“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Over the past few weeks, we have looked at some wonderful passages of Scripture. I have titled this series --- Presence – Promises – Power – Possibilities and Purpose. You could call it the five “P’s”! The first week we learned that God is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. The second week we looked at the promises of the Bible and even sang, “Standing on the Promises.” What promises are you standing on today? Last week, we looked at one of my favorite passages found in Ephesians 1:15-23. In this prayer Paul tells us we have been given an incomparably great power. We learned that the Greek word for power is “dunamis” and it means that we have this dynamite, this incomparable power to live in this world.
Today we turn to a reading in Mark about a miraculous healing of a demon-possessed boy. This miracle is recorded in three of the four Gospels. You can read this account in Matthew chapter 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-43 and in our reading today found in Mark. This marvelous miracle comes right after Jesus was transfigured. Next week we will look at transfiguration to transformation.
Before we go to God’s promises of unlimited possibilities, let us come to the Lord in prayer. “God of all possibilities, come today and enter into our hearts and help us to truly believe that all things are possible with You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
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 “O 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 him 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 evil 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.”.[i]
In 1996, a survey was taken of 521 clergy and laymen attending the National Council of Churches: General Assembly in Miami Beach. The survey showed a movement away from traditional belief:
v Little more than half believed Jesus to be divine.
v Only one-fourth thought biblical miracles literally happened.
v One-third declared the devil “definitely does not exist.”
v Only sixty-two percent looked forward with “complete certainty” to a life after death.[ii]
In 2018 Pew Research did an extensive research on what people believe. Here are a few highlights: 80% of Americans believe in God but 19% do not believe in a god or higher power. Of the 80% who believe in God, only 56% believe in the God of the Bible. Some interesting notes made by Pew Research: the higher a person was educated the less they believed in God. The younger generations, aged 18-40-year-olds, 30% do not believe in the God of the Bible. One of the fastest growing religions in America with over half a million people is Wicca, which is white witchcraft which elevates the self or the “god-within” as the higher power.
My “So what?” question comes early this morning! So what do you believe about God? So what do you believe about Jesus? So what do you believe about the Holy Spirit? So what do you believe about faith, grace, love, mercy, justice healings, miracles, or the resurrection? So what do you believe? Do you believe Jesus is divine? Do you believe miracles happen today? Do you believe there a devil? Do you believe that there is life after death? Is everything possible to those who believe?
MOUNTAIN TOPS --- TO VALLEYS BELOW
I don’t know if you know by now --- but I love the Lord Jesus and I believe in Him with all my heart! I love to read about Him, talk about Him and see his glory manifested here on earth. In my years of ministry, I have had many opportunities to see the majesty and the mystery of God’s greatness and glory. I have also witnessed some who were possessed with some forms of evil.
Peter, James and John had been walking with Jesus for a little over two years. They had seen plenty of miracles. They had seen the greatness of God manifested in the calming of the storm, the feeding of the five thousand, the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead. The three of them were up on the mountain top and they saw Jesus transfigured, talking with Moses and Elijah. What’s the first thing Peter wants to do? Stay on the mountain top. “Let’s build three huts and stay here awhile.” I find it funny that Peter only offered to build three huts, there were six men on the mountain!
One main principal we can glean from today’s reading is that as much as we’d like to, we can’t stay up on the mountaintop for the rest of our lives. Whenever we have a mountaintop experience, where we get a glimpse of God’s glory and greatness, we need to remember that very soon we will have to go back down the mountain into the valley of REALITY.
Here are a few biblical examples: Way back in Exodus, Moses went up Mount Sinai to talk with God; Moses had a very powerful mountaintop experience. God gave him the Ten Commandments. I am sure Moses couldn’t wait to get down the mountain to tell the people what had happened! “I have two hand-carved tablets of stone with ten simple rules!” Instead, while Moses was up on the mountaintop, his people were making a golden calf from their gold items in order to worship the calf. (Exodus 32) Moses had just returned from a powerful mountain-top experience only to crash into the valley of life.
The second example I want to use is found in 1 Kings 18-19. We are told of another powerful mountaintop experience. Elijah, one of the greatest of all the prophets, confronted all 450 false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. While there, God showed up in a mighty way and brought fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice. The people of Israel turned back to God and killed all the false prophets. So far, so good, but now Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, threatens Elijah. Jezebel says that she will do to Elijah what was done to her prophets. Fearing for his life, Elijah runs from Mount Carmel mountaintop into the desert--where he lays down and wants to die.
This morning, we are here in the Gospel of Mark, and we have both of these characters named Moses and Elijah on a mountaintop with Jesus. Think about that for just a moment. Moses—has experience with God on a mountaintop and so does Elijah. Once again, we read of how God’s majesty and mystery envelopes the men who are on the mountaintop. Maybe, just maybe, Moses and Elijah were preparing Jesus for the reality check of the valley below. Perhaps Moses was reminding Jesus of what happened to him on the mountaintop and what followed in the valley as the people worshiped a cow! Maybe Elijah was reminding Jesus of how God came through in a powerful way for him up on Mt. Carmel—and then how Jezebel ruined everything by chasing him into the desert as he feared for his life.
In our story today, we are told that as soon as Jesus, Peter, James and John traveled down the mountain, a large crowd descended upon them. We are told the story of the father and his demon-possessed son.
Jesus had just experienced a very powerful, mountain-top experience only to come crashing into the valley of life below. I think our Gospel-writing friend is trying to tell us a secret through this story: GET READY TO GET SMASHED, CRASHED, and BASHED after your exhilarating GOD MOMENTS on the MOUNTAIN TOP!
I have been on many spiritual retreats. I have had some powerful God moments of mountain highs only to come crashing back down into the valley of the reality of everyday life. It’s fun alright to spend time on the mountaintops of life…but I think we all need to remember that we live in the valley! And it is in the valleys of life that we are called to have faith.
TALE OF TWO SONS
I want to stop for a moment and look at this story as a tale of two sons.
Jesus God’s Son Unnamed Son
Jesus is God-possessed Demon-Possessed
Father is well-pleased Father is tortured with displeasure
Filled with glorious plans for the ages Disassociated, Disconnected, Demented & No Plans
Destroyer of demons Destroyed by demons
Unlimited Possibilities Impossible Life
Both sons were given back to their fathers. The demon-possessed son was delivered to his father, healed, whole and complete. Before Jesus returned to His Father, he was killed, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
I thought a lot about this story this week. I thought a lot about mountaintop experiences and the two sons. I thought about my life and yours. This has been one very hectic week. During the past few weeks, I have been overwhelmed with ministry. It seems that each day runs together with appointments, meetings and ministry, Bible Studies and sermon preparations. At times I feel like there can not be one more thing asked of me! And I begin to limit God’s possibilities! The word that comes to mind is IMPOSSIBLE.
Haver you ever done that? Limit God’s possibilities!
IF YOU CAN --- EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE
When I was working on my message for this week, I was stopped in my reading by verses 23-24. It is the encounter with the father of the demon-possessed boy and Jesus. Did you catch the wording and statement? The father says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Can you put yourself in this story for a minute? This father has agonized and wrestled with his son’s illness for years. Somehow, he had heard about Jesus and his ministry. He’d heard about the healing the sick, curing of the lepers, giving sight to the blind and even raising the dead. He comes to Jesus and says, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
What a simple prayer! “Jesus, if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
I was stopped by Jesus’ answer, “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
I wondered how Jesus really said, “If you can?” was it said sarcastically, defensively, sadly, causally or cautiously? Jesus’ reply is really in two statements. The first is a question. I love how Jesus answers a question with a question. The father says --- “If you can do anything, take pity on us?” Jesus answers with a question, “If you can?”
The poor father is facing Jesus, and I believe that Jesus is saying, “It’s not a question of whether I can do it, but will you believe, for everything is possible for him who believes.” If the man doesn’t believe, his son is going to remain as he is.
Now comes one of the great responses in all of Scripture: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
When you hear the word possible what comes to mind? The secular meaning of possible means being within the limits of capacity or having potential. However, the Greek word for “possible” is “dunatos” which means “strong, mighty, powerful, to be able.” Of course, it is very close to the word we looked at last week “dunamis” which was power. This word is used many times in the Bible. Jesus used it often to describe faith.
When the helpless father responds to Jesus’ question, he responds with two present-active verbs. The first verb he uses is “I do believe --- pisteuo.” In essence, the father is saying, “I will continually, I will not stop, I will never stop putting my trust in you, relying on you, confidently leaning on and believing in You, Jesus.” The other verb is “help --- boetheo” which means “never stop coming to my aid or giving me help or assistance.” “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
What a simple prayer! What a simple reply! What a simple way to live your life! Constantly, continually, repeatedly and persistently leaning on, relying on, trusting in and believing on and in God…and then asking God to never stop coming to your aid, never stop giving me help, never stop giving me assistance. Help me overcome my unbelief.
So what do you believe about God? So what do you believe about Jesus? So what do you believe about the Holy Spirit? So what do you believe about faith, grace, love, mercy, justice healings, miracles, or the resurrection? So what do you believe? Do you believe Jesus is divine? Do you believe miracles happen today? Do you believe there a devil? Do you believe that there is life after death? Is everything possible to those who believe?
I close today’s message with one word: IMPOSSIBLE. When you come down from the mountaintop into the valley of IMPOSSIBLE…do your own dissecting of this word. Make it two words: I’m POSSIBLE.
Jesus himself came down from that mountain of transfiguration. He met a desperate father whose son had been demon possessed since childhood. Jesus is now in the valley of reality. The father is, too.
Jesus replies, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The father replies, “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
The impossible became possible. Jesus drove out the demons and the boy stood to his feet. How many impossibilities does Jesus turn into possibilities?
In 2012, Jac and I rented a house. For the next 5 years, we were being exposed to lead poisoning. Jac had 6 times the lethal limit of lead and I had 5 times the lethal limit. During the past two years, we’ve chelated two times and I’m about to do my third chelation. “Jesus, if you can do anything, take pity on us. Get rid of the lead.” Slowly, and surely, the lead levels in our bodies are being reduced. Pisteo and Boetheo…here is our prayer, “I will continually, I will not stop, I will never stop putting my trust in you, I will never stop relying on you, I will confidently lean on and because I believe in You, Jesus. And I know you will never stop coming to my aid or giving me help or assistance.” Sometimes, we are healed in a heartbeat, sometimes we are healed as we walk through the valley.
When Jac attended Spiritual Direction class at the Pecos Monastery in 2008, the monks taught her a chant. She heard it every day, all day, many times a day—perhaps a dozen times a day. O GOD, COME TO OUR ASSISTANCE. O LORD, MAKE HASTE TO HELP US.
Let us pray … “Jesus, we do believe; help our unbelief. Help us to put our full trust in you. We will never stop praying. We will never stop putting our trust in you. Come to our assistance, make haste to help us through this valley. Amen.”
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
February 24, 2019
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mk 9:14–32). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 731). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.