triumphant King” would come before the “Suffering Servant.” 

Scribes believed “Elijah” would come to prepare the way for “Messiah the King.”

Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

Instead of two different Messiah’s fulfilling these competing descriptions, Jesus taught that He alone would fulfill both roles (Suffering Servant & Triumphant King.) 

In Matthew 12:23 Jesus allowed Himself to be referred to as the “Son of David.” 

More recently Jesus has said He would have to “suffer many things.” 

Note: Jesus would do this by coming on two different occasions. 

Because the disciples can’t wrap their brains around the concept of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, this seems to be a point the disciples are oblivious too.
The essence of the disciples question went as follows:

If there aren’t two Messiah’s, but one.

And since you’re obviously the Messiah.

But we don’t see Elijah. (Don’t forget John the Baptist denied being Elijah.)

Have the scribes been wrong in their assessment? 

[Mark 9:12-13] “Then Jesus answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”

Note: Jesus affirms that “Elijah is coming,” but He also says that “Elijah has also come.”

Elijah’s Future Coming: His purpose will be to “restore all things.

Note: In Jesus’ second coming He will also come to restore all things.

Elijah’s Past Coming: “They did to him whatever they wished....” 

In context it seem that Jesus is making a point that in Elijah’s first appearance he was also rejected and suffered at the hands of a rebellious people. 

Point: Shouldn’t it seem logical then that in the Messiah’s first coming He too would suffered and be rejected at the hands of a rebellious people? 

Answer Affirms: Elijah & the Messiah would both come twice.

1st Coming - Resulted in suffering and rejection for both.

2nd Coming - Would result in the restoration of all things by both. 

[Mark 9:14-18] “And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

Scene of Activity

This nameless man brought his demon possessed son to be healed by Jesus.

Because of the possession the boy was “mute” and suffered great seizures. 

Tradition held that a person’s muteness indicated the demon was to strong to be exorcized since the first step was to secure the demon’s name. 

When these episodes began the demon would “seized the boy, throw him down; he would foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, and become rigid.

Since Jesus was MIA, the man brings his son to the 9 remaining disciples to be healed.

It would appear they tried to “cast it out” but were found to be unsuccessful.

This led to a great debate between the disciples and the Jewish scribes. 

We can assume the scribes were also unsuccessful in exorcizing the demon. 

Jesus, Peter, James, and John return from their mountain hike only to find a “disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, defeated disciples.” 

Note: Before the scene transitions Jesus would “silence the scribes, comfort the father, heal the boy, and instruct the disciples.”

Q: Why were the people “greatly amazed” when Jesus arrived?

Phrase is the Greek verb “ekthambeô” meaning “to throw into terror or amazement.”

Theory #1: Jesus was still radiating a glow similar to that which was found on Moses? 

This was not likely for 2 reasons:
  • The text indicates Jesus returned to a normal state following the transfiguration.

  • Moses had glory radiated upon him whereas Jesus had glory radiating out of Him.

Theory #2: Jesus arrives to see a great argument in the presence of a great need. 

It’s sad there was a debate over theology when there was a boy in misery.

[Mark 9:19] “Jesus answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 

Consider this statement by looking at the scene from an allegorical perspective. 

Jesus is away in the glory of heaven and His disciples remained on earth to deal with the maddening problems of humanity (illustrates by this man and the possessed boy). 

Religion had failed to address this human condition (illustrated by the scribes).

Those left behind to represent Jesus (illustrated by the disciples) also found themselves helpless in the presence of such a real, pressing need. 

Jesus’ indictment “O faithless generation” is aimed at several groups:

  • A multitude of fickle ears seeking nothing but entertainment.
  • A father in desperation without direction or spiritual inclination.
  • A boy possessed and bound in bondage. 
  • A religion of scribes only able to diagnose the problem.

  • A group of disciples seeking to solve the problem using their own ingenuity. 

Jesus remedy for the boy’s problem: “Bring him to Me.”

The ultimate remedy for the problems facing mankind is an encounter with Jesus.

J. Vernon McGee observes, “Right now, the organized church in desperation is reaching out, protesting and marching and getting involved in all kinds of things.... But social matters are not our business! We out to be able to help a poor demon-possessed boy today by presenting a Savior to him who will make him rational and will bring him into a right relationship with God. Unfortunately, the same thing has to be said of the church, “They could not.” The disciples could not and we cannot.... we are attempting to do everything except bring lost men to Jesus Christ.

[Mark 9:20-24] “Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.” So Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Look at the progression of this man’s experience with Jesus:

1. He had a need - his son was possessed.

2. He was desperate - nothing the world or religion offered seemed to work.

3. He came to Jesus - he reached the conclusion he had nothing to loose.

You have to give the man credit for bringing his son to Jesus. 

4. He doubted Jesus was able - he wasn’t sure Jesus could remedy the situation.

He says, “If you can do anything.....” - “If you have the power to do anything.

5. Jesus invites him to believe in Him - Jesus can never work in the absence of faith.

If you can believe” - Greek verb “pisteuô” - “think to be true, to trust.”

What was Jesus encouraging him to believe in - His power or Person?

6. He declares a belief in Jesus - he “immediately said, Lord, I believe.

Lord, I believe” - Greek noun “kyrios” - “he to whom a person belongs.”
This word was always a title given to God.

Though he was unsure of Jesus’ power, it’s clear the man had no doubts concerning Jesus’ Lordship. “I don’t know what you can do, but I believe in who You are!

We can doubt Jesus’ ability, but we must believe in His Lordship.

7. He asks Jesus to help with his unbelief - “Help my unbelief!”

Unbelief” - Greek noun “apistia” - “weakness of faith.”

His weakness of faith was based in what Jesus could do, not in who He was.

In Nazareth we’re told, “Jesus marveled because of their unbelief.”

Jesus could do no work in Nazareth, because they rejected who He was.

You can’t make this request without the presence of saving faith!

See Jesus’ Reaction....

[Mark 9:25-27] “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.”

[Mark 9:28-29] “And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

The disciples privately ask Jesus “why could we not cast the demon out?

In Mark 6:13, “And they cast out many demons....

Examine Jesus’ Answer

Matthew 17:20, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Main Reason: Unbelief

In Mark 6, before Jesus sent them out He “gave them power over unclean spirits.” 

The result - they were able to cast out demons.

In Mark 9, the disciples attempted to cast out the demon using their own power. 

The result - they failed at their attempt to cast out the demon.

The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have faith in their ability. 

The problem was that they didn’t seek the Lord revealing their unbelief. 

Secondary Reason: This was a different “kind” of demon. (B-Sides)

Jesus made it clear they should have prayed before attempting to cast out the demon.

Note: “And fasting” was added to the text. (B-Sides)

Q: Why did Jesus tell them they should have prayed? 

1. They should have asked if exorcizing the demon was God’s will.

2. If so, they should have asked Jesus to give them power to cast out the demon.

The interesting to consider.... maybe Jesus didn’t want them to cast out the demon, because there was a greater work that He first wanted to do in the life of the father.

The problem is that they were looking at this situation using only human eyes. If they had stopped to pray, God would have given them a different perspective on the real need.