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.”
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
The Reality of Spirt
(We’ll cover this passage in two installments) The first thing that I want to highlight about this passage is that it is a stark reminder of the reality of the spiritual world. Now, I have to be one of the most skeptical and pessimistic people on the planet. I came out of very fine schools that taught me to think rationally and to only believe in that which could be physically quantified and measured, things of science and math. So know that I am not someone who belives in ghosts and vampires and the like. I instinctively doubt people who talk about aliens or the supernatural. That is the kind of person I am, one who doesn’t believe things very easily. And I think that a good number of you are just like me in this regard…
But believe me when I say that the spiritual warfare described in this passage today is real, and happens to this day. I’ve only come into personal contact with it a few times, but it has happened. It was frightening and shocking, but at the same time, always ended as this passage did – with the ultimate victory of Jesus over darker things.
And believe it or not, it is important to read accounts of demon-possession in the gospels and elsewhere, and remember moments like this in your own personal lives – not for the purpose of the heebie-jeebies or to spook out your friends, but because it reminds us that our faith is far bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we can forget that there is a truly spiritual side to our faith, thinking that being a Christian is all about friends and small group and grabbing lunch – dinner – coffee – boba tea. But if we go too far down this road, Christianity takes on characteristics of a club, help group, or a social organization, largely the same as other worldly groups. And many times, that can be one of the most discouraging realizations you make as a Believer: the realization that your life does not seem to be any different than anyone else’s.
But when we remember that there is a spiritual battle being waged all around us, we know that Christianity is not a club. We become very acutely aware that we are weak and can’t do this on our own – believe me, nothing makes you realize how unequipped you are as someone telling you they hear voices to kill themselves and others. We know, as Jesus states above, that our victory won’t come from proper planning and execution, or the strength of our degrees and education, but on prayer alone. It reminds us that our faith is not just an affair of this world, but a spiritual and eternal reality. You are not part of a club called “Christianity” – you are a players and participants in a larger spiritual struggle between light and dark, a struggle where the outcome has already been decided by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is your reality, right now.
Ephesians 6:11-13 – Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
1. How aware do you feel you were/are about the spiritual dynamic of Christian life? Why do you feel it is difficult to remember this part of your faith?
2. Is there a situation in your life currently which you think may be more of a spiritual battle than a physical one?
3. What practical effects can this reality have on your life? Does it change the way in which you act? The way in which you pray? The way in which you view certain situations?