The Gathering/ Pastor Barry Bruce The Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #14
Painting detail: Master, I Have Brought Unto Thee My Son by Walter Rane
Unbelieving Mark 9:14-19, 2 Corinthians 10:2-6
Jesus, and the three had just hiked down the “high mountain” (Mount Hermon) when they came upon a crowd of people surrounding the other nine disciples engaged in a heated argument with the teachers of the law. The people were “overwhelmed” to see Jesus walk up because he was no doubt the subject of the argument, then poof! There he was!
At this point I must say, whenever Jesus takes you to a mountain top experience you are bound to descend into an attack from the Devil. This is exactly what happened here! Belief was at an all time high for Peter, James and John as Jesus transfigured before them at the top of that mountain, but even as they descended from that experience doubt began to creep into their minds as they questioned among themselves what Jesus meant when he spoke to them of rising from the dead (Mark 9:10) and about Elijah coming before the Messiah (Mark 9:11). The building up of the Spirit, just like the exercise of the body seems to deplete the moment one eats his next meal. We have a nature that gravitates toward sin rather it be by caloric intake into our body or bad thinking into our brain. We must consciously fight against our flesh on all levels or be victims of it. We can take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ or we can be weighted down with sin and unbelief like everyone else by embracing the standards of this world. This is what the Apostle Paul warned the church of Corinth about and I pass on that warning to you!
Jesus’ rebuke of being an “unbelieving generation” was towards everyone present, including the three that came down that mountain with Jesus. The teachers of the law were always trying to build themselves up by taking down Jesus and the disciples with their religious rhetoric. 1.) One can never believe who never listens. The crowd was amped up for entertainment. They were not invested in boy’s deliverance from the demon that was torturing him. 2.) One can never believe until he is invested in a reason to do so . The nine disciples were stumped in their faith because of the negative attacks from the teachers of the law and the jeers from the crowd. They said the right things (“Come out in Jesus name”) but they lost confidence in the promises of Jesus as they listened to the noise around them and watched the demon thrash the boy around in the dirt. Like Peter who briefly walked on the water towards Jesus until he “saw the strength of the wind and began to sink” (Matthew 14:29-31), the nine saw the strength of the Devil and failed too. Then Jesus said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 3.) One can not see the results of faith when one is filled with doubt. Jesus rebuked them all for their unbelief, including Peter, James and John who had just demonstrated their unbelief by their questioning of him on the hike down the mountain.
Do you want to believe? Then you must 1.) Listen only to Jesus and resist the world view. 2.) You must be invested (have cause , reason, be devoted) to believe. 3.) You must not doubt the promises and power of Christ. “Bring the boy to me” , said Jesus. Do we believe?
“If?” Mark 9:20-27, Romans 10:17, James 1:22
The words “If” and “But” are insults to Jesus. We can see that clearly by Jesus’ response to the father of the demon possessed son. We must strike those words from our vocabulary. “Everything is possible for one who believes”, said Jesus! “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”, he responded. Notice that Jesus did not sprinkle heavenly magic dust on the man so that he could believe. He simply healed his boy! Jesus is always at work around us if we are looking for him and listening to his word. Do you want to overcome your unbelief? Then start looking and listening for Jesus at work in this life and stop embracing the standards of the world. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ and doing what he says (Romans 10:17, James 1:22).
The demon spirit shrieked, convulsed the boy violently, but then came out. Satan will not let go of his captive willingly. He makes a show of force so we will back down. We must never back down in unbelief ever! The boy appeared dead, but Jesus raised him up.
“Why?” Mark 9:28-29, Matthew 17:19-20
The disciples were perplexed… and later asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus’ answer is best described in both the gospel of Matthew and Mark and most expressively in the King James Version which includes “prayer and fasting”. Once again we see the three points of today’s lesson: 1.) To listen is to pray, 2.) To be invested is to fast (give up the physical to invest in the spiritual) 3.) To have no doubt is to have faith. Nothing is impossible with even a small bit (mustard seed) of faith. Let us take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ and punish every thought that is contrary. This is how our faith will grow. And this is how we light our candle on the front porch of hell!
Note: Matthew 17:21 is omitted in the NIV and other versions because the oldest copies of the Bible did not have this verse. It was later added to reflect Mark’s gospel.)
“Dead” John 11:25-26, 40-44, Philippians 3:17-21
“Dead” seems pretty final in the world’s view, but faith in Christ will raise the believer up. Jesus raised that “corpse” of a boy up! Jesus raised Lazarus up from the dead too. Later, Jesus raised himself from the dead and then that boy and Lazarus died again. We are to pray, fast and have faith to cast out demons and heal the sick. These things testify that Jesus is Lord and yet the ultimate healing and testimony will come when our earthly body dies and we are resurrected into everlasting life with him. This is foolishness in the world’s view, but we are not of this world. With Martha Jesus asks us for our response too. “Do you believe?”
For those feeling that your faith is smaller than a “mustard seed”, even microscopic, be encouraged. Like those nine disciples that attempted but failed in their faith, the Master backed them up and his will prevailed. Like Peter who cried out in the waves, the Master grabbed his pleading hand. Nonetheless, you do the task of a disciple and believe. Listen only to Jesus, be invested in following him fully and take every thought captive to believe in him and don’t doubt. The world may call you foolish, but only such foolish folk will be in heaven one day.