“And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. 15 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. 16 And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? 17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. 22 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. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 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. 26 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. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. 28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:14-29).
The story is set forth of Christ casting a demon out of a child (cf. Matt 17:14). It is a tender story, but raises some difficult questions. “How is it possible for a child to become demon possessed?” “By what means do demons enter into the body of humans?”
One way for demons to invade the mind and body is to invite them to come in. In our country, directly, and indirectly, on a daily basis, the forces of evil are being courted. The 2017 movie targeted for children has the title The Little Vampire. A young child says in the advertisement “It’s great to be a vampire.” Then there is the psyche hotline. Promises are made to help anyone and everyone with their problems—for a price of course.
What all of this means is that demonic interest will lead to demonic infiltration. The safest course of action is to stay away from the world of the occult, and everything associated with the demons of darkness—including Halloween activities. However, once demon possession becomes a horrifying reality there is great wisdom in bringing the matter before the church, and before Christ, as we read was done in Mark’s gospel.
As the story unfolds, the Lord Jesus was returning from the Mount of Transfiguration to be with His disciples. Jesus “laid aside His robes of glory, and came to look after His family, and to inquire of them. Christ’s glory above, does not make Him forget the concerns of the Church below, which He visits in great humility” (Matthew Henry). In the return to His disciples Jesus arrived in time to help, for they were surrounded by an agitated crowd. Emotions were volatile because the disciples found themselves helpless in a very important spiritual situation.
Suddenly Jesus appeared to ask the scribes, “Why do you question my disciples. Talk to me.” Immediately those who saw Christ were surprised and “greatly amazed”. Now why were the people amazed?
The surprise of the people can be attributed to a belief that the Lord had gone into the mountains and was not coming back. But why were they amazed? Perhaps the answer is that the people noticed something unusual in the countenance of the Lord.
It may be that the face of the Lord was like that of Moses when He came down from the mount and the people of Israel were afraid to come near him (Ex. 34:30). It is possible that there was in the physical presence of Christ vigor and vitality in his looks, which amazed the people, and they were afraid. The purpose for the gathering of the crowd, and the questioning of the disciples, was told to Jesus. One of the men spoke up to say, “Lord, I brought unto you my son which has a dumb spirit.”
With these words the father’s heartbreak and desperation was revealed. His child was demon possessed. The child was neither mentally ill, nor physiologically sick. This was a spiritual concern of the most severe nature. The child was demon possessed according to the evidence.
The child stopped talking all at once. The demon made the boy dumb.
The child was restless. He was constantly moving from one place to the next with great energy.
The child engaged in acts of self-mutilation. On one occasion the demon cast the boy into a fire.
Another time the demon tried to drown the child.
The child ground his teeth, and gnashed at others.
The child became anorexic. His body was worn to a skeleton.
In desperation the father wanted to bring the child to Jesus, but the Lord was on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. So, the father appealed to the disciples left behind. “Andrew help me!”
“Bartholomew, please, do something!” “Thomas, look at my child!” “Thaddeus, Simon, Juda, Matthew! Please! Someone do something!”
But the disciples could not help. Oh, how sad that moment was. A desperate father brought his spiritual problem to those closest to the Lord and they could not help him.
The thought comes that sometimes people come to the church today only to find that the church cannot help.
Sometimes the church cannot help because of ignorance. Many of God’s people do not know their Bibles, and so they feel inadequate to offer spiritual comfort and counsel. It is for good reason that the command comes to the Church, to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Sometimes the church cannot help in spiritual matters because there is some sin in the soul that is not dealt with.
In the book of Joshua, we read of a man named Achan (lit. “troublesome”) a son of Carmi, of the tribe of Judah. By one incident of his life Achan attained a disgraceful notoriety. Before the conquering Jews took Jericho, the city was put under an awful ban whereby all the inhabitants (excepting Rahab and her family) were consigned to destruction, all the combustible goods were to be burned, and the metals were to be consecrated to God (Deut. 7:16,23-26; Josh. 6:17-19).
After Jericho fell (1400 BC) the whole nation kept the vow, with the exception of Achan. His covetousness made him unfaithful, and, the opportunity presenting itself, he took a “beautiful mantle from Shinar [or Babylonia, NIV] and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels’ in weight” (Josh. 7:21).
No one knew that Achan had taken the items and broken the law of God. No one knew that there was sin in the camp, and so the nation moved forward to take the next city, Ai. Ai should have been taken easily. However, an expedition of three thousand men sent against the city was repulsed. It was a stunning defeat, and people were perplexed. The soldiers reported to Joshua what had happened, who inquired of the Lord concerning the cause of the disaster. The answer was that “Israel has sinned, . . . they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived” (Josh. 7:11). This was the reason for Israel’s defeat, there was an awful sin in the heart of someone.
When the church in the wilderness should have been powerful before its enemies, it was powerless.
Joshua was commanded to find out the offender by casing lots. In this manner Achan was identified and, being exhorted by Joshua, made a confession of his guilt, which was verified by the finding of the spoil in his tent (Josh. 7:14; Prov. 16:33).
Once the matter was dealt with, the church in the wilderness found that it had great spiritual power once more. Sometimes the church cannot help in spiritual matters because it does not pray. The prayer meeting should be one of the best-attended meetings of the Church. God’s people must be a people of prayer. C. H. Spurgeon reminds us that “All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer.”
In Mark 9:29 the Bible says that the reason the disciples could not help the child was because they did not pray. Let it be said plainly. “Only a praying church can help people with their problems. And the greater the spiritual concerns the more the church must pray.”
Despite the prayerlessness of the disciples, despite their fears and frailties, the presence of Christ overshadowed all, so that the man who needed a miracle for his child would have it. When the child was brought to Christ the Bible says that the demon inside reacted. The child was thrown onto the ground and began to thrash about in an uncontrollable manner. I hope young people remember that. Demons have no respect for the body, or the soul. Demons are selfish. The world of the occult is dangerous. The forces of evil are nothing to laugh at, or be involved with directly, or indirectly, including video games like Dungeons and Dragons. When given an opportunity, demons will hurt every soul they touch. When a parent finds their child possessed in some form by the demonic, there are four courses of action that can be taken.
First, pray. If the disciples of Christ can pray and fast and exorcise demons, so can parents, and the church today. The promise of Mark 16:17 is still valid. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He said that “these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils”.
Second, bring the matter before the Church. As the man brought the child to the disciples, certain spiritual matters can be brought before the Church. Alongside the parents, the church can pray, and those who can will fast.
Third, bring the matter before the Lord Himself. The man stated that his original intent was to find Jesus (Mark 9:17). A matter is brought before the Lord through the instrument of faith.
Faith is part of the Christian experience from beginning to end. Saving faith believes that Jesus lives, having died for sins (Eph. 2:8, 9). Sustaining faith believes that Jesus cares about our personal needs. Healing faith dares to believe, when given permission to believe, that Jesus can cure our sicknesses according to His sovereign will.
Fourth, a plea can be offered for mercy. We read that the father pleaded with Jesus saying, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Lord, help the child and help me.” The father identified himself with the sufferings of the child.
When prayers are offered, when the church is gathered, when faith is present, and when divine compassion is appealed to, it might be that spiritual power will be unleashed. On this occasion it was. Healing and health came back to a troubled child.
Manifesting his omnipotent power Jesus rebuked the odious demonic spirit saying, “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him” (Mark 9:25). And the spirit obeyed. With a terrible shriek the vocal cords of the child were used by the demon to protest his eviction, but the demon left, and the child was left exhausted. A holy hush fell over the crowd as people stared at the child. “He is dead,” someone whispered. “He does not move.” Then, “Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.” The miracle was over. The child was healed. The crowd was impressed. The scribes were silenced. And the disciples who were disappointed they were not of more help learned to pray. There are some lessons to be learned from this narrative.
First, the Lord is always grieved with lack of faith. Commenting on this facet of the situation Jesus said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me” (Mark 9:19). It is possible that these words were directed at the disciples for not having fasted and prayed more. It is more probable that the words were directed to the scribes who had been questioning the disciples. The scribes would have rejoiced in the spiritual powerlessness of the apostles. The Lord calls them a “faithless generation” of whom He is weary.
Second, there is a time element that takes place in the process of healing. While we want to be cured and healed immediately, the day of divine deliverance is often delayed until sovereign grace can be recognized, and spiritual lessons can be learned. By way of personal application, all men need the Lord to come and deliver from the forces of darkness. Ephesians 5:8 reminds us “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”
Third, it is the will of the Lord that the life of the Christian be lived in openness and light (1 John 1:7). And it is the will of the Christian to want Christ to cast out the spiritual forces that binds the soul to sins. We want to be set free. If that is the testimony of your heart then pray to that end, enlist the resources of the church gathered, and have faith that Christ will help, while pleading for divine compassion. “If we yearned after God even as much as a cow yearns for her calf, we would be the worshipping and effective believers God wants us to be. If we longed for God as a bride looks forward to the return of her husband, we would be a far greater force for God than we are now” (A. W. Tozer).