Faithlife Sermons

HG087 Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:22
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Mark 9:14–29 NIV
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23 “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Down the mountain Jesus and His three disciples, Peter, James and John came. They literally had a mountaintop experience. But they must have heard the melee as they got closer to the bottom. This reminds me of when Moses and Joshua had been at the top of the mountain to get the Ten Words from God and coming down they could also hear noise in the camp. They had been up the mountain for 40 days and in that time the people had become restless and faithless and had made a golden calf and were partying like there was no tomorrow.
I’m not sure how long Jesus and His disciples had been up the mountain - a day and a night or maybe a week. At the bottom of the mountain were the remaining nine disciples and the lack of contact with Jesus had also made them faith-less as we shall see. The responsibility for the ministry had been left in their hands whilst Jesus had been away, a true delegation on His part and also a test of what the disciples had actually learned. Unfortunately, they failed. But it did become another learning experience for them.
When Jesus arrives back He rejoined the remaining disciples and there had been some heated discussions going on. So, Jesus asked what was going on. He addressed this to the scribes rather than to the disciples but there was no answer from them. They had travelled all the way up from Jerusalem to keep an eye on Him and His disciples. In fact, they were there to be discordant, to disrupt, to abuse. They were ridiculing the disciples for their failure. They were belittling their credentials to minister no doubt saying that exorcisms should be done their way and by them alone.
The Gospel according to Mark (King James Version) E. The Problem of Spiritual Immaturity and Powerlessness, 9:14–29

Why do the servants of God fail? Why do they often lack power? Why does their faith weaken? This experience of the disciples reveals much about spiritual failure and lack of power.

1. A sense that Christ is far away and out of reach makes one ineffective. The indwelling presence and power of Christ are just not felt—not to the extent that they need to be available. In the above situation Christ was absent, but His power was still available. The disciples were just not all that aware of His power.

2. The lack of leadership causes the faith and loyalty of some to weaken. The nine disciples apparently had no leader to stand forth as a champion of faith and power.

I’m sure that there are other reasons why we can become powerless such as a believer living a sinful life, a life so sinful that his faith becomes weak, and therefore, his ministry becomes powerless.
The Gospel according to Mark (King James Version) E. The Problem of Spiritual Immaturity and Powerlessness, 9:14–29

What happens when the servants of God have no power? What are the results of a powerless life and ministry?

⇒ No power causes embarrassment and shame.

⇒ No power causes the world to question and ridicule and belittle.

⇒ No power questions the deity (validity) of Christ and God.

⇒ No power causes the questioning of God and His ability to deliver.

The answer to no power is given by Christ. Power comes (1) by seeking and (2) by prayer

Well, the silence of the Scribes to His question was instead answered by a man in the crowd, the father of the one that seems to have caused everything that was now happening around them.
The Gospel according to Mark (King James Version) E. The Problem of Spiritual Immaturity and Powerlessness, 9:14–29

Demon possession and epilepsy were cursed diseases, diseases that caused isolation and rejection by society. Because of society’s reaction, families were often embarrassed when a member was afflicted. Just imagine this scene. The child and father were right in the midst of a shameful experience. They were the subject of the questioning and ridicule. Imagine their embarrassment in being the focus of the crowd’s attention, their problem of demon possession, and their having sought help from apparent frauds.

We find out that the father had come to see Jesus, instead he met his disciples. Furthermore, his disciples had not been successful, they lacked the power to cast the evil spirit out. As a result his faith had practically been destroyed.
Perhaps this is the case with British Christianity that Christians have also lost faith. They are used to a powerless Christianity and therefore their faith is shallow rather than enlarged in a God who created the universe.
The trust that Jesus placed in His nine disciples seems to have been misplaced. Hence His despair: O faithless generation, how long must I be with you. To whom is He talking? Was it to those around? The crowd? The Scribes? Jesus certainly include them for He says similar things to the Pharisees in other places. But it was, at least in part, to those nine disciples.
These disciples had seen Jesus at work and perform so many miracles. Yet, on this occasion they did not believe. This is very much like the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They saw God's power against Pharaoh; they saw God's power in crossing the Red Sea; they did not believe He was able to provide for them in the desert and even thought that maybe God had brought them there to destroy them, which, in the end, became a self-fulling prophecy for those over the age of 20. Even after God provided manna they doubted about water, about meat and about many other things.
In the time it took Jesus to go up and down the mountain the disciples had become lax in their faith. Though, even now, Jesus had not lost patience with His disciples.
Now the true lesson begins…Bring the boy to me.
The father is now on his knees according to Matthew and Luke has the father saying to Jesus: I beg you to look at my son, he is my only child.
After such a difficult and disheartening beginning the father’s faith was weak and needed strengthening.
Jesus asked him about his son.
Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

In drawing the man out, Jesus allowed him to unburden himself, and to again recognize the desperate extremity of his boy’s plight. Think how the father felt seeing his maimed, burnt son wallowing in the dirt, staring up with an unearthly look through terror-filled eyes. Because of his convulsions, he could not even talk or hear.

Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

He cared as no one else ever had, and the father could see it in his eyes. There never has been compassion like that of Jesus! This divine compassion is what drew out the father’s desperate cry: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

The Gospel according to Mark (King James Version) E. The Problem of Spiritual Immaturity and Powerlessness, 9:14–29

It is not so much our faith as it is our cry for mercy and compassion that arouses God to help us. It is not so much our faith as the object of our faith (God Himself) that saves us

Now, what do we make of Jesus response? If you can, Jesus says. How did Jesus say it? Did He say it roughly or gently? As a statement or a question? Remember Jesus was trying to draw his faith out, not destroy it. Anything is possible to those who believe.
Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

This is one of the most abused verses in the Bible today. People have ripped it from its context and made it the rationale for saying that their wishes will come true if they can just mount enough faith! There are some who even teach that faith can control God, that if you believe enough, God has to do it! That is man-made, man-centered religion. The fact is, faith must never go farther than God’s clear promises, for “whatever goes beyond God’s Word is not faith, but something else assuming its appearance.

Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

say a parent is greatly concerned over a sick child’s health and longs for the child’s recovery. So he says to himself, “I believe that Christ can heal him. I also believe that he will. I will pray in faith, and I know that I will certainly be answered.” Wrong! Such a prayer goes beyond God’s Word. Certainly Christ can heal his child, but Christ has not told him that his child will indeed be healed. Our faith can be misplaced. This is where so many believers fall short.

Yet there are times when we do not believe God can do anything! There are souls we consider impossible. There are healings we think are beyond his power. In this we also sin!

We fail to believe the promises of his Word, or to pray in faith for their fulfillment. Great things would take place if we would pray for them: salvation of whole peoples, revivals, power in the Church, miracles—both physical and spiritual. There are times when God reveals through his Spirit that he is going to do a specific healing, and in that case the believer can and must pray in faith.

I have experienced this in my own ministry. The Holy Spirit has given me the subjective assurance that he was going to heal one who was ill, I have prayed in faith, and the person was healed. James 5:14, 15 refers to this phenomena when it says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church …” (implicitly, as the Holy Spirit prompts him or her to do so). Then the elders can offer a prayer “in faith” (that the Spirit will fulfill his prompting and bring healing), “[a]nd the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”

We must remember it is not faith that saves, nor is it faith that heals, nor is it faith itself that does anything. Faith indicates trust. It is in whom we put our trust. It is God who saves. God who heals. God who does anything at all. But we must put our faith in this God through Jesus Christ and as it says in Hebrews 11:6 He rewards those who diligently seek Him in faith.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke E. Healing a Boy with an Evil Spirit (9:14–29)

Jesus’ statement, which is really a promise, elicited faith from the father. “I do believe,” he exclaimed; but he recognized that his faith was far from perfect (v. 24). It was still mixed with unbelief. So in a beautiful display of honesty, he asked Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief. Calvin (2:325) comments: “He declares that he believes and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief. These two statements may appear to contradict each other but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself”

Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

His faith was trembling, imperfect, but real! A faith which declares itself publicly, and at the same time recognizes its weaknesses and pleads for help, is a real faith.

Jesus heard his cry and answered.

At Jesus’ command, the deaf and dumb spirit cries out and comes out of the writhing boy (v. 26). All of the signs of death sweep over the boy, “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (v. 27). By this act, Jesus keeps the theme of His death and Resurrection in the minds of the disciples. The demon’s shriek, the boy’s lifeless body, and the Lord’s lifting hand will be remembered the next time that Jesus speaks of His Passion

Mark Additional Notes §16

Lifted him to his feet is literally “raised him,” the same term used to describe the action of God in raising Jesus from the dead,

The boy was dead to intents and purposes yet Jesus lifted him and he was healed.
Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Answer: Power Through Faith / Belief (vv. 19b-27)

The Lord gave the boy back his mind, his hearing, his speech, his boyhood, his hope, his visions—and he gave him a faith. Could it have been otherwise?

Power comes to the Church when there is faith.

Relationship with God is the point of all this. Jesus drew the attention of the father to Himself. With His disciples He made clear that relationship with God must come first and foremost. A closer walk with God brings other things that are needful for ministry. Without relationship there is no power, for God comes before power.
Verses 28-29 are a review and conclusion to this episode. Why were the disciples so powerless? We’ve already addressed this but mainly they were self-reliant instead of dependent upon God.
Preaching the Word: Mark—Jesus, Servant and Savior Power Comes Through Prayer (vv. 28, 29)

they were self-deceived in somehow thinking that the gift they had received for exorcism was under their own control and could be exercised at will. Thus, they did not think to pray! They forgot that there had to be radical dependence if God’s power was to course through their lives.

The lesson is profound because it is so simple. We can be called and gifted, prepared and ordained, to be the disciples of Jesus Christ, but if we do not remain in constant contact with the source of our power, we will fail in crisis.

What if we, as a Church, were more prayerful? What could be the result?
It is those who know their God who shall do exploits! It is those of us who know God who will do great things. We will do amazing things because of the God in whom we trust! It was William Carey, that great baptist missionary, one of the founders of BMS, who said: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” This is only possible through a vital, living, prayerful Christian life. Therein we shall find the power for every situation.


Ephesians 3:20–21 NKJV
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Gaebelein, F. E., Carson, D. A., Wessel, W. W., & Liefeld, W. L. (1984). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. (1996). The Gospel according to Mark. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
McKenna, D. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Mark (Vol. 25). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 23:00 24 August 2018.
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