14.  And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them.

As the Lord returns with Peter, James, and John to the other disciples, He finds them in the midst of a crowd in a heated discussion with the scribes.

15.  Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him.

Since they were present with the Lord’s disciples, why was this crowd greatly amazed to see the Lord Jesus?  Would I be amazed if I was talking to a number of the members of the Minnesota Twins baseball club and suddenly the manager of the club walked up to me?  I hardly think so!  There must have been a reason that the crowd was not expecting Him to show up at this time.  Perhaps they were expecting Him to stay on the mountain for a long period of time, or to be caught away to heaven as Elijah was, or some other great miracle.  Or maybe the disciples thought that the Lord would be away for a long period of time, and had told the crowd so.  It is hard to say exactly why they were so surprised to see the Lord at this point.  Yet it seems that they were glad to see Him, and they ran to greet Him.

16.  And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

The Lord inquires as to what the discussion is about.

17.  Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.

A man in the crowd who is the cause of the dispute speaks up to explain.  He has a demon-possessed son who has a mute spirit.

18.  “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.”

More than merely stopping him from speaking, this spirit also causes this child to have seizures.  This boy was in a sad state indeed!  Thus, this man had come to the disciples.  Perhaps they had told him that the Lord was away for some time, and so he had asked them to cast it out.  At any rate, this is what they had tried to do, but they had found that they could not do so.

19.  He 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.”

The Lord bemoans the lack of faith He sees demonstrated here.  Yet, I wonder, was the lack of faith on the man’s part, or was it on the part of His nine disciples?  The man had enough faith to come to the Lord for healing.  Can it really be his faith that was lacking?  Yet why would the disciples not have had faith in this situation, we may ask?  The answer is simpler than we might think.  Earlier, when Christ had sent them out to preach the kingdom of God, He had given them power to cast out unclean spirits (Mark 6:7.)  Therefore, every time they had attempted to cast one out, it had been an act of faith on their part.  Once they returned to the Lord, however, their commission to preach and work miracles ended, and the power to cast out demons returned to the Lord Who gave it.  Therefore, when they attempted this casting out, they had no faith, since the word that they had had faith in had now expired.  This left them to attempt to cast out the demon in their own power, which they could not do.  They should have known that they were no longer authorized to cast out demons, but they didn’t consider this.  Perhaps they thought that the power was their right rather than a privilege given them by the Lord.  They should have waited for the Lord to work the miracle since He was the only One authorized to do so at this time, but they did not.  Thus this was their lack of faith.

We can learn from this as well.  Do we have a commission to cast out demons today?  Or are we trying to work from an expired commission when we try to do so?  Not all belief counts as faith, if it is belief in something that is no longer in effect.  It did not work for these men, and it would not work for us today either.

20.  Then they brought him to Him.  And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

Now they do what both the disciples and the man should have done in the first place: bring this man to the Lord.  It seems the mute spirit is not happy to see the Lord Jesus, and so it convulses the boy, and makes him wallow on the ground, foaming at the mouth.  This must have been a frightening sight, yet it would have been clear to all who saw it that this spirit was afraid of the Lord!

21.  So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”  And he said, “From childhood.

The Lord questions the man as to how long this spirit had plagued the boy.  Of course, He could have taken divine knowledge of this, but He chose to ask instead.  Perhaps this was because He wanted those with Him to know the answer for teaching purposes.  At any rate, the father answered, and we learn that it was from his childhood.  Thus, this boy was perhaps in his adolescence, or even in young adulthood at this point.

22.  “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.”

We learn that besides making the boy mute and cause him to have seizures, the spirit had many times provoked him to attempt suicide.  This was definitely a supernatural occurrence, for people who get seizures don’t usually get them regularly only when they are standing in dangerous positions, like near fire or water!  This is an interesting fact that may give us some indication of the way demons operate, perhaps even today.  It also might shed some light on the suicide of the pigs in chapter 5.

Then the father appeals to the Lord, if He can do anything, to have compassion on them.  Yet there is no doubt necessarily implied in this statement in Greek.  He is not saying if He can do anything as if he doubted whether or not the Lord could.  Rather, he was appealing to the Lord’s compassion to work this miracle for him.  Notice, too, that he identifies himself with his son.  The Lord’s compassion will be compassion upon both of them.

23.  Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Although this man had not expressed doubt in the Lord’s ability, it seems that the Lord recognized that the father had trouble truly believing that He could heal his son.  Perhaps after all the years of hopeless and helpless struggle to help his son it was almost impossible for him to truly believe in a cure.  Notice how the Lord gives back the man’s words in the same way he gave them (“if you can,”) and throws the responsibility back on him.  Can he believe?

24.  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

The Lord’s words seemed to strike him to the heart.  No doubt he knew well his own lack of faith.  Thus, he cries out to the Lord Jesus, asking Him to help his unbelief.  When we face doubts as well, the best thing we can do is turn to the Author of faith and ask Him to increase our belief.

25.  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!”

At this point the Lord Jesus saw that the crowds were coming together.  So it seems He hurried to perform this miracle according to His policy of spreading the word about Himself as little as possible.  He speaks now to the spirit, commanding it not only to come out of the boy, but also to enter him no more.
 
26.  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.”

The spirit cannot defy an order from the Lord Jesus!  Thus, he cries out, convulses the boy one last time, and comes out of him.  When the spirit came out the boy appeared to be dead.  Perhaps the demon had been in him so long that it was difficult for him to even function without it.  This causes some of those in the crowd to doubt the Lord’s healing ability, and to conclude that His cure had killed the patient!  The Lord never failed to heal someone He set out to heal, however, and this was no exception!

27.  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

The Lord, ignoring the critical comments of the crowd, takes the boy by the hand and raises him up.  The boy responds and rises, free of the mute spirit and a recipient of the compassion his father had asked for.

28.  And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

When they come into the Lord’s house later, the disciples are curious as to their failure, and want to know why they failed to cast the spirit out.
 
29.  So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

The Lord’s answer is that this kind of spirit (and the Scriptures show there are many different kinds!) does not come out except by prayer and fasting.  The curious thing is that Christ neither prayed nor fasted when casting the spirit out.  What exactly the Lord meant by these words is difficult to ascertain.  Perhaps He was trying to indicate that prayer and fasting, not commands backed up by power, are the only way of handling demons when no specific power from God is given to cast them out.

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