A Welcome Intrusion
ďAnd when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.Ē
When our Lord Jesus came down off the mount of transfiguration, he found his disciples being harassed by the scribes, apparently because they were not able to perform the miracle of casting out the demon which possessed a young man who was brought to them. When the Lord Jesus saw what was going on, he immediately stepped in to defend the nine disciples who were baffled by their inability to perform this miracle and baffled by the learned scribes who were disputing with them. He asked the scribes why they were disputing with (questioning) his disciples. But, before the scribes said anything, before any of the disciples said anything, a man butted into the conversation.
Normally, in polite society, such an intrusion is looked upon as rudeness and is disdained. However, this manís intrusion was most welcome because it was the intrusion of a desperate, loving father for his demon possessed son. This poor man cared nothing for the dispute between the scribes and our Masterís disciples. His son was possessed of the devil! His son was pining away under satanic influence. His son was perishing and he was helpless. Therefore, he came directly, as soon as he had opportunity, to the only One who could help. He brought his son to the Son of God, seeking mercy, grace, and life for his son by the power of our great and glorious Savior.
The first thing I see in this passage is the fact that mountain-top experiences seldom last very long. The contrast between this paragraph and the one preceding it is striking and must not be overlooked. We move from the mount of transfiguration to the valley of sorrow, from the vision of Christís glory to a sad, sad history of Satanís power and influence in the life of one young man.
Peter, James, and John had been in the blessed company of Moses and Elijah. They had just heard God the Father speaking from heaven. They had just seen the Son of God transfigured before their eyes. Now they come into the scene of conflict, pain, weakness, and misery. Here is a boy in agony, tormented by the devil. Here is a father with a broken heart, in deep distress. Here is a band of weak disciples baffled by Satanís power and unable to help.
That is a fairly vivid picture of every Christianís life in this world. Mountain-top experiences are delightful, blessed times; but we must not expect them too often or expect too many of them. Most of the believerís life is spent in conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our blessed visions of glory, those sweet foretastes of heaven, those seasons spent on the holy mount with the Lord are to be seized and enjoyed when God gives them. But that is the exception, not the norm. When we are in the valley, let us try always to remember that the Lord Jesus comes to his disciples in the valley, just as he does in the mountain. He always comes, manifesting himself to us at precisely the right time. And the sorrows and conflicts of our valleys are as much by divine arrangement as the joys of our mountain-tops.
We are also reminded by this story that we are utterly and entirely dependent upon our Lord Jesus Christ. This is brought out very clearly in these verses. Like Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai, our Lord found his disciples in a state of complete confusion. They were under the assault of a malicious group of scribes. The occasion of this was the fact that they had attempted to cast the demon out of this manís son without success. These are the same men who had, just a short time earlier, done many miracles and cast out many devils. Yet, before this man and his son, they were utterly helpless.
These disciples learned by humble experience a very needful lesson. It is a lesson we must learn, a lesson that must be burned into our hearts. You will find it in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to his chosen disciples in John 15:5. He said, ďWithout me ye can do nothing.Ē This is a lesson contrary to our flesh and bitter. But it is a lesson demonstrated over and over again in Scripture. We must not forget it. If the Lord leaves us to ourselves, we have no strength to do anything or in any way resist the devil. The experience of Noah, Abraham, Lot, David, and Peter are written in bold letters to remind us of this fact. May God the Holy Spirit teach us daily that we are weak, weakness itself, and utterly helpless without the wisdom, presence, and grace of Christ, which he alone can give us.
This story is also recorded upon the pages of Holy Scripture to teach us and warn us of the horror of satanic power. Let no one imagine that Satan is a fictional force of evil. Let none laugh and think that Satan is just a religious boogie man conjured up by crotchety old men to scare little children. In this inspired narrative we hear a father describe the power and influence of Satan over his son as a foul spirit and a destructive spirit. The demon that controlled this young man was a deaf and dumb spirit. And the demon possessing this child possessed his heart as well as his body as a lunatic spirit (Matthew 17:15). Matthew describes his condition as a form of epilepsy, which causes fainting and dumbness, which John Gill identifies as, ďa delirium of the heart.Ē
This demon took possession of this young man as a mere child. This is a matter of deepest importance. We must labor to do good to our children and to serve the interests of their souls, even from their earliest years. If Satan begins early to destroy them, we must begin early to save them. We must, to the best of our ability, control who has influence over them, choosing their friends and companions, instruct them in the Scriptures and the blessed gospel of Christ, and pray for them.
Weak Faith, but True Faith
We also see in this passage another of the numerous examples given in Scripture of the dual nature of the believer. Who can read this paragraph and fail to see that faith and unbelief, righteousness and sin are found in the same person? The father of this child said, ďLord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.Ē He believed. Yet, he had some doubts. He brought his child with hope. Yet, he was fearful. He seems to express this honestly in verse 22. He said to Christ, ďIf thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.Ē
You may think, ďThatís not much faith.Ē You would be right in your thinking if you did. But it was enough. He took his son home completely freed of the demonís power. He had faith as a grain of mustard seed; but it was true, God-given faith. None of Godís people in this world are perfect, not even in a single area. It is not our faith, neither its strength, nor its quality, nor its quantity that matters, but Christ, the Object of our faith.
Though this manís faith was weak, it was true. It was the gift of God in him. He shows us by example that though our faith may be weak, we have cause, as Robert Hawker observed, ďto bless God, for the smallest degree of faith than for all the riches of the world.Ē Faith brought him to Christ. His faith caused him to confess his conscious weakness of faith before the omnipotent One who had given him faith. And his faith obtained the mercy he needed. Do you have such faith, even as a grain of mustard seed? If so, bless God for it. Faith in Christ is the evidence of our union with Christ and of our salvation by him (Acts 10:43; 13:48; Hebrews 11:1-2). Let us desire and pray for greater faith, while we cherish the smallest measure of faith, by which our calling and election are proved and made sure to our souls.
We are taught here, by vivid example the totality of Christís dominion. There are many who foolishly imagine that Satan and the demons of hell are rivals to God, that they are somehow out of control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The devil is Godís devil. He is under Godís control. God uses him to accomplish his own purposes. And when he gets done with him, he will destroy him.
Do you see this? Our Lord Jesus Christ exercises total dominion over Satan and his agents at all times. He speaks with almighty, sovereign authority, and Satan and his demons immediately, implicitly, and totally obey his voice. Satan is strong, malicious, and busy. We are no match for him. But the Lord Jesus Christ is yet able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him. He saves his elect from Satanís power. Satan can never snatch us from our Saviorís almighty, omnipotent hands. And, soon the God of peace will bruise Satan under our heels (Romans 16:20).
No doubt, this story is recorded upon the pages of Inspiration to remind us again of the privileges and responsibilities of believing parents. We cannot save our children. We cannot change their nature. We cannot give them life and faith in Christ. Many believing men and women have raised a house full of rebels. Let none of us arrogantly and ignorantly imagine that because children are wicked something must be amiss with the parents. Such talk betrays the pride and stupidity of a man who has never raised a family!
Yet, there are some things we can and must do for our children. We can do for our sons and daughters what this man did for his son. He brought his son to the Savior, to the place where Christ was to be found. We can and must bring our children with us to the house of God. He brought the Savior to his Son by fervent prayer. He acknowledged his sonís condition to the Lord Jesus. He told the Lord Jesus plainly that his son, the child he dearly loved, was deaf and dumb, a lunatic, wicked to the core of his being, and dying. He added that he had always been like that from his youth.
His sonís desperate need was his need. His prayer was not, ďHave compassion on him, and help him.Ē His prayer was, ďHave compassion on us, and help us!Ē
His son did not believe God; but he believed God for his son. He could not believe instead of his son as a proxy. There is no such thing as proxy faith. But he did believe for his son. This man understood that foolishness is bound in the heart of every child. The rod of correction must be used to drive it from him; but only the grace of God can effectually deliver a sinner from the foolishness that is in him and from the power of Satan that rules him.
This passage of Scripture is also an instructive, beautiful picture of Godís mighty operations of grace. Whenever God saves a sinner, there are certain things you can expect to see, and certain things you can expect to happen. I do not suggest by any means that all who are saved have the same experiences; but every believerís experience is similar. Death is death. Life is life. Grace is grace. And salvation is salvation. This is how God performs it. This is how the Lord God performs his mighty operations of grace in us.
First, when God saves a sinner, there is a divine call. The Master said, ďBring him unto meĒ (v. 19). So it is with all to whom God is gracious. He commands them to come to Christ and commands all creation to bring them to him, saying, ďBring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earthĒ (Isaiah 43:6).
Whenever the Lord Jesus calls sinners to himself, as they are coming to him, there is usually a satanic throw (v. 20). When the Savior calls the sinner to himself, Satan is now in a rage because he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12).
Third, when the Lord comes to give eternal life, there is a hopeful slaughter. He kills before he makes alive. He brings us down before he lifts us up. That is vividly set before us in verses 25-26.
ďWhen Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.Ē
Then, blessed be his name, when the Lord Jesus comes in saving power, there is a resurrection from the dead. — ďJesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he aroseĒ (v. 27). The new birth is a resurrection from spiritual death to life eternal by the power and operation of Godís omnipotent mercy (John 5:25; Ephesians 2:1-5; Revelation 20:6).
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